“Chaplaincy is that bridge between church and life when you’re on campus. It’s a place where you know there’s someone whose job it is to listen, pray and give advice and just direct your eyes back to God, or if that’s not what you want, to quietly pray for you. It’s just a lovely spiritual, mental and emotional pit stop.” Elizabeth is a final year maths student at Bath University. She was speaking during a visit by Bishop Ruth to the University to learn more about the work of Chaplains on campus.
There are 17000 students at Bath University and around 4 – 5 thousand staff and chaplaincy is there to support all of them. Nigel Rawlinson is the University Chaplain. “Chaplaincy can be best described as’ care for ‘all people, of all traditions, in all places’. We are intentionally out and about on the campus site, providing a service all the year round and continuing to build bridges with local churches.”
“One example of the work we undertake, was at the start of term, the security staff who know what we do, told us about two students who wouldn’t come out of their room they were so scared. They brought them to the chaplaincy and we gave them a cup of tea and had a chat to them. We were a sanctuary to help them at the start of their life here.”
Nigel is seen every day walking through the university library, or out on campus meeting with students or just there to offer a friendly hello. He does it to be visible to those students and members of staff who may need support.
A recently published study ‘Chaplains on Campus: Understanding chaplaincy in British Universities’, by Kristin Aune, Mathew Guest and Jeremy Law, says “It’s clear, then, that chaplains do a huge amount of varied work for universities, which makes a major difference to the lives of students. And this demand for pastoral support is likely to increase with rising levels of mental health and pastoral problems within the student population.”
As Polly, a second year economics student at Bath University says, “Chaplaincy is some where you can go when you need that encouragement and when you need to know that someone is cheering for you and that someone is on your side. Especially being a Christian student having a place where you are constantly reminded that God is there watching over you.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Bishop Ruth as she spoke with a group of young women students on her visit to see the work of the chaplains at Bath Univerisity. “It’s great to meet with intelligent young women who’ve got good things to say about God and faith and it’s great to see the work that Nigel and Karen and others do to help them to find who they are in God. I think this is one of those things that we need to do more of and that’s one of the things chaplaincy is about.”
At Bath University the students come from 88 different countries and many of them come from countries which have a strong faith tradition. The Dean of Bath University, Professor Veronica Hope Hailey told Bishop Ruth, “We have had an increase in the number of students for whom faith is a critical part of their society and to whom it is an important part of their life. It can be scary to come to this country and find there are no faith groups. We have to understand the needs of those students will be spiritual and chaplaincy is very much helping us to do that.”
Ceri is a psychology student she met Bishop Ruth during her visit and explained, “Chaplaincy is the church reaching out to you, even if you’ve never set foot in a church or chaplaincy, you will know who the chaplain is. He’s everywhere, he’s always got a smile on his face. And he does his best to encourage everyone and show God’s love through his kindness.”
Nigel Rawlinson, “it’s fantastic that Bishop Ruth has come because Chaplaincy is a location ministry outside church, for her to come , to be as interested as she has been to see what we’re doing, is really good.”