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National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program
I was listening to an old podcast this morning (http://12tuesday.com/), where the guest interviewee was an Australian named Andrew Skegg. In the interview he brought to my attention an Australian government supported program called the National School Chaplaincy program, which basically supported non-qualified “chaplains” to be hired in public schools with tax-payer money to act in a guidance counselor position (and spread their religious message).
I did a quick google afterwards to see what this program was about and low-and-behold just last month a number of changes had been made to this program including a renaming of the program (it is now the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare program), an introduction of minimum qualifications and the option to choose a secular youth worker as well as the original religious folk.
What does this all mean? Well it could be an optimistic sign that secularism and secularist activism is having an effect on policy. It may be that our atheist prime minister is finally opening her eyes to the inequalities that are smuggled in under the hood of “religion.” Either way it is a promising development from this perspective.
Contrarily, the idea of religious proselytizers being hired on tax money in public schools still seems broken to me. Adding the option of a secular chaplain just doesn’t skimp on the fact that some (or most) of the participating public schools will be hiring and paying religious representatives to a position of authority, a position that almost certainly promotes their religious observance. That alone seems like it is explicitly against the secular cause in the Australian constitution(Chapter 5: 116). Perhaps they should scrap the entire “Chaplaincy” part of their program if they want to be constitutional about it.
I once asked my straight colleague if she ever worried about someone asking about or finding out that she is married. She furrowed her brow and shook her head no like it was a crazy question. That’s a difference between being a straight chaplain and a queer chaplain.
While I live with a perceived and real threat about living as an openly queer chaplain, I also live with an incredible gift. I live as a chaplain in a profoundly different way than my straight colleagues. I am a living alternative to the hate filled rhetoric spewed from some pulpits that has scarred and convinced queer people that they are despised by God, abominations, excluded from heaven. I have the privilege of conveying and testifying of God’s love in a way that no straight chaplain can.
I entered the small family conference room where Stephen sat, alongside a pair of doctors and a nurse. Introductions were made and then as gently as possible Stephen was told that his partner, James, had inexplicably gone into cardiac arrest and that, despite every effort, he could not be resuscitated. The sudden outpouring of grief made the medical staff retreat, leaving Stephen and I together. We sat for a long time letting the news sink in. When I asked Stephen if he would like to spend time with James, he pulled himself together enough to walk to the room. I offered him some private time, but he insisted that I stay and then asked if I would offer a prayer. Trying to sculpt a meaningful prayer, I asked what religious tradition Stephen and James came from. More tears streamed down his cheeks as Stephen told me that he was a Baptist and that James believed in God but hadn’t been to church in a long time. With prayers offered, I again asked Stephen if he some private time but he insisted I stay. So I stayed silently by Stephen’s side until the coroner came to pick up James’s body.
With Stephen unable to think clearly and unwilling to call any of his friends, we decided to call a cab for him. As I helped him outside, Stephen asked me what denomination I came from. A perfectly good question but odd given the circumstances, I wanted to be careful of how I answered it. My denomination’s name is often confused for a very conservative, very anti-gay denomination. “I’m a part of the United Church of Christ,” I said, “But my wife is a Unitarian Universalist, so I tend to be pretty ecumenical.”
He stared at me like I had twelve heads. “Did you say ‘your wife’?”
I nodded yes, though found myself questioning my choice of outing.
Out of nowhere he grabbed me and dropped his weight into my arms. “Do you think James is in heaven?” Stephen barely got the words out as he began to sob, “They say he won’t go to heaven. But does God love him?”
“The only thing I’m sure of,” I said, “Is that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate us from the love of God.”
In those moments, standing on the sidewalk waiting for the taxi, I was so deeply thankful to be queer. I thought about how my straight colleagues could have offered Stephen just as good if not better pastoral care, but I could stand with him, as another queer person, in a much different way and assure him that both he and James are loved by God.
- Kimberly Knight, “Life as a queer chaplain”
Why the Christian right don’t like Gillard | The Punch | #Auspol
The Gillard Government has taken the middle road in making changes to the national school chaplaincy program; $222 million has been committed to extend the program until 2014. But now schools can elect to have non-religious person fill the role as a secular worker and still use the $20,000 grant scheme.
No proselytising allowed. Photo: Stuart McEvoy.
Chaplains have really become budget student counsellors under the program. Since 2006, it has been rolled out to 2681 schools, 28 per cent are public schools. While the school applies for a chaplain to DEEWR, the funding is administered to a third party employer, in most cases a Christian organisation like Access Ministries who then engage a person to be a chaplain at the school.
Chaplains have a set of guidelines from the Government which prohibit proselytising, which they adhere to by signing a code of conduct.
A chaplain is, according to the NSCP guidelines, to provide “general religious and personal advice to those seeking it, comfort and support to students and staff”. There is a prohibition against trying to convert someone to their religion.
Seventeen per cent of the 277 complaints to DEEWR since the program’s inception have been allegations of proselytising. Is this the fine line where the difficulty starts? Is preaching the same as trying to convert? There are so many issues and advice from religious counsellors which would inevitably reflect on their broad religious and Christian views that it renders the line not as much blurred, as artificial.
The Government has attempted to address the issue by clarifying the expectations of a Chaplain in the new guidelines, following a report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman in July. The report says parents had complained to the ombudsman that the chaplain issue had divided the school community.
Many other parents were simply uncomfortable with the possibility, as former NSW premier Bob Carr put it: “If you give a religious fundamentalist access to a school to counsel students, it is only a matter of time before he gives into the temptation to collect a few young converts on the way. While he is, in effect, on the taxpayer payroll”.
A central lobbying group, the “Stop the National Schools Chaplaincy Program!” was formed in 2008 with support from groups like Atheist Foundation and the Rationalist Society.
Currently, a Queensland Dad is taking the matter to the High Court, alleging the Government contravenes s116 of the Constitution for making chaplains take a ‘religious test’ to adhere to NCSP guidelines. This may all be evidence of an angry new atheism.
The Government’s announcement last Wednesday may or may not be a response to the secular backlash. Schools will now have the choice whether they want a chaplain or a secular worker – a definite dilution of the Chaplaincy program.
Within hours of the announcement on Wednesday, the Australian Christian Lobby issued a press release saying the Chaplaincy program must not be secularised and called for a separate funding source for secular workers.
The need for more funding for Chaplains may not prove to be necessary as the ACL contends. If schools are given a choice, many will simply want a secular youth worker.
If it wasn’t for the controversy, this was simply an announcement for more youth workers in schools. On the face of it, all the Government is doing now is providing schools and parents with extra funding and extra choice. This was the reaction from one reader on ACL’s website:
“If Christianity wasn’t so methodically and consistently attacked in this country… The hypocrisy of Australia is that while they reject any Christian teaching, they happily accept (and expect) our services, our time and money to meet the needs of all the godless carnage.”
Indeed, our Prime Minister has not been embraced by Christian voters. While there was a swing to the ALP amongst Muslims, Buddhists and Atheists – Christians, and particularly people from evangelical churches, swung against Gillard at the 2010 election.
Research from former ALP Senator John Black’s Australian Development Strategies, suggested the four seats with the biggest Pentecostal populations had a 7.2 per cent swing against Labor. There a few reasons for this.
One is the Gillard Government is simply not conservative enough on social issues. In the Australian Christian Values Institute how to vote sheet for the 2010 election, the ALP scored just 3 ticks out of 22 questions on policy standpoints, while the Liberals scored 14, Family First and the Christian Democratic Party scored a full 22.
Almost all the questions of the ACVI’s vote sheet related to marriage, family or censorship.
The ALP still did not have a tick from the institute on the issue of school chaplains, despite extending the program under Rudd in 2008. Interestingly, Rudd who wrote long essays about how his religion informed his politics, also scored just 3 out of 22 ticks on ACVI’s 2007 sheet. Yet, in the 2007 election, most voters in evangelical church groups swung to Rudd.
This only points to the elephant in the room.
No matter how much Ms Gillard talks about her Baptist upbringing and love of bible stories, she is unmarried atheist without children. For people who see family, marriage and religion as the centre of a healthy society, their lives and perhaps their salvationm, her private life would inevitably lead to suspicion about her character.
In response to the defence of Ms Gillard’s honesty about her atheism, former Australian Family Association Vice President Bill Muehlenberg said “An unashamed paedophile who extols his lifestyle is also being honest; does that make his activities commendable then?… To reject Christ and his provision for salvation is not to show respect; it is to show the highest disrespect. …”.
If it’s aggressive atheism against zealous evangelical Christianity, then Gillard will be hoping she walked down the middle road in a way that leaves both groups still in her sight.via: http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/why-the-christian-right-dont-like-gillard/
Geez I rage with passion
Right now, I was just thinking how passionate I get with all of my assignments/essays etc.
If I can’t feel any passion for what I am writing about I just can’t do it!
I’m really lucky that the majority of my assessments throughout uni have been on all my interests, bar 1 or 2 things like that 2000 word essay in french about cinema techniques *gun to head* what a nightmare.
@ thee MOE I’m writing up an essay on School Chaplaincy in Australian schools and all the controversy around it all.
- Government funding (when state school are meant to be secular -_-)
- Chaplains proselyting students when they are only meant for “pastoral care” - whatever the hell that is supposed to mean
- And how chaplains are used as counsellors when they have no qualifications or right to do so!
It’s sooooo fascinating!
I slipped upon Cory Bernardi’s personal blog. HAHAHA Geeeez that guy is a total fuckwit!!! His slogan is “it’s just common sense” cuando en serio?
HE DOESN’T HAVE ANY!
Ahhhhh see? All that raging passion just pours out my finger tips…runs through my veins…perhaps I do have some firey Spanish blood after all. Yaay!
But why do I suck and speaking it?
Oh dear God.
DEFS time for bed
Seeing Opportunities and Measuring Intangables
Today I am spending some time developing two tools that will hopefully help my work as I help to develop innovative chaplaincy ministries.
Firstly, I am trying to create a series of exercises that will help others see the opportunities that surround them. Something that will help people see with fresh eyes what they more than likely observe everyday and probably take for granted. Once observed, the next step is to ask the question, what if?
Secondly, I am trying to find a healthy and accessible way to regularly review the effect that chaplaincy ministry is having. How do you measure success when so often you are dealing with intangible things? Pastoral ministry is also difficult to assess because the affects sometimes have a long time delay. Or the change is subtle but has a significant impact. The best I can think of at the moment is that any review process needs to rely on stories more than statistics!
I am also working on a website that will accompany the work, I will post the link when it is live. A place to share learning, stories and resources as well as connecting chaplains all around the UK and giving space for others to join in the conversation and perhaps even become a chaplain too. Exciting!
How I was drawn to Buddhism ~ Danny Fisher
Danny Fisher describes how his love of film eventually leads to life as a young Buddhist chaplain.”
Then I asked if I could say a prayer.
Startled, he said, “Why would you even ask?”
So I proceeded.
Placing the heart’s full attention on all that is good and right in the world,
I ask that you be healed in body, mind, and heart.
That you may use this pain and suffering as an opportunity to grow.
That you may fully awaken to your true Self.
And find a peace like no other…
At the end, he thanked me.
Asking: “Why would anyone reject it?”
And I turned my head and cried.
“Be still and know that I am the Lord.”
She said, quoting Psalm 46.
Be still and know that I AM.
With tears in her eyes, she told me she loved me.
I held her hand and thanked God,
Lord Jesus, for the gift of our communion.
We sang “The Strife is O’er” for you.
But, if I could have just told you how precious it is.
Talked you down from that roof.
And shown you all that you still had to do.
Little Mimi, your life was its own prayer.
Couldn’t you see?
But you don’t look like those little bald guys in the orange robes!?
And we laughed.
Spontaneously composed as part of my final self-evaluation for an 11-week full-time hospital chaplaincy internship. Three are interactions I had just in the past week, and one is me remembering my friend who killed herself in 2004, age 23.
Working at home, well in the garden actually
What a good end to a lovely week. Sitting in my garden, working away in the sun. Drinking tea and listening to bird song. Wednesday was a long day in London but I actually got some very meaningful work done, mostly on the trains! Yesterday I was in the Test Valley meeting with a minister hearing about all potential within the circuit. We had a long lunch by the river test and it was restorative and the cider was very very good.
Exciting things are afoot with chaplaincy to bikers and britains waterways, the horse racing community and ex offenders. God’s kingdom is embracing people who are often on the edges of society as Christians go to where people are at to love and care.
What a privaledge to be a part of that process. The wind is rustling the leaves above my head, like the movement of the Holy Spirit among the church.
fruit of the spirit
I placed 10 of these around the academy yesterday and was stunned by the response. I had to replace several and was involved in, and overheard/was told of, several interesting conversations about what they meant and why people took what they took.
No explanation was offered by me as to what they meant or why I had put the posters up. I thought I’d just let them speak for themselves. Turns out sometimes no explanation is necessary!
A Ministry of Presence
Chaplaincy can be a misunderstood concept – it is, in essence, a ministry of being present with others. Whether they are positive times or negative, a Chaplain is there to listen and lift up the individual, lend a hand, provide solace, or the warmth of a loving smile.
Chaplaincy, may, at times be about dealing with spiritual matters either to answer others questions or help lead them to the God of Creation. I say “may” because, more often, a Chaplains job is not one of spiritual director.
As such, being a Chaplain becomes a service and support ministry to others more than, say, a preacher or priest might be. As a Chaplain we may be called upon to teach, preach, marry or bury, but our ultimate role, is just to be a positive presence in others’ lives.
It is to this end that we see few called into the Chaplain ranks.
This is often especially true when it pertains to a Biker Chaplain. Which tends to combine subculture with subculture, and in itself creates a micro-culture of individuals who ride the line between multiple groups.
If you have been called into this ministry – we applaud you and are here to support you.
Not Knowing, Sickness, and Chaplaincy (19 June 2012)
a mini-talk and reading, by me, inspired by you
(N.B. I meant “his painter-friend” not “his painter.”)
FYI: Volunteer Opportunity
Please come to Out of the Cold this Tuesday and help assemble sandwiches and serve them to those in need! It is starting to really get cold out there- and we need your help to make Out of the Cold a success! Please come and bring a friend anytime between 8:30am-2pm this Tuesday. We are especially very much in need of volunteers in the afternoon, from 12:30-2pm. Please come to help close down OOTC if you are able. We will be meeting in the basement of St Basils. Email me if you need directions :)Have a glorious weekend!!!
We hope to see you Tuesday,Leigh
Coordinator, Out Of The Cold
St. Michael’s College
From the University of St. Michael’s College Chaplaincy listserv.
Things I learnt yesterday
Yesterday was the first day of intensive for my youth work course and we had a really great guest speaker who’s name I will probably not remember, but oh well. The whole two hour session was about how we can survive in the long term working in ministry and with kids - both of those professions are among the most emotionally draining and somehow we managed to pick a job that includes both.
He was talking about having down time and making sure you recharge your batteries and stuff and I’ve heard it all before so was just kind of agreeing with what he was saying. But I don’t think I’ve ever fully thought about what it really meant to recharge and relax. For me, an absolute extrovert, being around people gives me energy, I don’t really need time to myself very often at all. However, I’ve found in the last year that sometimes when people wanted to talk to me about an issue they’d been having I just did not want to talk to them, or not so much “not want to”, more like I’d get really tired at the thought of talking to them. This has never really happened to me before, but before this year I wasn’t working with kids so much.
Generally my emotions tank runs at 150% which means I am very emotional and also have a big capacity to deal with listening to other people be emotional. Last year, however, when I was working at a school one day a week with a Chaplain, plus doing youth group, plus working in after school care, where you are constantly surrounded by people who want you to listen and to care and to help, I didn’t realise it, but my capacity to take on all that emotional baggage was actually running low for once. After I’d finish work, sometimes I’d come home and then there would be a message waiting for me asking if I could chat or skype or something and for the first time I just did not have the emotional energy. And man have I been feeling guilty about it. Today I learnt that I shouldn’t.
I definitely don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t talk to me about stuff - because like I said, 90% of the time, I am ALL for that. In fact it often puts me in a good mood whenever I have listened to someone complain about their life for a while! But if I ever do just say “I’m really sorry, but I just can’t right now” then please understand that it’s not personal, but it’s just often that’s what I spend all day doing. So sometimes, but only sometimes, I just have nothing more to give and will probably be laying in my bed watching a show with as little conflicts as possible.
If I do say that to you, then I’ll probably follow by saying “Send me an email!” because I really do WANT to listen, it’s just at that specific moment in time, I will be of no use to you, but later, in like a day, then I will be useful again and I will read your email and then we will talk and everything will be beautiful and hopefully I can start doing this without feeling guilty. Now that I’m aware of it.
TL;DR - I learnt I only have a limited amount of energy that I can put into listening to people talk about their issues and once I reach that limit I shouldn’t have to feel guilty if I say “I just can’t talk right now. Later though!” Also up until last year I thought that limit was unreachable.