How many lives does a chaplain have?

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?

Philip commenced with the Anglican Schools Commission, Western Australia in July 2010 and is the Director, Mission and Planning, a role which includes opportunities to visit schools and have contacts with Principals and staff. Philip oversees the ASC’s Religious Studies Curriculum and has presented on this at ASA conferences, where he also oversees the ASA Chaplaincy Shadowing program. As well as focusing on the mission of the ASC, Philip is heavily involved in planning for new ASC schools, four of which opened at the beginning of 2015. During Terms 2-4 in 2012 he was Interim Principal of Swan Valley Anglican Community School, at Aveley, WA.

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