Chaplains in the armed forces play an integral part in the lives of service personnel and their families. A valuable source of guidance and support, they are uniquely placed to help people work through the issues and challenges that confront them – on operations, at home and during their working lives. We talked to Rev Cris Archer, Chaplain in the Royal Air Force about his community and how an innovative course teaching happiness has helped to change it for the better.
“I was looking for a resource that I could use to engage more positively with our community. I came across The Happiness Course, and the name just grabbed me. Who doesn’t want to be happy? I thought this would be a great way to bring people together and a way for us as chaplains to engage with more people.”
The Royal Air Force chaplaincy offers a space for people to explore faith and spirituality, as well as more traditional forms of worship. “We are available to all personnel and their dependents, from commanding officers and civil servants to contractors, to provide a listening ear and pastorally care for them.”
As a chaplain, Cris sees first-hand the issues that affect those in the RAF community. “Being away from home comes with all sorts of pressures. You are separated from loved ones for long periods of time. Moving around has a direct impact on family life, such as finding schools and jobs for loved ones.”
The Happiness Course, developed over several years by Livability’s Andy Parnham, aims to address and challenge our beliefs on wellbeing and happiness. Over four weeks, it tackles the meaning of happiness, linking the science and psychology of happiness with ancient wisdom and real-life experience to give people practical tools to improve their own lives.
By creating a safe and open space, people are encouraged to reflect, share and strengthen each other. The course offers participants a real response to a growing need: the prevalent feelings of hopelessness, despair and anxiety that run throughout our communities. Cris explains the change he has seen in the people he works with.
[x_blockquote type=”left”]The course has been incredibly effective. We’ve seen people rethink their priorities. They’ve started working at their relationships or volunteering their time for a charity.[/x_blockquote]
“The course has also helped to facilitate social cohesion. One person had not spoken to his sister for six years, but after the third session, he took the decision to call her, rekindling their relationship. Another person wanted to reengage with her Christian faith having realised that faith plays an important part in somebody’s happiness.”
Centred on core beliefs of gratitude and forgiveness, the Happiness Course encourages participants to focus on the importance of relationships and being part of something greater than ourselves.
Cris has noticed a real shift in attitude as a result of the course. “It engages people of all faiths and none. As you lead it you see the penny dropping for people as they discover and try new things. It changes people for the better and has really helped to raise the profile of the chaplaincy in a positive way.”
The Happiness Course is four-week course developed by Livability which helps Christian, other faith and no faith communities to explore building a more fulfilling life. Livability has now trained over 150 people to run The Happiness Course.
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