Chaplain + Teacher - striving to be a Christ-model

It's now 18 months since I started my new dual role at SFX College after having been a teacher there on and off since 1992. Being a Chaplain whilst still teaching part-time and being a form tutor presents its own challenges, I have discovered. In particular the tension between still wanting to maintain authority in lessons and at registration, and being someone whom the pupils (and staff!) find accessible, non-judgemental, welcoming and friendly. Whilst feeling reasonably happy that my relationships with the pupils, especially those that come to Chaplaincy are good, I sometimes wish that I could turn a blind eye to some of the misdemeanours I see going on around school and not report pupils who break the rules. To do so, however, would be to ignore my duty as a teacher in helping maintain an atmosphere in school that is conducisve to learning and personal growth and would also be to break the bonds of solidarity that unite me with my teaching colleagues. I have to be both good cop and bad cop, which I suppose is true of all teachers. It's just that as a Chaplain you feel it is your duty to try and gain the pupils' trust to an extent that full-time teachers are not required to do.

This challenge is one that I imagine Jesus himself must have faced in his ministry. He was considered to be someone who had a natural authority that commanded respect. He was also not afraid to tell people off where necessary. But at the same time the poor, the vulnerable, the rejected, the humble, the children all flocked to him and he welcomed them all with open arms. How did he manage this? Well, I think the key is in the idea that even when has was telling people off (eg. the tradesmen and money-lenders in the Temple) or preaching a message that deeply challenged his listeners, he did so out of love for those very same people. This love so penetrated his whole being that people could see he only wanted what was best for them. He wanted to set them free from all that enslaved them, to help them become better people, help them to be happy and help them enter into a relationship of love with his Father.

Although all Christians are called to be Christ to others, a Chaplain has a particular duty in this respect. The example that is Jesus’ own life is one that in my weakness and frailty I am called to follow. I am called to walk with Jesus as a pilgrim on my way home to the Father, and I am also called to be Christ to my fellow pilgrims, bringing them closer to the one who loves them with an infinite love.

Lead me on, Lord, lead me on,
Give me the strength I need,
To reach out to you in those I meet,
And forever be a pilgrim heart.
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