The Anglican Chaplain’s Toolkit

A report back on the first Anglican Schools Australia Chaplain’s webinar

Rev Dr Eleanor O’Donnell presented a thoughtful and very dense talk on what could be in a chaplain’s toolkit, then there were some interesting questions that we chatted about, and it concluded with a broader discussion on how we can share resources and ideas more widely.

I will outline her key points and then consider how I might be able to use some of the ideas in my role as Chaplain at Ivanhoe Girls Grammar School.

To guide us in thinking about what would be good in a toolkit, Rev Eleanor suggested we need to start with 3 things.

  1. Mindset – we are on about the Bible, so we need to help our school communities have easy access to written and online Bibles.
  2. We are all about making connections – so we need a range of resources, from stories, to compilation of prayers, songs, and poetry.
  3. We encourage thinking and learning – this is ongoing, so we need commentaries, reviews, journals, and resources to help us understand scripture, our world and also how children learn.

As Anglican Chaplains, we can go back to the 3-legged stool analogy, and look at Tradition, Reason and Scripture – and Rev Eleanor suggested we can add another, Experience, (which seems to me like making it a chair!)

So here is a list of handy things Rev Eleanor suggested having in our Toolkits.

  1. Bibles – let’s have academic as well as easy to understand versions, let’s be open to mystery and questioning.
  2. The Lectionary – be informed by the church year, for topics and themes. Being systematic in our reading is good, and it ensures that we don’t skip over difficult parts, and that we don’t always go back to our favourite topics and passages.
  3. Australian Prayer Book – this provides liturgy and frameworks for DIY services. There are extensions we can use, like epray, and the NZ prayer book.
  4. Anglican Hymns – use and teach some classics, have a repertoire of great hymns, you can use them to teach theology and church history too. Have a go at writing your own.

So, pulling it all together, using our Anglican stool/chair idea, we have some fantastic things for our toolkits. Keep Scripture a focus – create the expectation that it is vital part of each Chapel Service. Use Reason – be informed by scholarship and keep an open heart and mind to matters of the Spirit. Tap into our rich Traditions and create worship spaces that look and feel different. Enjoy the Experience, enable the community to experience the sacred and to grow in grace and understanding.

Q & A session

Lots of the conversation was around the ideas of ‘Anglican formality’ being a helpful thing. We were encouraged to use traditions and the lectionary, and we discussed the place of Holy Communion in our Services.  

The question of ‘how to share resources and ideas’ was discussed, and many shared that they would appreciate a central place to go to get some inspiration, and to share their own resources.

Overall, the feeling from the ‘zoom room’ was that the Anglican resources that we already have a still ‘fit for purpose’, so use them with confidence.

My reflection

It was a stimulating 50 minutes. The content was far from being novel, but the emphasis on drawing from our rich Anglican heritage was encouraging. I think people assume that Chapel is boring for young people if we use liturgy and old hymns. But, it doesn’t have to be! There is much to engage the mind, heart, and spirit in the resources we have readily available. And it certainly cuts down preparation time if we build on and creatively adapt and apply these resources. The Anglican books and traditions we have are rich in Scripture, so we do well to delve deeply. They will help us stand firmly on the Word of God as our authority and safeguard us from heresy and the more subtle ways of watering down the riches of the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

One thing that my Chapel Services already do is follow a loose Order of Service from the Prayer Book. But, I haven’t been using any of the Sentence of the Day or Collects, and I tend to write all my own prayers, and conclude them with the Lord’s Prayer. I am now thinking about how I can add some liturgical depth to the services and use the repetition to help students feel more confident in participating. One of the Chaplains in the webinar shared how her students like the set prayers, it gives them a feeling of stability when all else in our culture seems to be quite uncertain. Even in one 40 or 50 minute service, I think it is good to have a mix – something old, something new, something borrowed and something … not blue, but true? Actually, we want it all to be true don’t we, which takes us right back to the first point in the webinar, our mindset. We worship one true God, who’s Word and Spirit give life and light. Jesus has given us a marvellous mission in the schools where we teach and serve, so let us strive to encourage one another to hold fast to the truth and to God’s call for us to continue building his glorious kingdom.     

Jenny Sonneman Written by:

Jenny has been working at Ivanhoe Girls for five years, she is Chaplain, Head of Religious Education and teaches RE classes from Year 7 to 11. This year she has been joined by an Assistant Chaplain who works one day a week in the Junior School. She enjoys the variety in her role and the is thankful for the fabulous opportunities she has, to share with the school community from God’s word about Jesus.

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