Saturday, 13 May 2017

Valuable Methodist Chaplaincy Resources

Every so often I read back over a post, particularly one which has been written from a place of emotion and think um……perhaps I could have phrased that a little differently or perhaps I could have included more reference to some good work going on elsewhere. So it was with my recent post “Movingon in to ???”

In my frustrations about my husband going into his student presbyter role whilst I am not sure what my future holds I realise I may have given the wrong impression about Chaplaincy as a ‘stream’ in Methodism. What I meant is whilst one can express a clear calling to certain types of ministry and there are clear pathways through there is not the same clear route through to chaplaincy ministry and not the same opportunities for this to be a paid role.

However, it is clear stream which is supported by the Connexional Team. There is a page on the Methodist website which gives clear links to those who support the different types of chaplaincy. The problem which exists is highlighted within the “about chaplaincy” pages within the PDF document which can be linked to.

It says:” What kind of people are chaplains? There are many different kinds of Methodist chaplains. Most are volunteers - ordained ministers working full time as chaplains are very much in the minority.”

This paragraph totally ignores the lay person for whom this is their paid vocation. The impression given is that the lay person will be a volunteer. This is what is at the root of my personal frustration and what I didn’t perhaps adequately express.

It is this assumption which is also implicit within much of the Methodist material on chaplaincy, although it is found within excellent resources which are of equal worth whether you are considering chaplaincy as a volunteer role or as a career or if you are more experienced. Indeed Chaplaincy Everywhere and Chaplaincy Essentials are excellent resources which I would recommend more widely than just to Methodists.

Additionally, Cliff College runs an excellent summer school with a mission stream which is focusing on “Vocation and Mission: New forms of Chaplaincy” and a number of links from last year’s course can be found on the website. This advertises itself on Facebook as for both those looking into chaplaincy and experienced chaplains and for lay and ordained. It’s organised by the Methodist Discipleship and Learning Network in conjunction with the College, which runs an excellent range of course.

So as I hope you can see there is a lot of excellent work going on and I have benefited from part of it. The HE Chaplaincy link in the network has been a great encourager to me over the last two years as I have been in my current role.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Moving On into ?????

Standing at the front of a crowded room in the Hare and Hounds on Friday, jumping up and down to punk folk indie outfit Skinny Lister after indulging in the 90’s nostalgia of American garage punk support AJJ I was in my element. To me the evening summed up much of what has been good about the last couple of years in Brum. We have fitted in here and I can honestly say I have flourished. Yet, it is time to move on….subject to the approval of Methodist Conference (have to get that caveat in)……Karl is moving from student to probationer Methodist Presbyter in September. Thus it’s time to pack up and move on again.
As I get ready for this I am faced with the questions of what next? This is not a new place to be in on one hand, I am somebody who can now be described as semi-nomadic and is used to starting over in a new place. Yet, this time it is different because of the flourishing which has occurred in Birmingham.

For a number of years I have been seeking to search out how to express my calling…if you like what my vocation is. I have gone on various searches including candidating for Diaconal Ministry and looking into pioneer ministry in the past and nothing has seemed to quite fit. Yet, at being a lay chaplain in a university has fitted and has given me the opportunity to express all those things that didn’t quite fit in other boxes.

I’ve had the opportunity whilst here to explore in more detail that calling and reflect upon it as well as learn about some of the theory underpinning it through the Chaplaincy and Young People course at Newman. I have found the way to sensibly express what I have very clumsily been talking about for years in a form which makes sense and bridges academic and informal learning. Next week I get to present a paper on that at a BIAPT and Queens conference on Christian Mission in Post-Christian Cultures. It expresses how I have a firm foundation built upon the model(s) of religious and secular understanding of chaplaincy which are combined in my approach, a contextual missional approach and a set of questions I use flowing from the Methodist Quadrilateral (including how does scripture inform my work). It then goes on to show what the use of this model looks like in practice when curating and helping create apt liturgy for the LGBT+ community within the context in which I work.

I’ve also been able to develop a project on helping students engage with employability and the privatized areas of their lives (particularly faith or sexual orientation / gender identity). It’s something I am happy to pass on to others but would like the chance to develop more widely. That is being developed into an academic paper on HE Chaplaincy – A Positive Chance for Engagement through the Diversity and Employability Agendas for a conference next month in Aberdeen.

So you see there is lots of exciting stuff going on but I am not sure where it all goes next, whether I am being asked to walk away or whether there will be some way of developing the chaplaincy role. Now, let’s be clear I knew two years ago the timescale I was probably in the West Midlands for; what (if I’m honest), I didn’t expect was to flourish in the way I have and to really find what my vocation looked like in practice not in my head.

The thing that makes it harder for me is the irony of certain things. Just as Karl is being released to fulfil his ministry in a church which understands and has a “system or pathway” for his role I am being sent into this void of ok, how does this work now? I am effectively a lay free lancer with a specific ministry which I have had tested in the ways which are possible to somebody in my situation (i.e. via interview panel, professional, vocational course and being accountable to the committee which I am employed by as well as to the church of which I am a part). If he had been stationed to a different part of the country the roles would exist for me to apply for, and to develop what I’m doing now. As it is the roles just aren’t there in the same way where I’m going. There are roles for the lay chaplain, but they tend to be for chaplaincy assistants who are part of live in communities and intended as stepping stones into discerning vocation.

Then there’s the practicalities of preparing to be a “clergy spouse” (no jokes here about flowers or baking). For me the issues arise over the employment issue again. How do I find something where I can have the same day off as my husband when Saturdays are not a good day for him to consider taking as a day off because quite frankly? I live in the world of Monday to Friday on the whole…..this is going to involve compromise and change.
Some things are settled though, building on what has worked well in Birmingham. I am going to be going to a different church in a neighboring circuit. Karl is ready to take the flack on this one. But it is what we have found has worked well for us here. I am able to be my own person and he has not had to deal with me in his “work” situation. We do support each other’s ministries but it doesn’t mean we have to be in each others pockets. It is easier for the boundaries to be maintained the way we work it.

So Birmingham has been good to us and we have both, I think, flourished here. We’ll miss it but it is time to move on……..