In the second of our series looking at what is working in terms of getting people into Anglican School chaplaincy we head to Sydney to hear the stories of two chaplains working there.
1: Introduction – the choice to be a chaplain!!! – Mark Rundle, Chaplain at Arden Anglican School
There are many things that contribute to someone taking up the privilege of being in the role of a School Chaplain. For me, one foundational factor that guided me to this role was that I simply enjoyed working with teenagers, both in teaching them (I’m an English teacher by training) and in talking with them about what they believe and why, and then what it means to know Jesus. Of course, that wasn’t all – many other smaller parts of life played their part in equipping me for what I do, being where God wants me to be.
What things have played their part in others being guided to this hugely rewarding and important role? What are the different paths by which people can and do arrive at School Chaplaincy? I thought it’d be good to chat with two of our chaplains.
2: Bronwyn Friend – Junior School Chaplain at Arden Anglican School
I’d had 13 years of full-time teaching in schools, did some adult lecturing, and then had 8 years in Parish ministry as a Children’s Minister (as well as being a mum (of 3 children) for the last 20 years!).
Teaching for those 13 years was great, but after enjoying the chance to do theological training, I consciously made a decision 10 years ago that, in any teaching role I might have, I wanted to make teaching children about Jesus my focus – rather than PE, Geography, cocurricular sports, camps, etc. All those other learning experiences are really valuable, but I felt an urgency to focus on using my teaching abilities to share the Gospel with children, in the classroom and in life. How was I going to find the chance to do that in a school situation? I didn’t know; but then, with some staff changes, this opportunity at Arden’s Junior School came up – and here I am!
Why do I think being a School Chaplain is such an important role? In our country we have the freedom to read the Bible and learn about the Christian faith, and part of the Chaplain’s role is to make sure this actually happens in our School every day. It becomes a daily experience that I share with students and staff – and as Chaplain I have the responsibility and freedom to openly do this. As it’s very early days for me in Chaplaincy, I’m grateful for faithful friends and colleagues who’ve given me guidance and support. I’ve learned to ask for help, trust myself when I have figured it out, and continually seek God’s provision. It’s a privilege to be able to point others to God!
3: Kylie Wilson – St Catherine’s School
Funnily enough, working in a school wasn’t always my plan. At university I realised I loved talking to people about Jesus and teaching the Bible, so I decided that if possible, I would like to work in a full-time ministry position. By the end of undergraduate studies I realised that teaching skills would probably be really helpful for me too, so I did a postgraduate teaching degree. Of course, after all that study I needed to earn some money, so I took up a position teaching Science in the public school system! Honestly, it was really challenging. There were great moments, but it was a steep learning curve. After a couple of years I left teaching to do ministry training, then theological college, intending to work in parish ministry at the end.
However, God had other plans! Full-time job options at the end of college were limited and a one-year role teaching Biblical Studies came up at St Catherine’s School in Sydney’s eastern suburbs (as it happens, the oldest Anglican girls’ school in Australia). I thought: ‘Well, it’s a good opportunity to use both of my formal qualifications!’ And with it just being for a year, I was prepared to give it a go.
The first six months working and teaching there were a revelation. This job was amazing! At our school I not only had the opportunity to care for our students, but also explain the Bible to them and point them to Jesus. I saw the great privilege this was and was ‘all in’! I was very thankful that at the end of that year I had the chance to stay at St Catherine’s in the role of Pastoral Chaplain and assist the School Chaplain – and now I’m about to take on that School Chaplain role myself!
What’s been helpful for me getting to this point? Experience of leading Kid’s Church and Youth Group, and teaching the Bible in a variety of contexts, have all been incredibly beneficial in school ministry. Another helpful thing in the path towards School Chaplaincy was ordination. I was ordained in 2013, in part because I thought it might be useful for future school ministry opportunities, like School Chaplaincy. Now, here I am!
What do I want to do as School Chaplain? Some of the things I’d love to achieve under God is for each student to know how much the God of the universe loves them – so much so that he sent his Son Jesus to die in their place. If I, and the chaplaincy team, can genuinely love our school community from the heart, demonstrating in some small way God’s love, that would be fantastic. Along with this, I want students to be able to critically reflect on what they personally believe and why.
I think the role of Chaplain is an incredibly important role – particularly as our society becomes increasingly secular and people have fewer chances to hear about Jesus and the hope he gives. Schools are a place where students from all backgrounds have a chance to interact with the Christian message. High school is also a time when many students are thinking through who they are, what they believe, and why. Being able to speak into this space and give students a picture of what following Jesus looks like is really valuable. We have a message of life and hope that is (in my opinion) so much better than anything our society can offer – we can point students to where real hope and peace can be found in what can feel like a pretty tumultuous world.