One of the many joys in my job as the Regional Development Worker for the North West is the time I spend with chaplains. Whether it’s a Facebook chat planning preaching appointments, a 1-2-1 over a cuppa, or a phone call to check that they're okay and talk about how I can support them and their students in the coming term, it's great to be able to encourage these people on the front line of student work.
I have been based in two chaplaincies in my time with SCM. I love that this gives me the opportunity to ground my work in the real face-to-face, day-to-day experience of chaplaincy life. It's particularly interesting at Salford where my nearest neighbour is the Muslim Iman, though I’m not that much further from the Anglican Priest and Catholic Nun who are just down the corridor.
I always find chaplaincy work a joy, because I know from my own experience as a student the value of chaplaincy. I attended the University of Cumbria, and for me chaplaincy was the place I could go to for a chat, to worship, or to help me work out what I thought about the deep things of life. They also took me to new places and broadened my horizons; we went together to local churches for student worship, for meals out together, and took a trip to Blackpool illuminations to explore God as light and eat chips. I spoke at a Policy Committee looking at how they could enhance the chaplaincy elsewhere, and we also took a memorable week-long visit to Iona in Scotland on a pilgrimage.
The Methodist Chaplain also saw my call to preach years before I did. He’d joke, or maybe foretell, that I would become a preacher. I said “no” so many times to him, sometimes a "not now", but generally a “nah, not me.” When I did find my own call to preach, I went to him and uttered the words, “I think God wants me to be a local preacher”. His response was simple; “Well duh". He’d been telling me this very thing throughout my university years, and here I was about to graduate admitting he was right!
There are so many other stories I could tell, like the time I really had to work out what I did and did not believe after being offered a position on the CU committee, and the Anglican chaplain was the person I went to talk to. Or the time I told the new chaplain who arrived in my 3rd year that all he needed to know to do chaplaincy was Facebook and food!
Throughout my time as a student the chaplaincy was a place I could always just turn up to. I found some great friends through chaplaincy, and I knew I could go there if I needed to work more complicated things through. It enhanced my experience of worship, but mostly it enabled me to think through what I thought and essentially work out who I am. I wouldn't be the person I am today without these experiences, and the support those chaplains were always on hand to give me. For that I will always be grateful.
If you are a chaplain and would like more support from SCM get in touch.