A new chaplaincy for St Dunstan's

30th August 2023

Pupils reflections jam jars

At the start of a new term Fr Kieron Rowley, Assistant Curate at Glastonbury St John and St Benedict with Meare, reflects on the relatively new chaplaincy at St Dunstan's Secondary School in Glastonbury

In Glastonbury Benefice we are blessed with two amazing C of E Primary schools and a fabulous village school in Meare. We have the immense privilege to work alongside and support the students and staff of all three schools. However, once the students leave for secondary school, we have no further connection with them. This was the case, up until last year when we decided to reach out to the head teacher and see if we could establish a pastoral link with our state secondary school St Dunstan’s. Though it’s named after one of the great abbots of Glastonbury, the school is not a faith school and has never had a chaplain before. 

I decided to write a letter offering our support and service to the school, I met with the head and offered one simple question, ‘how can we serve you?’  We highlighted the need for pastoral support for the students and the staff. The school has a high level of pastoral need and supports students with a wide range of complicated pastoral concerns. The pastoral team is a small and dedicated group that work extremely hard to meet the demanding needs of our young people. In my role as chaplain, I walk along side them, listen to them, support them, I pray for them, and I bring them snacks! Simple gestures and actions that express the love of God for them and I have been blown away by how much this ministry is appreciated. 

For the students, I had a blank slate to work with, the school never having had a chaplain, I was able to craft the role as the students wanted it to be. Our very first lunch time session was an open forum with lots of doughnuts to decide what my role would look like. The students were asked one question ‘what would make your experience of school better?’ Armed with snacks, markers, and post-it notes the students soon set to work on telling me all that they wanted school to be. I had more suggestions than I anticipated, from more sports clubs to movie nights, to gardening, and of course FREE FOOD!

After passing the mountain of sports club suggestions to the P.E Dept, I sifted through what was left. I had suggestions like, mindful colouring, knitting, wellbeing, poetry, crafts, and much more. So, we settled on a lunch time wellbeing group, a space to come and relax, to talk, to be creative, to be calm, to eat, and to share. Since we began, we have seen numbers grow and we have expanded our work to assist with the welcome and transition of the new year 7s. The chaplaincy students have quickly become strong representatives for their school and have shown themselves to be leaders and community builders. I am immensely proud of them and immensely grateful to God for this rich fruit.

Looking forward to this academic year, the school and I are discussing how we might set up a pastoral referral system for students to meet with me in conversation for support. Our focus this year is ‘resilience’ and ‘restoration’ and I am excited to work closely with the pastoral team and SLT in delivering this for the St Dunstan’s Community.  I am also keen to continue listening to student voices on how to improve the student experience and develop a school community in which every person can flourish. 

Fr Kieron

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