The Role of Coordinating or Senior Chaplains in Higher Education Institutions
The purpose of this document is to offer guidance to universities and chaplaincy teams on the role of coordinating, senior or lead chaplains. It is based on the experience of the members of CHELG (the Churches Higher Education Liaison Group) and by definition it cannot be prescriptive because universities and chaplaincies are so diverse.
1. Chaplaincies vary. Arrangements, names and appointment processes differ. In some cases, but not all, one person is designated to a coordinating or lead role; the title and the role vary. For simplicity, the term "coordinating chaplain" is used in the rest of this paper to cover all designated to lead chaplaincies.
2. Historically, the coordinating chaplain has been a member of one of the Christian Churches. This is no longer necessarily the case and the chaplaincy team will almost certainly include people of other faiths and none.
3. The designation as coordinating chaplain may come in various ways and may be contested. Clarity is important and wherever possible the appointment of a coordinating chaplain should be consensual.
4. This document is an attempt to express the sort of roles and attributes a coordinating chaplain might have. It is not an attempt to create uniformity. It is a tool to help people clarify what is best in their specific situation.
5. In most cases chaplaincy teams are not large. The coordinating chaplain is therefore usually also a chaplain. There are good professional reasons for this as the practitioner understands the issues. This paper is concerned with the coordinating part of the role.
6. Most chaplains have dual accountability – to their sending body and to the university in which they serve. It is important that this is recognised by all.
7. It is essential that the coordinating chaplain has the commitment and necessary skills to work with people of all faiths and none, for the good of all, subject to those people working within the law and the university’s code of conduct. The coordinating chaplain’s commitment should be compatible with and informed by their own faith tradition.
8. The coordinating chaplain must be committed to a collaborative, consultative, collegiate and consensual style of leadership appropriate to the context.
9. There are usually 3 elements to the coordinating role: management, faith adviser and chaplain.
10. With colleagues, to promote the university as a context for expression of and learning about faith.
11. To be a two way link between the chaplaincy team and the university, and the chaplaincy team and the chaplaincy managing body, and to be the usual contact person for the university and the managing body. This is not to the exclusion of others but may be a particular role of the coordinating chaplain.
12. To liaise with others to ensure proper agreements are created and followed for the appointment of chaplains, chaplaincy volunteers and all who work within the chaplaincy.
13. To facilitate the development of the chaplaincy in accordance with relevant agreements, mission statements and the changing needs of the university community.
14. To seek professional development for all members of the chaplaincy team.
15. To ensure regular team meetings are held, minuted as necessary and followed through.
16. To ensure safeguarding and health and safety policies are followed.
17. There may be a budgeting and accounting role.
18. Other specific tasks as agreed including ensuring the web page is up to date, representation at graduation ceremonies.
The role of those who appoint to and manage the chaplaincy
19.Stakeholders need to agree an appropriate management arrangement for the coordinating chaplain. This may be a joint arrangement between the university and the faith communities.
20. Confusion, tension and conflict can easily arise if those who appoint chaplains, including the coordinating chaplain, do not keep to agreed processes or appoint without consultation with stakeholders and partners. Therefore procedures should be agreed and followed.
21. All need to understand the extent of the coordinating chaplain's management role for the rest of the chaplaincy team and particularly how this fits with supervision and oversight arrangements in the sending faith bodies.
22. Management needs to decide the time commitment needed for the coordinating role.
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