Going Further: Report on WM Conference for FE Chaplains
Eighteen current and aspiring chaplains and colleagues from the region gathered in Birmingham on 15 May for a day of stimulating input, networking and sharing good practice – the largest gathering of FE chaplains in the region for some years!
The Church of England’s national FE and HE Advisor Revd Garry Neave surveyed the contemporary landscape of FE chaplaincy: colleges were facing tough challenges but being adaptable and resilient in the midst of them.
He sketched out a vision for contemporary chaplaincy as invitational and ambassadorial, with chaplains as representatives ‘of the best of those who sent you’ and interpreters of the language of faith in a college context, and of the further education sector to the churches.
Professor Trevor Cooling (Chair of the RE Council) helped us explore how spiritual development may appropriately take place within often-secular settings, outlining an approach centred on people rather than issues, character as well as skills, and on allowing respectful exploration of difference rather than seeking to deny diversity or relegate it to the private sphere.
In the afternoon chaplains got together into local clusters to network and share the highs and lows of chaplaincy. We’re hoping that these local clusters might continue and grow so that they provide a support network for FE chaplains on a more sustainable basis. If you’d like to be part of a local cluster, contact Phil Metcalf for more details.
Delegates gathered again at the end of the day to hear stories of chaplaincy and good practice. Revd Mike Mills (coordinator of the new chaplaincy team at South Staffordshire College) shared a good news story about some recent chaplaincy work; Revd Canon Hazel Charlton (part-time chaplain at Halesowen College) told the story of setting up an Animal Cafe at the college; Revd Steve Blyth (North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College) related the chaplaincy’s involvement in assembling food hampers for students in need, and the annual Christmas Day brunch.
It was a great day, generously supported by the Westhill Endowment and St Peter’s Saltley Trust. But we hope it won’t be the last. Keep an eye on this bulletin and WMCFEC’s events page for details of future training opportunities.