With You

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For the last few years the chaplaincy team has been exploring ways to support students where they live, in addition to maintaining presence on campus. We were invited by the SU to be a part of what is on offer at the Dartmouth Ave site in Oldfield Park (which offers space for study, for societies and for relaxation and includes a dance studio, pool tables and a boxing ring). We have hosted events at Dartmouth Ave and been guests at others. We’ve supported litter picks, welcome fairs and door-knocking campaigns with the Student Community Partnership.

During lockdowns the chaplains have been available for walks with students, near their homes and have delivered cakes and encouragement during revision periods.  We’ve loved the opportunity to run into students in local shops and parks and have wondered if there was more that we could do in the very student-y neighbourhoods of Oldfield Park.

We’ve decided that we would like to invest more time in this project, hoping that by working with local residents and other agencies we can make a difference to the way that students feel a part of where they live.  We’ve come up with a name ‘With You’ and a logo and hope that this will increasingly be the face of chaplaincy off-campus and that it will be a way that we can increase participation in a programme of chaplaincy activities.

Though ‘With You’ has, in a sense, been a response to the opportunities that are presenting themselves, it is rooted in the Christian belief that God desires to be with humankind, to the extent that he came in a human body to live among us. Nurtured by the belief that God loves us and is with us, we want to be with others, not cloistered away in separate buildings or societies, but out in God’s glorious world with the amazing people that God has created.

Our church has just finished reading the book of 1 Corinthians (Paul’s letter to a young church in Corinth) and it has been a challenging and encouraging journey in many ways. It was interesting, after reading the book in such close detail to look up the account of Paul’s actual visit to Corinth (which is mentioned in  Acts 18).  Though, as you might expect, he spends time preaching and arguing in public places, in this small glimpse of how he interacted with people, we see that perhaps he has an even bigger influence with his tent making colleagues, housemates and neighbours. It feels, in this section at least, that Pauls’ message is better received in domestic settings. Maybe he was arguing less there?

Being a chaplain is a dream job but the calling to share God’s presence and love with our colleagues, housemates and neighbours is one that is there for all of us. In this new academic year, what would it look like for us to be living the reality that God is with us, wherever we are?

Karen Turner

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