Tom Ebbens, a senior coastal operations officer for the Coastguard, remembers the moment that his life took a new direction. It was May 2017 and he was with his wife, Demi, in Cornwall, driving home from ASDA. A news report came on the radio, about the recent bombing at Manchester Arena.
Tom wondered if there was anything he could do, which of course there wasn’t, but at that moment in the car he began to consider his faith and question how he could apply his faith to help others.
“I remember thinking, perhaps I could be an army chaplain”.
On that drive home, Tom remembers how the word ‘chaplain’ kept swirling around his head, and then, in a moment of realisation, he said; “The Coastguard doesn’t have a chaplain”.
It might seem odd that this wasn’t his first thought, especially given that Tom was already working for the Coastguard. But, perhaps, he dismissed the idea on a subliminal level, because he knew that the Coastguard didn’t have any chaplains, and they never had.
Fast forward one year and Tom had gone through a discernment process, to become ordained, with the Diocese of Truro. He was accepted onto the course in 2018, which he would undertake in his spare time whilst also continuing his job in the Coastguard.
During the early stages of his training, Tom made it his mission to fulfil his idea of setting up a Coastguard chaplaincy, a significant undertaking for anyone, let alone for someone who had yet to be ordained. But there was an even bigger hurdle to overcome. How do you convince the Coastguard to establish a chaplaincy, when they had no history of having one?
Well, in September 2019, through Tom’s faith and the cooperation and understanding of the Coastguard, a little piece of history was made, when Tom was tasked with establishing a multifaith chaplaincy for the Coastguard.
Tom still works as a senior coastal operations officer and manages this role alongside his chaplaincy. “Tiny steps” is how Tom describes it; “It’s a learning process for both myself and the coastguard.”
In the time since setting up the chaplaincy, Tom has seen it grow from a point when no one was aware of there even being a chaplaincy, or even what a chaplaincy was, to now getting calls from people from all over the country. Social media and news letters are used to good effect, but Tom is keen to point out that the underlying message that he always aims to convey is one of ‘trust’.
The chaplaincy is tiny compared with other organisations such as the army, police and the NHS, but it’s come along way in just a couple of years, thanks to Tom’s vision and some ‘trust’ from the Coastguard.
Tom can be contacted useing the following: