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Every school should have the benefit of a chaplain

by
04 January 2012

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From the Revd Dr John Caperon

Sir, — I suspect that the Revd Dr Stephen Laird (Letters, 9 December) is right to ascribe the encouraging attendance patterns at Cambridge college chapels to the earlier work of independent-school chaplains. Independent schools can offer involvement in a community of faith, and the personal support of a chaplain who may also be a teacher of religious studies, able to explore with pupils the philosophical dilemmas and uncertainties of faith, as well as its strengths.

Independent schools, thankfully, have, however, no monopoly of school chaplaincy. Many, though not yet enough, Church of England secondary schools and academies show their commitment to faith-based education by employing full-time chaplains, lay or ordained.

The Bloxham Project’s recent research into school chaplaincy demonstrated clearly that in these contexts, too, school chaplaincy works. When interviewed as part of the research project, pupils gave clear evidence of the impact of chaplaincy; they saw their chaplain as a person of integrity, available to them as a trusted companion on their own journey of life and faith. In brief, school chaplaincy is a ministry understood and respected by the young.

It is good that attendance at Cambridge college chapels is increasing. It is more important, however, that the young in all Church-related schools — and more widely — should have the opportunity to experience the ministry of school chaplaincy.

Chaplains can help young people in trouble turn around; they can help foster a sense of vocation to a life of service; they can encourage those with faith, nurture those exploring faith, and challenge those without faith. They are a key ingredient in a Christian education. Their ministry is far too important, frankly, to be confined to the small proportion of our young men and women in independent schools.

JOHN CAPERON
Former Director of the Bloxham Project
Sarum, Twyfords, Crowborough
East Sussex TN6 1YE

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