Find the Chaplain!

At the weekend I was talking to an undergraduate of Cambridge University who told me he had never met his college chaplain, and wouldn’t know how to. I replied (tongue in cheek, knowing the undergraduate was not a worshipper) that I would guess that the chaplain was present at chapel worship on a Sunday!

Outside the centre of Cambridge I have often heard questions, including from the clergy, such as ‘What actually do college chaplains do?’ ‘Why can’t they help out more regularly in the parishes of the diocese?’ One seldom hears remarks such as ‘College Chaplains are overworked’.

However, my young friend’s remark raises a different, and I would suggest more important issue. This is about the availabilty and visibility of Chaplains, and consequently about the level of pastoral care. It is sad if an undergraduate has never even seen their chaplain, for it is rare that we seek pastoral care or advice from a member of the clergy we have never met.

If one looks at King’s College website one will find, understandably, much information about the chapel, its choir, and its history – but I can find no reference whatsoever to how to contact a college chaplain or even a name of a chaplain of King’s. (Perhaps the information is there – but I challenge you to find it!) I would suggest that this is very unfortunate. Checking the interesting website ‘Christian Cambridge’ I discovered several of the links to College Chapels simply do not work. That is unfortunate.

Where they give the information it is interesting to note what Chaplains say about their availability. For example one full time chaplain is only available one day a week in college – the rest of the time people are asked to contact the Chaplain at home!

In contrast to this several Chaplains do advertise their availabilty clearly, and in a friendly and approachable way. For example, the Chaplain of Sidney offers a clear and friendly guide as to how he may be contacted (this would (perhaps!) be enhanced by a photograph).

I ask two simple questions:

Who oversees the work of the chaplains?

Who in the Diocese of Ely helps chaplains to take a part in the life of their local diocese and the wider church?



5 Responses to “Find the Chaplain!”

  1. maggi Says:

    Dear Etheldreda, The CHaplain of Sidney suggested I read your comment. Doubtless also tongue-in-cheek.
    This photograph:
    with my contact information (office in college, e-mail, mobile phone number) is posted at the bottom of every staircase and on four main noticeboards in my college. If you are looking for it you can find my e-mail on the website too. There’s a steady stream of undergraduates, graduates, fellows, staff members, and former students that find their way to my study door in College. Like other College Chaplains, in addition to being available on site much of the week, I additionally am available at home out of hours, and am often called out to College at odd hours (and I do go). Often people who come to find me say “X from my staircase/study group knows you and suggested you’d be a good person to see.” I customarily give welcome speeches at College events; sit on 4 student-college committees, attend all freshers, matriculation, supervisees, scholars, meet-the-parents, and graduation events, always host a highly visible tea and welcome party as the Freshers arrive. I dine in college several times a term, am invited and attend various student-led parties and events, and go to the bar to chat to students. I’m called out both night and day when a crisis occurs. I visit people at home and in hospital, and I know many of the (large!) community by name. Last year in addition to providing regular liturgical, pastoral and crisis care I also saved someone’s life, and after graduation no fewer than 12 graduates specifically wrote to say they “would never have made it through” without my help and support. I also conduct weddings, baptisms, funerals and memorial services as well as three regular services a week and various other installations and informal worship events.

    THat’s just a quick summary, leaving out the details. I also teach, write, publish and lecture. I also go and help at Churches in inter-regnum during the vacations. I work at least a 50-hour week customarily, and in term-time it’s often a 7-day week.

    I am not unusual among Cambridge Chaplains. I think maybe your friend wasn’t looking very hard.

  2. Jonathan Collis Says:

    Two simple answers:

    a. the College authorities

    b. College chaplains are big boys and girls and are capable of taking part in the life of the diocese and the wider Church, and of seeking advice and guidance as they see fit.

  3. Graham Palmer Says:

    Awdry, I like this posting. I think you have hit a nerve! My college chaplain seems to be quite hard working, and no doubt could produce a long work list – but not all of them are hard working. I find it difficult to understand how, for example, a chaplain could say he / she was hard working, such as, fifty hours a week, seven days a week, but also say six of those days are ‘at home.’ Or maybe I miss something.
    Availabilty, visibility and accessibility are important. I understand that ministerial review is being introduced into the Church of England, I hope such a process applies to all clergy, including our chaplains – and not just to those who ‘see fit’.

  4. Tiffer Says:

    I agree with the second comment – sometimes it is hard for chaplains to be visible in certain colleges and institutions. I certainly know that Phillip Harbridge who until recently was chaplain of Christ’s makes it his mission to informally meet everyone at the college at least once, simply so that they know who he is and where to find him. It’s a much smaller college than Kings however, and I know of chaplains at other universities who have to fight very hard to be included – with many chaplains being the last person to know if someone has attempted suicide for example. I have heard that chaplains in Oxbridge colleges often find working with their authorities in order to be more available or visible an uphill struggle.

  5. Anon Says:

    It’s hidden two-thirds of the way down here (!)

    Great chap, though.

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