Lana Silk is Chaplain at Hereford Sixth Form College. Here’s what she and the college have been up to this year:
This is my first year as a Chaplain. I came into it completely new to the whole world of chaplaincy but with lots of experience in Christian/Church ministry, youth work and a background in marketing which I have found an invaluable tool. I am an ecumenical Chaplain which means I’m not here just for the Christians. I’m here for people of ‘all faiths and none’. But that’s just how I like it! I want people to be able to come to me with any and all faith related issues/questions.
- The Christians. First up, I have spent time with the college Christian Union ‘dreaming’, praying, planning and asking: ‘If time/treasure/talents were no issue, what do we want to see God do in our midst?’ We have then written our reflections down so we can remember to pray for them, and actively prepared for them with lots of time given to learning about God together. Who am I in Christ? What is the role of the Holy Spirit in my life? What am I called to be? How do I effectively share my faith? etc.
I want the CU to be envisioned for their campus. I want them to be believing and praying for God to use them and to do amazing things around them. I want to equip and encourage them, then enable them to act… (see point 3 below).
- The Campus as a Whole. The biggest challenge has been communicating a clear message about my role here. I have coined a phrase which I use across everything that comes out of Chaplaincy: ‘explore and express faith – free from judgement and prejudice’. I want everyone of any faith to know they can come and talk to me about God. Is God real? How do I talk to God? How can I know that God is real? I have found my training in apologetics an invaluable tool in this area (Zacharias Trust – I highly recommend their training and resources!)
- Action. When I came in to College, the Christian Union was small and most people didn’t know that it even existed. It has been my objective this year to enable them to be a thriving part of the community here. This is because in order to share more of God, we need a voice and for that we need to be known.
In everything we have put on, we have made sure the college knew the CU was behind it. Here are the tips I have picked up:
- Don’t use ‘CU’. Lots of students don’t even know what that is! I have had to go back to using ‘Christian Union’ in full on everything
- Work together with others. We have found areas of common interest with other societies and put on joint events, pooling resources, and making more impact. With the SRC (Student Representative Committee) and the Environmental Group, we chose charities we all believed in, then adopted them for the duration of the term and did fundraising initiatives together (see below).
- Celebrate key events with the college. We want to share our joy when we celebrate highs like the birth and resurrection of Christ. We had a big Christmas Celebration where we put on dance and drama acts (again, pooling in other students from the dance/drama departments and working together with them), handed out lots of chocolates, and I shared about Jesus, the ultimate present. At the start of Lent, we put on a ‘free pancakes’ event with lots of posters saying we were celebrating the ‘free gift of life and love in Jesus with a free gift of pancakes with our fellow students’. Over 200 free pancakes were handed out as we shared the love of Jesus to the college.
- Serve the college! The CU wants to be a valuable part of campus community. For example, we ran a ‘de-stress’ event where we handed out free stress balls and talked about healthy ways to manage stress before/during exams. Of course, prayer was part of that. Or we put on a VeggieTales screening with free popcorn just for fun! Over 30 came to that. We will do more on this next year to build on what we have started. The question is, how can we ensure the college is better off because we are here?
- Enable response to tragedy. When the Muslim community in New Zealand were singled out and attacked, we put on a big memorial display and invited students to write messages of love and support on little red hearts which we then sent to the New Zealand embassy with our prayerful support. They posted them all (166 in total) on to the victims’ families. The local BBC loved this and did a whole piece on it.
In the Spring our adopted charity, together with the Student Representation Committee, was the Red Box Project in Hereford, which tackles Period Poverty amongst young people in education. To raise the profile, I set up a term-long display and donation point right by the student common room, a large cake sale, a selfie-video of me explaining the initiative to the student body and inviting them to be part of what became a college-wide initiative (the video was 3 minutes and was played in all Education for Life lessons with overwhelmingly positive feedback – an added bonus was that it also introduced me again to the students!), posters, digital board displays, Facebook posts and emails, all reaffirming the same message: we as a college are getting behind Hereford Red Box Project and we want you to help us make a huge contribution to our community; we want to be a valuable member of our community here. The result was a massive measurable impact on our community (8 boxes across different schools and youth clubs all sponsored by us), and a piece in the local press (I wrote the article and provided a picture which we sent to the Hereford Times to use)
Our summer term charity was a shorter initiative due to exams but it was still a huge success. The Christian Union worked with the Environmental Group on this one, and we adopted the Size of Herefordshire Project which protects areas of rainforest from destruction. We had an ‘environmentally friendly’ sale and raised enough money so that, together with fund matching, we ensured 1285 acres of Amazonian rainforest were safe from destruction.
In short, I don’t think we can preach the love of Jesus without BEING the love of Jesus. My objective this year has been to serve the college where I work, enable them to contribute to their community, and giving them a voice when they want to respond to those they sympathise with. I have also wanted to give the CU a voice. How can we share what is on our heart, if people don’t even know we are there? We will make a big event of induction and fresher’s fayre this year, and next year, though we will continue to do all that we have been doing this year, we will be in a position to host more events that invite people to talk about the reality, the love and the role of God in our lives. We have some fun things planned.