Chaplaincy-in-Methodist-Schools

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					Chaplaincy in Methodist Schools
Why this Paper?

School Chaplaincy sits outside the norm of appointment to a circuit. It is clear that
some candidates feel uncertain about what the independent Methodist schools
represent, what chaplaincy within them might mean, or how it might enrich the
development of their ministry. This paper seeks to answer some of those questions and
to provide potential candidates for chaplaincy with a brief guide.

Who are the Methodist Schools?

There are fourteen Methodist independent schools which all have both boarding and
day pupils. Most cater for children from nursery age up to the age of eighteen. In
alphabetical order they are:

      Ashville College, North Yorkshire
      Culford School, Suffolk
      Edgehill College, Bideford, Devon
      Farringtons School, Chilsehurst
      Kent College Canterbury
      Kent College Pembury, Nr Tunbridge Wells
      Kingswood School, Bath
      The Leys School, Cambridge
      Queen’s College Taunton, Somerset
      Queenswood School, Hertfordshire
      Rydal Penrhos School, North Wales
      Shebbear College, North Devon
      Truro School, Cornwall
      Woodhouse Grove School, West Yorkshire

The schools sprang from John Wesley’s ministry. He founded the first one, Kingswood,
in 1748. Most of the others were then founded in the 19th Century to give an
independent education with a healthy attitude towards religious faith. The most recent
was Farringtons which opened in 1911. Each of the schools is run by a local board of
governors. Nine are controlled by a Board of Management based in London. The other
five are associated with the Board. All of the schools are the final responsibility of the
Methodist Conference.

More information about the schools and the group is available from the relevant
website. If you go to www.methodisteducation.co.uk you will find that there are links to
the individual schools sites. If you would like to find out about the origins and the
development of the schools you are recommended to read the booklet entitled “Shared
Aims” which was prepared for the centenary of the Board of Management in 2003 by
Gary Best the Head of Kingswood School. Copies are available from the Secretary to
the Board at Methodist Church House.

What is their role today?

Independent schools in this country are among the best schools in the world – indeed
in 2006 an OECD survey put them top of a list of schools in 31 developed nations.
They benefit from eager pupils, well-qualified teachers and supportive parents; and
they have the freedom to make the most of those blessings. Above all, however,
independent schools exist to provide their pupils with the best possible education in the



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fullest sense of the word: our Methodist schools stand for a solid education in which
spiritual development is as important as academic or physical growth. They also benefit
from continued reinvestment – as charities they do not make profit and surpluses go
back to enhancing the provision on offer to their pupils.

There are also many reasons that pupils and parents still choose boarding. For some it
is necessary because of family circumstances – parents who work abroad or move
frequently, such as those in the Armed Services – but many pupils also value it for the
early experience of self-reliance it brings, together with close friendships in a tightly-knit
community. In today’s world many teenagers see boarding as a step on the road to
independence; and one that can be taken within a supporting and safe environment.
For these reasons, many parents value it too.

Aren’t they socially exclusive?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Some 40% of pupils in independent education
come from homes with an income at or below the national average. School bursaries
are designed to enable pupils to access the education on offer regardless of
background or ability to pay. These bursaries are complemented by the Central
Bursaries Fund operated by the Board of Management. Equally, many pupils come
from overseas, and one of the joys of boarding is the ability to live and work with others
whose backgrounds, talents, skills and outlook differ widely from one’s own: boarders
are well prepared for the diversity they will meet in the world beyond education. The
Methodist belief in God’s grace being open to all finds living expression in such
communities.

Why Become a Chaplain?

There are many reasons why some people find chaplaincy within a school challenging
and enriching. Most obviously, because working with young people is intensely
stimulating: they have open minds, fresh ideas and few of the preconceptions that
accompany adulthood. Leadership of the spiritual dimension of such a community is
both a challenge and a joy. Children challenge a chaplain to stimulate the spiritual
within them; and for the chaplain the ability to see that spiritual dimension begin to
blossom is a profound joy.

The pastoral nature of a boarding community also adds a special dimension to ministry.
There is a closeness to relationships that is rarely found in ordinary ministry. The
chaplain is the focus of not only the spiritual life of the school, but has a vital impact on
its general pastoral ethos. For children living away from home, the chaplain has a vital
role in developing their understanding of what a Christian community can and should
be.

Nor is the school community simply one of children: adults too work and live within the
community and the role of the chaplain includes ministering to them. Teachers,
administrative, kitchen and domestic staff, all require the leadership which a dedicated
minister brings. The mix of people a chaplain will encounter in a school community will
in many ways reflect wider society: very few will come from Methodist backgrounds and
a significant number will be barely acquainted with the Christian faith. Chaplains are at
the leading edge of the Church’s mission and in schools will have more direct daily
contact with young people than in any other context.




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What Does the Role Involve?

All schools differ and the role of the chaplain will vary from one to another; and, indeed,
will vary within a school with each incumbent. At a recent meeting of the Heads of
Methodist Schools, however, it was clearly agreed by all that the prime role of any
chaplain is to minister to the religious and spiritual needs of the community within the
traditions of Methodism.

Often the role can involve teaching; and often the subject may be Religious Studies.
Heads are convinced, however, that teaching is a secondary responsibility that can be
passed, where desirable or necessary, to a teaching professional. Chaplaincy has
religious leadership at its heart, not academic teaching.

Classroom contact with pupils can, however, be stimulating and rewarding, and also
provide a chaplain with a clear point of connection with the school. For this reason
Heads will always support chaplains who wish to teach and will make training and
development opportunities readily available.

Other points of contact will come in boarding Houses where the chaplain is always a
welcome visitor and where pupils are able either to seek individual advice or simply to
enjoy a relaxed discussion over a cup of coffee. These evening visits are popular with
pupils and should be a rewarding part of ministry within a school as relationships are
forged outside the classroom and beyond the School day.

Some chaplains may also have talents or interests that mesh with those of pupils:
joining the chess club or the orchestra; taking a junior team or playing tennis with pupils;
there are abundant ways of bringing chaplaincy into the heart of the community.

There are certain roles perhaps less in evidence in a school. Although adult members
of the community may marry, or bring children to baptism, and although anyone may
suffer bereavement, there are likely to be fewer such events than in a circuit. However,
the impact of such events when they do occur is likely to be far stronger than in a
circuit, both because of the closeness of the school community and the youthfulness of
it. For many, for example, any experience of bereavement will be their first.

A chaplain represents the wider Church in and to the school and also, with the Head,
represents the school to the wider Church.

The chaplain has responsibility for maintaining and developing the Methodist tradition
and ethos within the school and will be a main artery between the school and the
Methodist Church.

The chaplain has responsibility, under the Chair of the District and the Head, for seeing
that the Christian faith is proclaimed and explained in ways which respect the integrity
and intelligence of all, for organising the planning and conduct of some or all services
and collective worship, and for encouraging the Christian nurture of individuals.

The chaplain should be seen as a senior member of staff who works alongside the
Head and members of the management team, sharing with them a special
responsibility for the development of a stimulating and compassionate school
community in which individuals are valued and cared for, and where qualities such as




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honesty, tolerance, understanding and commitment are encouraged. A good working
relationship between chaplain and Head is of crucial importance.

The chaplain serves the whole school community, as listener, enabler, prophet and
minister. The chaplain has a distinctive role in supporting and encouraging other
members of staff in the exercise of their pastoral and other responsibilities.

How Would it Fit My Ministry?

Heads and others involved in schools would argue that an understanding of the young
is vital to any successful circuit minister’s work. Without an empathy and understanding
of the coming generation, Methodism is unlikely to meet their spiritual needs or be the
force for God’s work in the world that we expect. A chaplain is strongly encouraged to
forge links with the circuit in which a school is situated. It is hoped that this would be
both on a personal basis with ministerial colleagues and between the school and local
churches.

The chance to minister to the young and to help shape their ideas and their ideals at a
formative stage in their development is a rare privilege. Teachers learn as much from
pupils as the pupils learn from them. That is certainly also true of chaplains.

What Next?

If you feel that you may be right for chaplaincy and might wish to experience it in your
ministry, or if you are merely interested in learning more about chaplaincy, you can
discuss matters further with Mr Graham Russell, the Secretary to the Board of
Management. He will be happy to put you in touch with an experienced chaplain who
can tell you more about it.

Alternatively, most Heads will happily welcome you to their school to discuss
chaplaincy with them and their chaplain, and to spend some time seeing at first-hand
what the challenges and rewards of the job can be.

Vacancies for chaplaincy posts are advertised in the Methodist Recorder, usually in the
September before the appointment is to be taken up. It has been agreed that short-
listing, interviews and selection take place before District Chairs begin the normal
round of stationing processes.




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