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Day 2

Insight into Third Level Chaplaincy Given at General Synod

The Revd Barry Forde and the Revd Rob Jones shared a snapshot of Third Level Chaplaincy in Belfast and Dublin in an informal session at General Synod this afternoon. They outlined what is happening in third level chaplaincies and the challenges and opportunities that lie in the two cities.

The Revd Rob Jones, Rector of Rathmines spoke of a new chaplaincy team called Act 3 in Dublin. The Revd Barry Forde spoke of the journey of the chaplaincy in Queens University in Belfast.

Barry Forde said that for over 60 years, Church of Ireland Chaplaincy at Queens University Belfast has had its base on Elmwood Avenue where up to 50 students live together and do life together in the student centre in a pivotal stage of their lives.

Looking back to the 1950s he said the RB agreed to start the chaplaincy which initially only catered for men. That model of ministry was making a break from the dominant parish ministry and it was secular because no religious ministry could be funded by the university. Over the years the ministry has grown and developed, he said.

Belfast is a city that is happening, alive, progressive, a student city which is on the move and a far cry from its troubled past, he said. He added that Belfast is not a large city but it has four third level campuses within a two mile footprint and more than 5,000 new student beds have been approved for Belfast city centre. For the first time in many years urban dwellers were going to be living in Belfast city centre that has been shut down for decades, he said. “This is a whole new world of diversity for Belfast… It’s a complete new demographic for the city,” he said.

Barry said the development was going to be surrounded by the historically troubled areas of Belfast who may consider themselves not to be part of this change. He urged the church to take this part of the social change very seriously. For university chaplaincy it’s an enormous challenge and an enormous opportunity to meet with young adults, he added.

From 2010 the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Chaplaincies have been working as a single chaplaincy which has been renamed The Hub, he said. The Hub is connecting students from all over the world and sending them back out into the world and the huge range of work undertaken by the chaplaincy has been undertaken collaboratively, he added.

Barry said that a couple of years ago he and Rob Jones started talking about a network of chaplaincy which was developing in Dublin and they started thinking about The Hub Belfast rather than The Hub Queens and the establishment of a team ministry. He said they put together a plan to resource and plant a new team in the city centre built around worship, community and outreach to serve the Lord in new ways. “This is but one step on a journey that has always been about stepping out and taking risks,” he said. “Who knows what happens when we keep taking faithful steps in the right direction?”

The Revd Rob Jones said they had been on a journey in Dublin also. The outcome of meeting the need in Dublin has resulted in the establishment of Act 3.

He said he was currently Rector of Rathmines and Harold Cross. Seven years ago a new community was planted in the parish of which he was Vicar at the time and leader of the new community. As part of the new fresh expression of church there were many young people coming along. He recalled that at the time there was much hurt, loss and pain among young people who were termed the ‘lost generation’. Young people were finding it really difficult to find a community, a place to be known, in university, he said. They prayed and talked about what it would look like to join the chaplaincies together as a team to reach out to students and form a chaplaincy where community could be built for students to find stability in the midst of transience.

Rob said he was very conscious that they were building on what had gone before, particularly in Trinity College Dublin. But he said they wanted to create a new team across the city, present on the campuses but linked to a church in the city. “We want to push forward in innovation in a changing and challenging culture in Dublin where there is huge potential for ministry. The journey has been both challenging and beautiful,” he explained. In 2015 he was asked to become the ordained chaplain in the Dublin Institute of Technology. At this stage the other three university chaplaincies were vacant but through the hard work and much support and the favour of God all these posts have been filled in Dublin, he said.

Act 3 is a new team in the diocese which all the new chaplains are part of. The name Act 3 stands for Anglican Chaplaincy Team at Third Level but ties into Acts 3.

Scott Evans, Chaplain in University College Dublin, said chaplaincy had been on decline in the minds of many third level institutions so they had been asking how they could develop and innovate ways of connecting people.

He talked of three projects in UCD including Paradoxology, a prayer tent at Electric Picnic now in its sixth year. Last year Paradoxology also ran as part of UCD’s Mind Body Soul festival. They have also developed a podcast called the Graveyard Shift and a lectionary blog called RevoLectionary which reflects young voices’ on the weekly lectionary readings.

Scott said they had also looked at the question of influence and have become part of the chaplaincy group on third level and explored the role of chaplaincy. And 80 chaplains from across Europe will come to Dublin for a conference looking at what it means to do chaplaincy that is central to the live of the third level institutions.

“I love young adults – they have so much life and so many questions and as we look at what our church will look like in the future one of the questions seems to me to be what space can we create for young people?” he asked.

Rob concluded by thanking all who had helped bring the chaplaincy on their journey. Barry thanked everyone for the opportunity to be part of synod and to present their story. “One of the hardest things about chaplaincy and one of the greatest gifts is that almost everyone who comes to us leaves. We are exceptionally grateful for that privilege,” he stated.