School Chaplain – Voice of the Prophet?

School Chaplaincy is arguably the most varied and diverse ministry which a person can undertake. When a typical day entails singing with the Preps, leading worship, teaching classes, meeting with Senior Staff, and then sport practice or playground duty, it’s no wonder Chaplains get home each day exhausted emotionally and physically! Though it may seem tough, Chaplains generally thrive on the variety and busy-ness of their work, and enjoy the challenges it presents.

Sometimes, however, a school Chaplain is required to be the “God-person” in a completely different way, a way that is not always popular or welcomed. Sometimes a Chaplain has to be a prophet and speak out when they perceive that their school community or its leaders have taken a turn in the wrong direction. In the Bible, prophets are people who bring a message of warning from God to their community. At times, the message is received and accepted, but often the prophet is dismissed at best, and at worst…. well, we hope that is not the fate of our Chaplains!

there are particular qualities which the Chaplain is required to possess to enable him or her to be an authentic prophet in a school community

As in any Christian community, the underlying values and principles which shape our Anglican schools need to be reinforced and nurtured on many levels, beginning with the Principal, right down to everyday interactions with students. If there are circumstances or decisions which diverge from these values, the Christian ethos can be eroded over time. Sometimes Chaplains can see that decisions are being made which are contrary to the spirit of a Christian school. Whose voice will speak for the Lord on these occasions? It has to be the Chaplain – as a prophet.

There are particular qualities which the Chaplain is required to possess to enable him or her to be an authentic prophet in a school community. Here is my short list of qualities and practices which Chaplains should nurture within themselves and their lives in order to be well prepared to take on the role of the school prophet.

a close relationship with God, courage, obedience and hope are the hallmarks of a prophet’s ministry

Most importantly, a prophet needs to be in a close relationship with God, in order to listen attentively for God’s message and to be obedient to it. A prophet is empowered by God’s Spirit to discern and communicate clearly and with great integrity. In a school, it is the Chaplain who maintains the discipline of regular prayer and closeness with God should be a significant part of the Chaplain’s character. It is only through this intentional, committed relationship with God that the Chaplain can discern God’s voice.

Secondly, a prophet needs to have the courage to be obedient to God, whatever the message may be. In a school environment, there are often competing drivers for action, only one of which is the Gospel. It is the Chaplain who is the chief proclaimer of the Gospel and therefore, no matter what other competing priorities may influence decisions, it is the Chaplain who will obediently proclaim the Good News.

Finally, a prophet’s message is one of hope and redemption, in which God invites a community to renewed life and love through repentance and obedience. The Chaplain should be the voice of hope and the one who continually invites the community to participate in the Kingdom of God. It is easy for a Chaplain to fall into the trap of just lamenting the lack of Christian action in their school, but this is not the way a prophet works. The message must be one of hope and redemption, in which God’s loving action is not only possible, but is the most beneficial one for the school.

A close relationship with God, courage, obedience and hope are the hallmarks of a prophet’s ministry, and with these a school Chaplain is well placed to influence the direction of their school and its leaders. While this particular ministry is just one among those of pastor, preacher and pray-er, prophetic ministry is essential in keeping our schools authentically Christian communities in the midst of pressure to meet the expectations of ‘the market’ and clients.

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