Community chaplains minister beyond the school

Experiri Blue

Experiri is a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provides two or three profiles of  innovative strategies that have been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. Until now Experiri was an emailed newsletter but in  the coming months some of the previous profiles will be posted here. If you are interested contributing please let us know.

This profile is from the first edition Term 1 2013 and was contributed by Nick Foord, Community Chaplain as Shore (SCEGS)

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What was the need or challenge being addressed?

Shore School has been conducting Christian ministry for 123 years. The ministry of the school has touched students as well as parents, staff and past students.  For many years the School Chaplain’s role was to minister to students, staff, parents and old boys. However, as the school community has grown (especially to the increasingly large old boys network) a twofold need was perceived – firstly to allow the School Chaplain to focus on the ministry to the students, and secondly, to be more proactive with the opportunities to minister to the adult members of the school community.

 What was the response to the need?

The size of the chaplaincy team was increased with the addition of an  experienced chaplain whose focus would be on the ministry to the adults in the school community. The advantage of a Community Chaplain, who did not have a teaching role, was that they would have flexibility during the day to visit families, hospitals, nursing homes, conduct funerals  and even visit the jail. The hope was that if the ministry was effective then some funding for the position would be received as a result of donations through events such as weddings, baptisms  and other pastoral support.

Michael Foord Photography

What was the impact?

The impact was immediate in that a few important ministry initiatives could be introduced. These included more personalised preparation for those getting married in the school Chapel and individual preparation for families seeking to have children baptised. It meant that parents had someone to call if they were seeking support through challenging times. It  meant that staff had someone to seek out if they needed support.  It also allowed the Community Chaplain to run a course for new staff to explain the Christian ethos of the school.  As well, it had a big impact on the School Chaplain who had considerable time freed up to focus on the ministry to the students. As expected the number of Weddings and Baptisms increased significantly in the first year and as the role has increased it has become somewhat self-funding.

What were the greatest challenges?

The initial challenge was making the new role known in the wider school community. This was achieved through the Community Chaplain attending numerous school based events including parent events, sporting functions, staff meetings, old boys events and other school functions. Another challenge was convincing some of the local churches that the existence of a school based Community Chaplain would not take ministry away from the local parish. Over the past seven years it has been the experience of the Community Chaplain that the majority of people whom he ministers to did not have a connection with a local parish. In this regard there have been numerous opportunities to link school families back to a local church.

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