As one who is not a Chaplain in an Anglican school, yet having worked very closely with chaplains as a teacher, a Principal and an educational administrator for over 25 years and having been among clergy all my life, an article I read last year from Anglican Schools Australia’s (ASA) sister organisation in the USA – the National Association of Episcopal Schools (NAES), resonated very strongly with me.
Entitled ‘The Nine Lives of Chaplaincy’, that article is adapted here into an Australian context, highlighting the multi-faceted role through which Chaplains minister in our school-based communities of faith:
The priestly / prophetic life
Chaplains offer prayer and worship with and for our school communities; keeping the Christian message and school ethos at the forefront of the School’s life and strategic planning; as well as keeping the rumour of God alive among all in the school community
The collegial life
Chaplains are clearly among staff colleagues, yet may not always be ‘of’ them. A chaplain’s role in many schools is a solo one; so time to network with other Chaplains and priests, with spiritual directors and mentors is essential to balance this
The pastoral life
Chaplains along with Principals and all who work in schools, are charged with the care and nurture of both the young and not so young; but who pastors the pastors, cares for the carers?
The teaching life
Chaplains have a ministry of teaching even if not timetabled for Religious Studies [by whatever name it is called in each school] or in another subject area according to their expertise, and with all the responsibilities of their teacher colleagues. This may be with students during worship or class times, as well as among the staff and other adults who form the whole school community, or just by their presence on campus
The administrative life
Chaplains mark rolls; fill in forms; complete reports; write articles or addresses; and undertake mandatory professional development sessions such as for Child Protection
The denominational and multi-faith life
Chaplains minister among people of diverse beliefs, or none; in highly urban or more rural communities; often across parish boundaries; as well as exercising integral ministries in the life of their Diocese
The relational life
Chaplains share the joys and sorrows of the people among whom they minister, as does any other chaplain or parish priest; they work with people they are called to love, whether they find them easy to like, or difficult to like
The edge life
Chaplains in ministering with and among their diverse communities where other priorities can seem to outweigh faith priorities, can be ignored by those beyond schools as not being the ‘normal’ church
The spiritual life
Chaplains pray and meditate; reading the Scriptures, theology and other relevant disciplines; sustaining their own faith journey; seeking spiritual direction; or going on retreats
…… and finally, but by no means least …..
The personal life
Chaplains are also husbands, wives, partners; they are mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, daughters, sons and grandparents; they are friends and neighbours. They too, need timeout to refresh and recharge; to follow their dreams, or just their team.
All these lives are lived in the one person, among school communities of students and staff, parents and old scholars who in the twenty-first century number well into the thousands.
We all do well to pray with and for Chaplains in our Anglican schools, but can we do anything else to support them, to further equip and train them? And do we encourage others to consider chaplaincy as a vocation despite, or even because of, this multi-faceted life?