Developing chaplaincy

Revd Mike Haslam shares a day in the life of the new role of Diocesan Chaplaincy Adviser, along with some of his plans for the future, as he seeks to develop chaplaincy in the diocese.

The Quantocks were shrouded in mist, dark and dank, as I said my morning prayers and took our cocker spaniel out for a run at 6am. He didn’t mind and, even though I can’t see him in the dark, he always comes back. As do I. Back home to make tea and see the family.

Then, on that Thursday morning into Taunton for an 8am breakfast meeting with the SW rep for Sports Chaplaincy UK. Bishop Philip North, Bishop of Burnley has described sports chaplaincy as a powerful way “to bring good news to the poor”. I’m utterly rubbish at every sport (apart from long distance fell running) so I’d be a useless sports chaplain. But it’s a ministry that keeps on being mentioned to me, almost as if God is knocking on my head and saying, “are you listening yet?”

After breakfast I head up to Bath to meet with educational chaplains. Educational Chaplaincy is a key focus for my role as Chaplaincy Development Adviser. We have the exciting and ambitious vision of a chaplain in every Multi Academy Trust (MAT) containing church schools. A MAT is a new grouping of schools, gathered together around geography or common values, or both. There are many Somerset MATs made up of community secondary schools and church primary schools. This gives us a wonderful open door into the community secondary schools where, previously, the churches haven’t often had much input. I’m currently working with local churches and schools to develop MAT chaplaincies from Portishead to Bath to Frome to Crewkerne to Taunton to Minehead to Bridgwater; and in the centre of the diocese as well. Not all of these projects will come to fruition, not all seed lands on fertile soil, but some will grow and yield fruit. Exciting times!

Meeting with Bath Youth for Christ we sit outside at a pavement cafe (in mid November?) and I hear of their chaplaincy to six secondary schools across the city and their work in many primary schools as well. It’s then up to Bath Further Education College (Radstock Campus) where I see and hear how the chaplain is able to listen to and care and pray for staff and students, how attentive he is to the lost and forgotten. Then back down to Twerton where the junior school chaplain does so much to nurture, articulate, develop and live out the Christian values and ethos of the school. By this stage I’ve run out of superlatives for the wonderful ministries that I’ve seen and heard of.

We have just over 100 paid chaplains ministering across the diocese and nearly 100 volunteers. Chaplaincy is a deeply missionary ministry, we go into schools, hospitals, workplaces and social contexts and meet people where they are, on their turf. We form trusting relationships and, by God’s grace, build his Kingdom there. Out of this ministry people, who have no other contact with church, then ask us about our faith and begin their own journey of discovering who God is and who God calls us to be.

Unexpected and unannounced, I walk into the office of a headteacher and she says: “I’ve heard about Chaplaincy, can we make a time to meet and see if we can set one up for my school?” I barely need to develop publicity to organisational leaders about chaplaincy, they all want a chaplain.

I take some time to pray and eat, and then drive down to the other end of the diocese, to West Quantoxhead (whose silly idea was it to plan so much driving in one day?). But it’s great to be with Quantock Deanery Synod to share with them the potential for chaplaincy in schools in Minehead, Williton and Bridgwater and for Chaplaincy at Hinkley Point C. They have a wonderfully positive response.

If we are going to be able to meet all of the calls from schools and other organisations for chaplains then we need to raise awareness and pray for more people to come forward. A chaplain can be lay or ordained, young (18+) or older (80+). All you need is to be confident in your Christian faith and want to welcome everyone unconditionally, listening, caring and praying for them, as Jesus did. A volunteer chaplain will usually give two to three hours a week. We will offer training and support for all chaplains.

Thursday 16 November ended with me hitting the hills again. This time I was running on the other end of the Quantocks, and they were strewn with stars rather than shrouded in mist. I looked down to the communities of the Diocese of Bath and Wells and, as I often do on my journeys around the diocese, it’s chaplaincies and its hills, prayed for all the places I could see.

Revd Mike Haslam
Chaplaincy Development Adviser

If you are interested in this ministry then please email Mike.  You can also find out more information about Chaplaincy and listen to some Chaplains and talks from a recent Chaplaincy Gathering on the diocesan YouTube channel.

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