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So, what do you actually do, Chaplain? 23 July 2015

Posted by Dr Moose in Chaplaincy, Life, University.
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We have plodded through the season of stillness that is May/June, weathered the glorious blustery gales of graduations, and are now foundering of the reef of reports. Through it I have blogged precious little, although journalled much and thought even more.

However, one question that is so often repeated came to mind this week. What is it that I actually do? I try to summarise it, earth it, but rarely feel I do it justice.

Therefore here’s a very lightly edited, near complete version of my Annual Report. It may answer questions. It may confuse. It may even get read…

Annual Summary of work of the University Chaplain, 2014-15

At the conclusion of my third year as Full-Time University Chaplain, this report marks both the regularisation and maturity of some events that started with my move to Full-Time status, as well as a growing influence and reach within the town and diocese rather than simply within the university itself.

This summary covers a combination of new activities, some activities carried out solely by myself and some activities undertaken as part of the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Team. It is a companion to the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Team Annual Summary, 2014-15, and should be read in conjunction with it.

But that’s not here. It could yet appear, but don’t bank on it.

Continuing Summer Activity, 2015

Hosted two afternoon English Cream Teas for newly arrived International Students and participated in the International Student Information Fair.

New Initiatives and Activities this year

Rather than hosting any placements this year has been characterised by acting as Mentor to two non-students on faith-based internships within the town, M who is exploring ministerial vocation on the Diocesan Ministry Experience Scheme, and J, an Intern on the Student Christian Movement’s Faith in Action project.

Instigated, with Chaplain from University of B, occasional meeting and support group for colleagues, the Four Counties Chaplaincy Moot.

Elected to serve as a member of National Executive of Anglican HE Chaplains, for a term of 3 years with 3 meetings at Church House in London every year.

Notable External Engagement

Attendance at University Open Days & Applicant Visit Days, promoting much positive comment from potential students and their parents as they visit the facilities. (Typically, “we’ve never found the Chaplaincy open at other places we’ve visited!”). Delighted this year to have met a number of those who came to visit, upon their return as new students.

Met group of students from Evansville University, Indiana, US, accompanied by their Chaplain and our own Father Timothy Curtis, as part of their British Studies course, and took them on a short walking tour of the town centre.

As a member of the Diocesan Vocations Team, I have continued to work with Rev S (Diocesan Director of Ordinands) in supporting those exploring possibilities of ordained Anglican ministry, and also as part of the wider strategy. Attended national Young Vocations Champions’ Training conference, as well as several off-campus business, professional development and training meetings (including triennial Ministry Development Review and quinquennial Diocesan Conference).

Attended the majority of University Graduations for both Winter and Summer ceremonies, both as Vice-Chancellor’s lunch guest (including hosting a table) and among those robed and processing.

Raised Uni profile (incidentally) while providing ministerial assistance in diocese through provision of cover for local clergy sabbaticals, sick leave and interregnum. (K St Mark, K St David, H, N & H). Was Visiting Guest speaker for various church-related groups such as A School and K Mothers’ Union. Assisted with the diocesan presence at the Greenbelt Festival at Boughton House. In addition it was a great pleasure to be asked to baptise the child of a former staff member, whose wedding I conduction a few years ago.

Actively engaged with local churches as they seek to better contacts with the student body, especially with the completion of St John’s Hall and the possibilities open by Waterside Campus.

Attended Town Centre Ministers’ Fellowship and met new Minister of Baptist Church, M, as well as N, Chaplaincy Assistant at M College.

Met with Diocesan Sabbaticals Officer and have had a proposal for a sabbatical next summer accepted by diocesan senior staff, subject to clearance and clarification from University Management.

At the national level I attended annual Churches Higher Education Liaison Group Conference in January and was

Notable Internal Engagement

Nominated for SU Student-Led Teaching Award in category ‘Best Support Staff’

Once again hosted International Student Orientation and Welcome events, including presentation and Pizza Party, as well as acting as Responsible Staff member for FISH initial welcome event.

Ran “Multi-Faith Chaplaincy” stall in our gazebo for Union Day, for promotion of our services and distribution of hot drinks.

Repeated the University-wide contribution to the local “Christmas in a Box” campaign in association with N Foodbank. In a similar vein, also co-ordinated summer Food Forward campaign.

Throughout the year I continued to advise and support for HE-related PREVENT matters, have represented the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy at Student Services Management Committee, Section/Departmental Meetings & some weekly cross-Student Services Co-ordination meetings, as well as engaging in continued liaison with SU, advising on the revision of their External Speaker Policy.

I continue to serve as a member of the University Research Ethics Committee, and as a consequence served once again as a judge for the Research School Poster Paper Competition.

Once again delivered a lecture, contributing to the Ethical, Legal & Social Issues in Health course, looking at different approaches to ethics.

By being based at A Campus every Monday, and on the majority of Thursdays, I am able to make a significant impact there, which is bearing fruit in growing staff/student liaison work. This year our hospitality ministry at Avenue alone has involved distributing over 3600 free drinks over the course of the academic year. (Engagement is not solely pastoral, for example Working with Journalism Students as an expert interviewee for radio packages & reportage). At P Campus, in addition to the services provided in the Multi-Faith Chaplaincy Centre I have deployed the “Pop-Up Coffee Stop”, in the Student Centre Foyer on an occasional basis thus allowing further outreach and service to students and staff alike.

In terms of a distinctively Christian ministry Theos Café (a fortnightly early evening meeting with shared meal to provide opportunities for deeper theological engagement and thought, particularly for Christian students/staff) ran for its third year. Meetings have been lively and engaging, with some external speakers. One regular, who graduated this year, is actively pursuing the possibilities of ordained ministry.

I have provided continued support for the work of Christian Union, by attendance and advice, as well as offering Christian Holy Communion infrequently on Wednesdays (although uptake has been disappointing) and the Imposition of Ashes, for Ash Wednesday.

Other events I have led are the annual Act of Remembrance (11th November) and the annual “Carols on Campus” event in Library Foyer & Student Centre. Less visibly, I have been active in the University Choir.

In addition to all the above is the general round of support for students and staff alike, ranging from informal light-hearted informal conversations, through dealing with specific requests for prayer (and/or anointing), to more serious issues of homelessness and bereavement.

This year we saw two notable deaths. In November J, the much-loved Director of Student Services, died after a prolonged period suffering from cancer, leading to attendance at the funeral and support for Student Services colleagues. In February we had the first student death on campus in halls of residence for 5 or 6 years, which led to intense engagement with cohorts of both Acting and Sports Science students, including breaking the news to one of the seminar groups, travelling with a coachload of students to funeral and reception, and participating in a memorial event on the Racecourse.

Concluding Comment

In hindsight this academic year has been not only a full and rewarding one, but also one with an underlying theme of institutional stress and discomfort. The death of J early in the year, combined with the uncertainties (but inevitability) regarding the move to Waterside have, as manifested in structural re-organisation, staff redeployments and redundancies in Student Services, have brought a number of challenges that have extended beyond the purely professional…

So at least you might have some idea about what I get up to, other than failing to blog very often, aspire (and fail) to write much for RPGs, and produce occasional pieces of poetic doggrel!

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