We are pleased to present you the annual report of 2021 (in Dutch) of the Airport Chaplaincy. In this report you can learn more about our experiences and activities during the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic at Schiphol. An airport during a pandemic is and remains a special place to be active. Flexibility and attention are the two keywords!
We are currently looking for committed people to help in the Meditation Centre. The centre is opened 24 hours a day for passengers and airport staff who wish a moment of quiet or retreat. The task of the volunteers is to ensure that the Meditation centre is a pleasant place for passengers to spend time in silence. This means that, as a volunteer, you will be openminded and respectful for the variety of people who enter the centre during your shift. They may have questions or needs you will attend to. Are you interested? Here you can find more information and the application form.
On Sunday February 13th our colleague Rev. Mirjam van Nie was installed as an airport chaplain in the Protestant congregation of the PKN in Veldhoven. Mirjam started coming to the Airport of Eindhoven (also Royal Schiphol Group) on a weekly basis as a volunteer since 2014. From the beginning, her presence as a professional is aiming at listening to people and taking care of the airport’s prayer room that opened eight years ago. The instalment in a nearby congregation was a dream come true for our colleague. The involvement of a chaplain at the airport is a solistic one. The support of a local church community for a pastor is very meaningful.
Mirjam started from scratch, nine years ago. However, soon after the prayer room was arranged (upon Mirjam’s advice) the room played a crucial role in the days after the MH17 disaster. In a crisis of this kind it is very important to offer a location where people can come to mourn. Mirjam remembers the long queue and how many came to express their grief and their condoleances. ‘The flights out of Charkow landed on the military part of Eindhoven Airport and were kept away from the public. In the prayer room the public was welcome. Many signed the memorial register books, many offered flowers or plushies. It is indispensible to have a place available for sharing emotions a disaster like MH17 evokes.’ Mirjam was present every time a flight arrived. She was around the prayer space and it’s visitors were well taken care of.
The room is open for prayer and meditation for all. The signs in the departure hall show how to get there. The furniture inside consists of two small tables, one offering Bibles in different languages, benedictions and Jewish prayer books, the other one offering Korans and prayer mats. Opposite the entrance finds itself a huge foam picture, featuring a beautiful sunset at Eindhoven Airport. The horizon on the large photograph shows the airport control tower as a small black silhouet. It radiates warmth, vastness and relativity.
A year before the opening of the prayer area Mirjam started a conversation with the non-aviation Director of the airport. Supported by the local Council of Churches, the regional Rotary and congregations around Eindhoven, the well-refurbished room could be officially opened in February 2014. Many passengers and airport staff find their way; muslims appreciate a safe place for their prayers, a lot of Jews fly from Eindhoven to Tell Aviv, and others are also happy to find a place for contemplation and silence. Even staff of surrounding offices prefer the room over the facility within their own office building. The encounters as a result are stimulating and connecting users of different world views and mutual respect is prevalent.
Besides managing the prayer room, Mirjam is lending a listening ear to passengers and people waiting in the terminal. The airport is a place where reflection about the past, presence or future easily starts. Talking to a chaplain whom you will probably never see again, opens hearts and mouths. Stories are told, about losses of loved ones, a job, or health. Regularly a person asks Mirjam to pray for the grief or the journey. She will always say yes to a request and withdraws herself into the prayer room.
‘You are looking so peaceful,’ a muslim told her during the Iftar meal a few years ago. She was invited by an employee of the airport to join the break of the day’s fast in the evening. She went to his mosk, enjoying the hospitality and the fragrant food. It is her personal life motto: peace for everyone.
On February 13th the liaison of the Protestant church of Veldhoven with the Airport Chaplaincy of Airport Eindhoven was installed and celebrated. The congregation’s officiating minister was Lieuwe Wijbenga and the theme of the ‘stranger’ who is to be invited and welcomed resonated perfectly with the work Mirjam has promised to do. ‘Leave your indoor bubble as a church community. Experience and practice the gospel in unexpected places. I am just doing it. I care for people.’
For the ones who are travelling through Schiphol Airport on Christmas Eve, do not miss the opportunity to get a touch of Christmas in a short celebration in Lounge 2. This service can only be attended by passengers in transit or by passengers who are stranded in the transit area due to the international travel restrictions because of Covid-19. A selection of Christmas carols will be played on audio, we will read the Nativity story and a short Christmas message will be given by the chaplains of Schiphol. Due to the corona rules the short service will not be conducted in het Meditation Centre, however, on the internetcourt in front of the centre. Afterwards individually wrapped Christmas stollen will be presented as a takeaway. The event starts at 6.30 pm on the second floor in Lounge 2. Chaplains Joop Albers and Marieke Meiring offer you a warm welcome! On Christmas Day (25th December) the Airport Chaplaincy offers two more short services that are conducted within the mandatory corona restrictions. You are welcome to join us in the Meditation Centre either at 11 or at 12 am. We can receive visitors up to eight max.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic more often than before travellers eventually strand at international airports. This happens due to different reasons: sometimes the travel documents are not valid or not sufficient; the world has changed so much that a thorough preparation before travelling is highly recommended. Sometimes passengers turn out to test positive during their journey and it is mandatory to isolate or quarantaine immediately on site. This is hard if you are stranded at an unfamiliar airport. At Schiphol fortunately facilities have been installed. The chaplains stay in contact with the passengers who got stranded unexpectedly and with the ones who are staying in quarantaine. What the team experiences and how they coped with an exceptional situation can be read here (in Dutch).
"Why would you need a pastor at an airport?", David Boogerd asked Marieke Meiring, pastor at Schiphol. She was interviewed in "Dit is de Zondag" on NPO Radio 1 on August 15, 2021. In the episode, she talks about her profession as an airport chaplain and shares stories about her work. If you are interested to hear more, you can listen to the sound fragment here (in Dutch).
Schiphol has made a wonderful short film about the work of the airport chaplains. Shortly before the start of the pandemic, the film recordings with the three chaplains, Marieke Meiring, Gerard Timmermans and Mark Hafkenscheid, were completed. To watch the film and get an impression of our work, click here.
The Dutch magazine “Woord&Weg” published an article in September 2020 about pastoral care in times of corona. “Listening more strongly”. This is how airport chaplain Marieke Meiring describes her work during the pandemic. Her story offers an insight into the effects of the pandemic on people's lives. Click here to open the article (in Dutch).
In the spring of 2020, the Dutch journal "Geestelijke Verzorging" published an article about the spiritual care at Schiphol. Airport chaplain Marieke Meiring writes about people who search for peace and stability in the hectic pace of traveling. People who are confronted with the fragility of life along the way. Click here to read the article (in Dutch).