Putting chaplaincy in context
It is very easy to place things in the wrong category and therefore miss what that thing truly is! I often think that chaplaincy is misplaced and therefore not seen for exactly what it is. Chaplaincy is AWESOME and should be categorised as such!
The mission of God is the context for everything. The renewal and recreation of the world, reconnecting everything through Christ. This is God’s work in the ongoing life of the universe and our lives are not only caught up in the process of renewal and reconnection but we are also called to participate in God’s mission as co labourers, collaborators, even co-conspirators.
Chaplaincy is therefore a dynamic and vigorous expression of God’s mission - it really is! Not only that, but chaplains might be described as thoughtful, reflective and grounded practitioners. That is how I have come to think of them!
The future of chaplaincy : Four themes
As I dream about future forms of chaplaincy around the United Kingdom and beyond, I see four themes emerging and I believe this is where the innovation in chaplaincy lies. From here on, I will use the language of we, because this is very much the collective dream of those who shape the Chaplaincy Development Project.
Firstly, we have the privilege of meeting chaplains all over the country who find themselves ministering in every kind of situation. We really want to honour established chaplains and chaplaincies and we want to see many more of them in the years ahead! Their stories need to be heard and the insights they share need to be taken to heart. Sadly, chaplains are often isolated from each other and from their local church community.
We believe that one emerging theme encourages a new openness between the various disciplines of chaplaincy and seeks to synthesise our collective learning and experience. This new perspective will help the church to better respond to new opportunities as we ask the question: In the light of what we have learnt from one another, what does chaplaincy look like here? The first innovation might be describes as encouraging openness across disciplines, synthesis and responsiveness locally.
Secondly, we want to see much much more lay led, part time and voluntary chaplaincy. Again, this is not the end of full time paid chaplaincy, and certainly isn’t a response to the tightening of budgets. It is actually about the liberation of the church to be among people beyond the walls of our buildings! Chaplaincy is so malleable and therefore we believe that we will see more people finding a place where they might serve as a chaplain. The second innovation is therefore about the empowerment of people to participate in God’s mission within the understanding and discipline of chaplaincy.
Thirdly, we want to see chaplaincy emerge from the heart of every congregation! Chaplaincy is a core part of what it means to be a local church in a specific place. We hope that chaplaincy will be understood as being core to Church life, not the peripheral activity of a few. We also want to encourage a culture of chaplaincy in local churches, where the minstry of chaplaincy informs the witness of every disciple of Jesus Christ wherever they find themselves! The third innovation might be described as bringing chaplaincy into the centre of Church life.
Fourthly, we want to see the various streams of chaplaincy connected at a deeper level. Where foundational skills and concepts can be shared and strengthened and where we can learn from the work of one another. We also believe that chaplaincy is done best when it is ecumenical, in other words, as an expression of the church in an area.
We also believe that a broad network of chaplaincy could benefit everyone, especially when the spirit of open source working practices are alive and well. In other words, we share our best work with one another! In this way we hope that another future innovation of chaplaincy is both seen in collaboration and generosity.
We hope that chaplaincy will spread far and wide among the local church. We certainly believe that it is a powerful expression of the mission of God which will change the chaplain, the church and the world. Let’s spread the word about chaplaincy and engage in God’s mission!