‘Hi, I’m Alison and I am the University Chaplain’. That is my usual opening remark when I meet staff and students for the first time and it often leads to conversations about, well, everything!
It is a year since life changed completely for all of us and yet the question for all Chaplains stays the same – how to make those initial contacts when most students and staff are working from home and casual encounters on campus are increasingly rare? How to support those who are experiencing bereavement or illness? How to be a Christian presence on campus when the community is dispersed?
So, taking daily morning prayer online has worked surprisingly well. Every morning between two and five people meet at 9.00am through the magic of Skype, and together we pray for the Church, the World and our University Community. We were blessed with our timing of the University Carol Service and we live-streamed a service from the Chapel. The music department pulled out all the stops, with choir, readers, chaplain and organist filmed by the music technicians – it was brilliant! Next year we hope to have a less socially distanced event but live streaming the Carol Service is here to stay.
I began what is now an annual collaboration with Fine Art students. They are commissioned to develop art works in response to the traditional devotion of the Stations of the Cross. In 2019 the Stations were spread round the Bishop Otter Campus and many people walked them over Passiontide. In 2020 the plans were disrupted by Covid and instead of the physical presence, images of the Art Works were posted on a variety of social media. This year we are beginning to plan for a different physical and more sophisticated online presence.
Much of my work has stayed the same. I make my presence known through emails and social media and this leads to conversations with students and staff through Skype and Teams. I am also fortunate to have a Chaplaincy space where I can meet people face to face in a socially distanced Covid secure environment. This distancing is less awkward than it sounds, and face to face contact can be very important when life is distressing and confusing.
Covid has made many things more difficult but my role as the University Chaplain has not changed: I am here to pray for the University Community, to engage with staff and students in response to their needs and to watch for the signs of God’s new creation in this place.
Christians often ask me, ‘How can we support you and the students and staff of the University?’. In response I ask them to pray for us: to pray for the safety and wellbeing of our staff and students, especially for those who have physical or mental health issues and for those who are bereaved.
- Alison is licensed to the University and is the full time University Chaplain. The University has 2 campuses, one in Chichester and one in Bognor Regis. Chichester University is an Anglican Foundation (Bishop Otter College founded by Bishop Otter in 1839) and is a member of the Cathedral Group Universities.The university has a multi-faith prayer room on each campus as well as a large Chapel in the centre of the campus which is also used for regular services, music teaching and concerts. The Chapel building has a separate side chapel and a chaplaincy room.
- The MA programme in Christian Ministry and in School Chaplaincy at Chichester University is a partnership with the Diocese of Chichester. You can find out about the MA courses here