Chaplains from four Uniting Church WA schools delivered oral reports to the 45th Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA.
Rev Claire Pickering, Chaplain at Penrhos College, posed the question, ‘how do you minister within a community of three to four thousand students, staff and their families?’
She said that success in this is tied to respect and trust. Claire immerses herself in the diverse activities of the school to maintain and develop relationships across the year groups, staff and parents.
Rev Manie Strydom, the new Chaplain at Wesley College, said that his understanding of chaplaincy is shaped by the idea that the church exists not for its members, but as a foretaste of God’s redeeming grace. He said he finds it very rewarding to engage with people of other faiths or no faith, having discussions about life, life after death, grace and God being present in everyday life.
“Chaplaincy is a ministry of presence – being immersed in the life of the school and participating in more than chapel services and assemblies,” he said. “We have the privilege to show people how Jesus would respond when faced with difficult situations, living grace every day and serving people.”
Manie said he has had students and parents approach him to ask where they could find a church that will proclaim a message of hope and grace.
“One dad told me that having discussions with me introduced him to a loving God who seeks to understand and forgive, rather than seeking to punish – a God he no longer needs to fear,” Manie said. “He never knew that side of God and he started attending church services for the first time in more than 30 years.”
Rev Gary van Heerden, Chaplain at Scotch College, said that Scotch is celebrating their Celtic roots.
“At the heart of Celtic spirituality is the belief that God is present in everything,” he said.
He used the three distinguishing features of Celtic Christianity – Presence, Pilgrimage and Poetry – to talk about his work at the school.
Gary said that he engages with students of the school at every opportunity, including functions, activities and performances, as well as being present for students to approach when needed.
Noting the Uniting Church theology of being a pilgrim people, Gary said the students at scotch are also searching, “not always for religion as we know it, but a yearning for more.”
He uses this knowledge to attempt to express the presence of God in a way the students can relate to.
Rev Steve Francis, Chaplain at Tranby College, said that being a Chaplain is a great privilege. Steve is challenged to keep the rumour of God alive.
Delivering chapel services for junior and senior students, as well as staff has been a particular highlight for Steve, as has providing pastoral care to the entire school community, and being involved with service learning with the students.