Any reader of this blog with be well acquainted with one of the major challenges that we face in Anglican school chaplaincy; and that is to get people into this ministry.
We here at ‘The Place for Mission’ blog want to work on ways of encouraging people into chaplaincy, and so this post begins a new series looking at what is working in this area.
We all share a passion for our ministry as chaplains in Anglican Schools, but across the nation there is a growing awareness that we need to encourage more people into this role. Increasingly, schools are finding it challenging to get good people into chaplaincy.
It will go ‘around the grounds’ looking at what is happening in each state hearing stories of those who are relatively new to chaplaincy. What got them into chaplaincy and what they are enjoying about this ministry. Hopefully, as the series rolls out common themes will emerge that will help us all to ensure good people continue to do this vital ministry.
Our first port of call is Tasmania.
2: Tasmanian Chaplains
Over the last two years I have often wondered what is normal for a school chaplain. In broad terms there are many regular routines, chapel services, classes, assemblies, meetings, conversations with staff and students, but alongside this is the unexpected, sometimes surprising but more often just the consequences of the reality of life in all its ups and downs. There are times when this can be really hard, to walk alongside people in their pain, sorrow is a heavy burden. But there are also times of great celebration and joy. What is clear in the sometimes chaos is the privilege it is to walk alongside people, to laugh and cry with them, and most importantly share Jesus with them. What then is normal? At the moment normal is being present, where God wants you to be, every day no matter what it holds.
So how does one become part of the exciting ministry of a School Chaplain. How does someone find themselves in such a privileged position? Well for the two chaplains in Tasmania it was because of the encouragement of others and God’s timing.
Kate Boughton – Chaplain, Collegiate College
Rev. Paul Grayston (Launceston Church Grammar School, Senior Campus) writes
I fell into it unexpectedly, I was in parish ministry and had never thought about school chaplaincy. Our children were at Launceston Grammar and it was through that contact with Grammar that I was gradually drawn in.
It was not a ministry I was looking for originally, but it made more and more sense as I was drawn into it and as I found it suited my gifts and interests.
It started with guest preaching spots in a morning Chapel or two. I became friends with the Chaplain, who persuaded me to take on a Junior Campus Chapel service first thing each Friday, just to help him out. When the parish could no longer financially support my ministry, the School offered me a few hours a week teaching some Grade 8, 9 and 10 Christian Studies. The number of lessons grew over a few years while I took on an in-service education degree and got involved in school soccer and Chess, and more and more activities around the school. With changes in staffing, I was appointed as Senior School Chaplain ten years ago.
Elizabeth Poland (Launceston Church Grammar School, Junior Campus) writes
It was all God! I had had experience teaching RE in NSW and VIC in a voluntary capacity alongside my husband in parish ministry. When we moved to Tassie and then enrolled our kids at Grammar I became part of a parents’ prayer group. The Chaplain at the time was about to go on long service leave and I volunteered to do some of his role for the term. On his return he asked if the School could keep me on in some capacity… I had been used to teaching kids about Jesus for no money and here I was being offered money to do it! Then the Chaplain moved schools I became the Junior Campus Chaplain. It was simply God’s sovereign provision. Would I have chosen it? YES! being part of a School may have challenges, but what an honour it is to live and speak for Jesus in a setting where that is supported, where I get to deeply challenge children to consider the reality of the historical Jesus. I recall one day feeling a little discouraged and thinking that many of my students didn’t really grasp the goodness of God in the busyness of the School day… I shared this with my minister who gently reminded me that God is at work. I am confident of the power of the Gospel and keep seeking opportunities to speak it clearly, winsomely, challengingly … in the hope of seeing many of my colleagues and students in eternity praising God together.
These stories are great, and I’m looking forward to hearing more; but I think they alone will fall far short of the deeper issues.
– Chaplaincy needs to be seen as a legitimate ministry among ordained and unordained alike.
– The limitations to chaplaincy in Anglican schools need to be visited – do school chaplains have to be ordained priests (could the sacramental ministry not be supported by local parish priests building relationship with schools), and in some places chaplains are expected to have teaching degrees. If we take the diaconate and lay ministry of Anglicans seriously, since these fit much of what a Chaplain spends a bulk of their time doing vocationally, there is a strong case to considering why these limitations are in place.
– Support within ordination processes to expose prospective chaplains to schools should be viewed as a priority and, perhaps, if there is an insistence on chaplains doing placements in parishes, why not those who feel called to parish ministry taking a placement in a school to understand and appreciate school chaplaincy better?
– There is also the issue that many good chaplains will come to their vocation as a second career. This applies to any priestly candidate,
– there are 153 schools in the nation. There are no current positions available posted on the ASA website. Some of our dioceses will suit some chaplains, others not, and so the opportunities decrease quickly for future employment and vocation.
If we are looking at a way of attracting good people into chaplaincy and chaplaincy positions, making the process and end game approachable and fulfilling is probably of a great importance.
Thanks Mark for your thoughtful comments and you raise some really good issues. It is a complex issue and you rightly highlight the many challenges we face getting good people into chaplaincy. This series of posts, of which Kate’s is the first, is trying to take a positive approach and celebrate what is working at the grass roots level. This obviously won’t solve all the problems but will hopefully provide some encouragement for people to think creativity about how to encourage people into this ministry.