I have to write an explanation of what I do as a chaplain. So here goes:
When asked what we do in chaplaincy, my natural tendency is to laugh. My job is varied and always likely to take an unexpected turn. The major aspect is listening to staff and students and the difficulties they are going through. This can vary from home sickness, the ill health or death of family members, struggles with friends or colleagues, work, or anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a chaplain because you can meet them first, have a few cups of tea and decide if this is the person you want to trust with your difficulties, your secrets.
Sometimes people are in great distress. The current waiting time for help with domestic abuse is four weeks, for sexual abuse it is four months. We listen to people, give them a safe place to talk or cry or sit while they wait. We hear stories from staff and students, but we also have a place on university committees, so we are able to feed back some of the struggles that we have seen and heard to help improve people’s experience.
In Chester we have a wonderful chapel community of staff and students. We meet each week for breakfast after prayer on a Monday, for lunch after prayer on a Tuesday and dinner on Tuesdays and after chapel on Wednedays. We pray for the university and the world and we have a service once a week. Our main Wednesday service is varied. We had a transremembrance service, where we read out the names of the 291 trans people around the world who have been murdered this year. The week before we heard an inspiring talk about fasting in Islam. The next week we had a traditional Advent communion service. The following week we had students and staff dressed up in dressing gowns and cable-tie halos for a nativity procession around Parkgate Road campus and a Christingle service (like when you were seven).
I run a weekly baking session, whilst kneading and making breadcrumbs, whole life stories come tumbling out. Many languages are spoken and we learn through bread and cakes about cultures from all over the world; all from the tiny kitchen in Chaplaincy House.
I say yes to every manner of strange project. I work with different departments talking about wellbeing, reflective practice, end of life care, religious literacy, modern slavery or anything else I am asked to do. We support students with disabilities and talk about vocations. We work with the wider community, with Green Chester and get involved in local projects. And there is a LOT of washing up. We are working with students after all.