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The nature of the ministry of school chaplains in Church of England secondary schools

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posted on 2023-08-30, 13:55 authored by John P. Caperon
This thesis argues that since in our increasingly secularised culture one of the very few direct points of contact between the Church of England and the young is the ministry of school chaplains, theirs is a vital ministry for the Church and its future. The study described in the thesis researched school chaplaincy in Church of England secondary schools to establish what chaplains do, how they understand their ministry and how school students themselves respond to chaplaincy. Originating in the researcher’s professional role in support of school chaplains, the research was undertaken on a multi-method basis. Initial scoping interviews were undertaken with school chaplains and headteachers in a range of schools. A full literature review located school chaplaincy within the conceptual contexts of missiology, ministry and chaplaincy. In-depth interviews with school chaplains explored their self-understanding as ministers. A national, internet-based survey of all contactable school chaplains was undertaken to explore issues identified earlier in the study, and a series of focus-group interviews was undertaken with senior school students. The research revealed that chaplains perceive little awareness within the Church of England of the missional significance of their ministry, although individual chaplains emerged as highly-motivated spiritual professionals committed to the pastoral welfare of their communities, and with a strong sense of their mission as ‘God people’. From a wide variety of ecclesial and personal backgrounds and working in very different school contexts, chaplains have multiple, significant functions which are well understood by school students, and exercise a ‘ministry of presence’. The research evidence highlights the need for greater recognition of the ministry of school chaplains and for structures of support and development to resource this vital ministry. The thesis concludes with an outline of policy proposals for the Church in the light of the recent development of a new ‘para-chaplaincy’.



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