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School changes heighten need for chaplaincy

by
17 May 2013

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From the Revd Dr John Caperon

Sir, - Your leader comment "Under a new head" ( 10 May) rightly draws attention to the increasingly tenuous nature of the old "dual system of county and voluntary schools". What we are moving into, in effect, is a marketised pattern of education, in which numerous providers of differentiated education services compete for market share.

The Church of England as a national institution appears no longer a major influence: the old world of the 1944 settlement is past, and the downgrading of RE - despite the urgent and obvious public need for improved religious literacy - is symptomatic.

In this context, there is an urgent need for the Church to reassert its historic mission to provide through all its schools a distinctive and coherent Christian education, rooted in a clear spiritual vision, and dedicated to the holistic flourishing of each person in community.

My recent research into chaplaincy in church schools indicates that the ministry of chaplains is a key element in the provision of such an education: chaplains are seen by pupils as generous providers of pastoral care, authentic practitioners of Christian faith, and spiritual leaders able to offer support and guidance to those both within and beyond the communities of faith.

In the church school, chaplains are able to build the spiritual capital of those in their care, offering resources for spiritual living. They are key agents of the religious socialisation of the young, inviting engagement with the content and practices of faith. As liturgical leaders, they enable a new generation to link with "the chain of memory" which is the ongoing Christian tradition.

There is no ministry of the Church to the young which is more significant than theirs. The current educational situation makes the development and support of chaplaincy in our church schools an even more vital priority.

JOHN CAPERON

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

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