18 November 2008

Chaplaincy: Wellington & Back Again

OK, I think I can finally unpack my suitcase.

After arriving back in NZ on Saturday early morning, I slept, walked on the beach with friends, did some geocaching, repacked, saw everyone at church, and then flew to Wellington for a retreat and part of the chaplaincy conference. It was good to see everyone yesterday and to catch up. One of the comments last night was that it was good to be in a crowd of people where everyone actually knew what it is we do!

Chaplaincy can be a lonely role as it is rarely understood by people in church-based ministry and definitely not understood by your average individual on a university campus. Unfortunately, it is often only at a time of crisis that chaplains play a role that is appreciated. We've had a few of those this past year and, while we were happy to help people navigate through those rough times, we'd rather not be needed in those particular ways.

It's normal that when people are cruising comfortably through their days and agendas, they don't call on outside assistance. It's when the way ahead becomes unclear or complicated that they consider seeking advice. It's when people want to make sense of life that they consider conversations with someone they think might have some insight.

That is just one of the reasons I like to have people of all ages in my circle of friends. I learn so much from young people, from kids, and especially from older people. What good is it to only be around people who know as much, or as little, as you? Likewise, what good is it to only be around people who agree with you, or who think as you do on most important issues?

Conversations with well informed people, or people who can think things through, can be quite entertaining and enlightening. You may go away with the same opinion you had at the beginning, but there may well be more integrity in why and how you hold that opinion.

Such conversations need not be debates or arguments. I've had many students seek me out to debate a particular religion or faith in general. I tend to sidestep those debates as I don't find that argument is the best way to pursue a spiritual path. There's more involved than information and logic, though those are important components to any worldview.

A conversation, between people who respect each other, can be deep and wide and have tangents and dead ends and can result in greater respect between individuals.

I've just left a meeting of chaplains from nearly every Christian tradition. We'd not all agree on several things. We choose to focus on the welfare of those God has placed in our care, on doing our best within the spheres of influence in which we find ourselves. Can't do much better than that.


Debbie said...

At this particular junction in my life, I'm missing that wide range of people who love to discuss and talk about life and God. My world has temporarily shrunk. I'm looking forward to the day when my horizons are a little broader and I can once again have those meaningful conversations with a wide range of people.

Jill said...

Thanks for joining the conversation here. Can I ask what part of the world you are in? In NZ there is a network of church leavers who understand the season you seem to be in. Check out Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed blog. He has a good post about defining spirituality. The link is in my sidebar.

Debbie said...

It's your friend of 34 years, from Anderson, Indiana, now living in Lapel, Debbie! Love keeping in touch with you this way! Will go to the blog you recommended now.