You may (or may not!) be aware that part of your giving as a church in support of either Home Mission Fund (Baptist), Ministry and Mission Fund (United Reformed Church) or the Southampton Methodist
District supports the ministry of a Chaplain at the University of Southampton. Since December 2010 I have occupied that position on behalf of the Free Churches. Rev James NeveRev James NeveIt is a very different role to that of local church ministry. There is little understanding amongst the 27,000 or so people that form the University what a chaplain is or what he or she might do and there was no real job description waiting on my desk when I started on Day 1! It is very much a role that I can define myself, but do so in conjunction with my colleagues, Sister Catherine Cruz (Roman Catholic), Revd Christine Day (Anglican) and Colleen Cockroft (our administrator).

So who is the university chaplain and what does a university chaplain do?

Three overarching roles come to mind - those of Pastor, Prophet and (dare I say it in good free church circles!?) Priest.

We are enormously supported by the University of Southampton, in that they provide a house (41 University Road) that is a base from which we can offer chaplaincy and the basic pastoral care that is very much part of the role. We seek to provide a "home from home" for students and staff alike.
Downstairs is given over to communal space and upstairs there are offices and quieter spaces. It is in this house that we express a ministry of hospitality to all. Many of our students have left home for the first time, and more than that, some 4,500 have travelled from one of 130 different countries to pursue their studies. Offering a place and being people of welcome, hospitality and care is a key part of chaplaincy. We also seek to be pastors in the satellite campuses at Avenue road, the National Oceanography Centre and Winchester School of Art. The prophetic role can also be understood as being a critical friend of the university. As chaplains we are in a unique place as part of and yet also independent of the university. We are also hugely in favour of what the university offers to its students, both educationally and in the formation of young women and men as they grow into adults. That said, we have the opportunity to contribute to discussions about some aspects of university policy and how the university develops. So for example, as chaplains, we have contributed to deliberations on how faith and belief are catered for, critiqued policies relating to what happens when a member of the university community dies
and on a national scale commented on the recent government white paper that will define university life when it is enacted.

As "priests", we oversee a number of opportunities for worship on campus. Every weekday morning begins with prayer at 8.30am. On Wednesday lunchtimes we offer a communion service which is conducted in a number of different styles; on Thursday afternoons there is an opportunity for Christian meditation and on Sunday evenings a Catholic Mass is held.

All of the above forms the staple diet of chaplaincy. Add to this Freshers Weeks, Retreats, supporting some of the faith-based Student Societies, attending training events and conferences and much more and you can see that the role of University Chaplain is full, rich and rewarding.

Please do pray for us as chaplains as we seek to carry out this ministry and bring the kingdom of God near to this diverse exciting university community.

Revd James Neve — Free Church Chaplain,
University of Southampton