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Chaplains in Higher Education (merged)

Any topics that are primarily about humanism or other non-religious life stances fit in here.
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Fred
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Chaplains in Higher Education (merged)

#1 Post by Fred » September 13th, 2007, 3:48 pm

Admin note: Two threads on the same topic have been merged. The older one finished with Autumn's post and the newer one started with xman's post.


An interesting thread on BHA forum here. {link removed}

I don't know what a humanist chaplain would actually do, but it does seem like a good way of raising the profile within universities. does anyone here have any experience of such a beast?
Last edited by Maria Mac on January 18th, 2008, 12:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Edited to remove link to private BHA members forum and to announce merge.
Fred

Maria Mac
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#2 Post by Maria Mac » September 13th, 2007, 5:41 pm

Spooky! Alan and I were just on the train from the airport to central Amsterdam when, for some reason I can't remember, we started talking about humanist chaplains. As I was talking, I started to realise I have serious reservations about humanist chaplains, having previously been an ardent supporter of the idea.

Actually, I should qualify that by saying my reservations are about humanist chaplains in hospitals, which is where we seem to be making inroads and I would probably have the same reservations about humanist chaplains in prisons and schools. I hadn't really thought about university chaplains. I know the naval reserves have a humanist chaplain because they asked for one.

What would a humanist chaplain do? I think that depends partly on which particular institution they are chaplaining in but at the very minimum, s/he would provide a listening ear and non-judgemental emotional support, I should think.

I'm going to give the matter further thought and will return to this thread when I've done so - though as we're on holiday for the next few days I won't guarantee that happening until some time next week.

lewist
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#3 Post by lewist » September 13th, 2007, 11:08 pm

My wife spent time in a hospice in early summer. It was a stressful time for the whole family but the staff and the hospice itself were marvellous. She is now home and doing really well after good rehabilitation in the hospice and prolonged chemotherapy.

I found out in one of the leaflets in the hospice that there was a chaplain. However, whereas I think I managed to work out which person the chaplain was, he never once approached me or my wife, let alone any other member of the family. We made it clear on admission that we were Humanists and I wonder if he steered clear of us for that reason.

I guess for a goddist chaplain in a place like that they can use concepts like heaven and going to a better place and all that malarkey but we don’t subscribe to that. Nevertheless there were a few occasions when a friendly listening ear might have been welcome.

I will be very interested to see what Maria has to say by way of reservations because I felt the need of someone to talk to at times and it seemed to be missing. However, Maria if you read this (and I hope you don't till you come home!) don't spend your well earned holiday formulating an elegant post! Drink coffee and so on!

Edited to apologise to Fred - my post is just a bit off topic, as you asked about University Chaplains. Sorry!
Carpe diem. Savour every moment.

Fred
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#4 Post by Fred » September 14th, 2007, 11:03 am

lewist wrote: Edited to apologise to Fred - my post is just a bit off topic, as you asked about University Chaplains. Sorry!
No apology necessary - yours was an interesting and thought provoking post.
Fred

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Alan H
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#5 Post by Alan H » September 14th, 2007, 5:13 pm

What's this? People apologising and being nice to others?

What a nice, friendly place this is. :)

Fred
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#6 Post by Fred » September 14th, 2007, 5:16 pm

Alan H wrote:What's this? People apologising and being nice to others?

What a nice, friendly place this is. :)
It won't last :twisted:
Fred

para handy
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#7 Post by para handy » October 23rd, 2007, 8:31 pm

Ha - found it! Just read elsewhere that Glasgow University is the first uni in the UK to have a humanist chaplain. This is news to me - I would have thought the humanist organisation he represents would have made a lot more of it but it's not mentioned on their website.

I knew there was a thread on this forum somewhere asking what a humanist chaplain might do but it hasn't been answered.

Well? Does anyone know what the chaplain at Glasgow Uni does?

Maria Mac
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#8 Post by Maria Mac » October 23rd, 2007, 10:23 pm

You may well ask, Andy. I think the answer is 'nothing'. Alan tells me she attended a couple of events a long time ago but he's not aware of her doing anything since or ever being called on. Of course, he wouldn't necessarily know but it's notable that the chaplaincy website makes absolutely no mention either of her or of humanism. So much for raising the profile of humanism!

It sounds like just another ill-thought out venture whose objective was to get humanism into places it's never been before but which has acheived nothing more than possibly confirming the idea of humanism as a quasi-religion.

At least the one at Queens gets a mention on their website.

Rogerrp
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Humanist Chaplain at the U of Edinburgh

#9 Post by Rogerrp » November 5th, 2007, 9:48 pm

Dear all,

Just on the topic, I am writing to let you know that the Humanist Society at the University of Edinburgh (based at the Chaplaincy of such uni) is actively pursuing the introduction of a Humanist Honorary Chaplain to the list of Chaplains that the UoE hosts.

Why does the student group make an effort to act with and inside the Chaplaincy?

Because Humanists are seen by the religious, we are engaged by them and, not a surprise to anybody in this forum, the believers always end up looking the worse.
Among other proactive activities, we have posters claiming that "It's ok to not believe" around the Chaplaincy. Simple quote that every religious person seems to agree immediately with, but after a few seconds, they realize the problem of their admission.
Second, the Chaplaincy library has shelves full of religious books. Soon, the library will have a shelf dedicated to Humanism. And yes, we will try to get "The God Delusion" there (among other more constructive books: Baggini, Norman,...)
Third, we meet face to face with the religious and they can hear what our discussions are about.
All this has been done only by students. The Honorary Chaplain would mean having an "adult" voice at the Chaplaincy meeting.
...

Personally, I would love to see Humanist Chaplains, Eupraxsophers, Celebrants, ... (pick your favourite terminology) everywhere where the religious claim to have an irreplaceable positive role.

I feel proud to study in Scotland, where University students searching for whatever a young person looks for in a Chaplaincy environment, have the exposure to non-belief and to the rich and uplifting message of Humanism (without the supernatural nonsense).

;D

Cheers,

Roger

P.S.: You all have probably heard this one, but: if Humanism is a religion, then nor collecting stamps is a hobby and baldness is a hair colour.
Student Humanist Society at the University of Edinburgh: http://humanist.eusa.ed.ac.uk

kbell
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#10 Post by kbell » November 7th, 2007, 10:54 am

Thank you for your interesting post, Roger. I have a few questions.
Because Humanists are seen by the religious, we are engaged by them and, not a surprise to anybody in this forum, the believers always end up looking the worse.
End up looking worse to whom? If you mean the religious end up looking worse to the non-religious then, no, that isn't a suprise. But it also raises the question of what exactly is the point?
Among other proactive activities, we have posters claiming that "It's ok to not believe" around the Chaplaincy. Simple quote that every religious person seems to agree immediately with, but after a few seconds, they realize the problem of their admission.
What is the problem of their admission? Again, is it actually a problem for them in their eyes or is it just something that would seem a problem to believe who don't have religious faith in the first place? Is so, what is the point.
Second, the Chaplaincy library has shelves full of religious books. Soon, the library will have a shelf dedicated to Humanism. And yes, we will try to get "The God Delusion" there (among other more constructive books: Baggini, Norman,...)
Excellent. This seems a good reason for "acting with or inside the Chaplaincy". I don't see it as a reason to actually have a humanist Chaplain.
Third, we meet face to face with the religious and they can hear what our discussions are about.
All this has been done only by students. The Honorary Chaplain would mean having an "adult" voice at the Chaplaincy meeting.
What do you mean by adult voice. Aren't you all adults? Sorry, this sounds suspiciously close to the kind of reverence for spiritual leaders I associate with religions.
Personally, I would love to see Humanist Chaplains, Eupraxsophers, Celebrants, ... (pick your favourite terminology) everywhere where the religious claim to have an irreplaceable positive role.
I see what celebrants and eupraxsophers do. I think the precise role of Humanist Chaplains needs to be fully explained before I am convinced.

I feel proud to study in Scotland, where University students searching for whatever a young person looks for in a Chaplaincy environment, have the exposure to non-belief and to the rich and uplifting message of Humanism (without the supernatural nonsense).
Again, a useful purpose for a humanist society rather than an individual 'spiritual leader' type person which is what a chaplain traditionally is. If humanists have a different idea of what a chaplain should be and do then it needs to be spelt out.

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xman
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Chaplains in Higher Education

#11 Post by xman » January 18th, 2008, 7:43 am

What exactly would a Humanist chaplain be like? Is this just a secular person with experience, credentials, training and an appropriate background to provide services such as weddings, namings and funerals? Should such a person be called a chaplain in order to be accorded equal standing in the community with religious chaplains or should they bear a different name to differentiate themselves from the faithful world? My Apple dictionary defines a chaplain as "a member of the clergy attached to a private chapel, institution, ship, branch of the armed forces, etc. and clergy as "the body of all people ordained for religious duties, esp. in the Christian Church". This would seem in contradiction to Humanist ceremonies.

X
Always remember, it's your right to have a SUPER day.
If you're wrong, call me ... I'll have one for you!

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Lifelinking
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Re: Chaplains in Higher Education

#12 Post by Lifelinking » January 18th, 2008, 8:41 am

Interesting questions X. It prompted me to have a read at the article on the subject in Alan's media scan. There was a discussion here about University Chaplains previously.

L
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Maria Mac
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Re: Chaplains in Higher Education

#13 Post by Maria Mac » January 18th, 2008, 10:25 am

Yes, Autumn asked a number of pertinent questions that have yet to be answered.
xman wrote:What exactly would a Humanist chaplain be like? Is this just a secular person with experience, credentials, training and an appropriate background to provide services such as weddings, namings and funerals? Should such a person be called a chaplain in order to be accorded equal standing in the community with religious chaplains or should they bear a different name to differentiate themselves from the faithful world? My Apple dictionary defines a chaplain as "a member of the clergy attached to a private chapel, institution, ship, branch of the armed forces, etc. and clergy as "the body of all people ordained for religious duties, esp. in the Christian Church". This would seem in contradiction to Humanist ceremonies.

X
Humanist celebrants conduct ceremonies but I don't think such a service would be seen as part of a chaplain's work. What that work would be, I've no idea.

Humanist chaplaincy in the UK is in its infancy and, as far as chaplaincy in Higher Education is concerned, nothing I've heard so far has convinced me that it shouldn't be strangled at birth.

Ideally, I think humanist chaplains in unis should combine the qualities of being 'intellectual'and be well read in philosophy in general and in humanism in particular and have clear ideas about its practical application but should also understand how to be emotionally supportive. And they do need to be able to function effectively at high level meetings. Finding all those qualities in one person who actually has the time, inclination and availability to do the job would always be a problem, I reckon.

I think I'll merge the two threads since they're on the same subject.

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Re: Chaplains in Higher Education (merged)

#14 Post by xman » January 18th, 2008, 7:55 pm

So if I accept that chaplaincy is not exclusive to religion and that it shouldn't harm the cause of humanism to have one, the question remains whether it is a positive direction for humanism. (S)he would provide all the traditional support and services that religious chaplains do, but don't we want to cut our own paths? I'm beginning to see the benefits, but I guess I'm just exercising my scepticism. I'd sure love to see The God Delusion on a chaplain's bookshelf, but these is just asking for trouble, I mean, can you imagine a more anti-religious book,The humanist chaplain would be seen as a traitor in their midst and attacked at every turn.

X
Always remember, it's your right to have a SUPER day.
If you're wrong, call me ... I'll have one for you!

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squiffy
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Re: Chaplains in Higher Education (merged)

#15 Post by squiffy » January 21st, 2008, 11:16 am

I'm probably veering off the trend here, but I think that a humanist chaplain can only be a good thing - in any setting. In my experience chaplaincy or counselling work is rarely undertaken by a non-theist person. Xtians can't help themselves and usually round off positive words and helpful dialogue with a cheery, "god bless!" or something equally inappropriate, regardless of the situation.

It would be a pleasant change to leave a "session" without feeling that one had been completely disregarded - not the word I want, but the best I can muster - and wanting to kick the inconsiderate so and so.

I reiterate that this is only my experience and I do appreciate that everyone else has always been able to speak with an entirely non-judgemental person who held no religious beliefs whatsoever, or has never had a problem at all.

tubataxidriver
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Re: Chaplains in Higher Education (merged)

#16 Post by tubataxidriver » January 21st, 2008, 3:55 pm

There was some discussion on this topic (without the word "humanism", though) on the UK Brights forum some time ago. It was being looked at for universities under the working title "sanctuary" as somewhere or someone for people to go to, to talk about non-theist ideas, specifically for people perhaps having been brought up in a particular faith but thinking for themselves for the first time (as one does when one goes to university). They may be confused, and just want to chat over a coffee, or more information and a supporting group of people. There appeared to be some demand for this service, which is not offered (without strings attached) by the existing chaplaincies. As with most good ideas generated online, it soon lost momentum once the Brights let it be known they were a "think tank" rather than a "do tank", and the main supporters drifted off.

Ian Abbott
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‘Chaplaincy & the non-religious’

#17 Post by Ian Abbott » February 24th, 2008, 11:13 am

In March Lancashire Secular Humanists will be considering ‘Chaplaincy & the non-religious’.
Hospitals, Hospices, Prisons, Universities and The Armed Forces all have a Chaplain or Chaplains attached to them.
They're drawn from a wide range of faiths including Buddhist, CofE, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Sikh.

Chaplaincy services are provided acknowledging that even a short stay in hospital can be a stressful and worrying time; more so for those who are in Hospices … So too within Prisons; the Armed Forces and Universities where people are estranged from their normal support infrastructure.

Given that these institutions draw people from all walks of life and that, statistically, between 40% - 48% the general population have no religious beliefs (and that figure increases dramatically when considering younger people); there seems to be a distinct absence of pastoral care for a significant proportion of those people who find themselves in Hospitals - Hospices - Prisons (etc).

We do not seek to denigrate in any way the valuable work done by the Chaplains within these institutions but we do want to examine the question –
‘If those smaller sections of the community such as Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic, & Sikh (etc) are deserving of specific Chaplaincy services then the considerably larger percentage who are non-religious should also be catered for in a way that is specific to their particular life-choices.’

We are seeking to persuade Chaplains from Hospitals, the Prison Service, Universities & the Armed Forces to come along and participate in the debate; answer questions from the floor and discuss our concerns about this apparent disregard for the welfare of a large number of those people they will come into contact with.

We hope that people come along to this meeting and make their voices heard; especially if they have experiences of religion-based chaplaincy in hospital (say) that they can share.

As with all LSH meetings this is an open meeting which take place on Wednesday 19th March (7:30 for 8pm start) at Great Eccleston Village Centre, 59 High Street, The Square, Great Eccleston PR3 0YB. LSH members £2 - Non-members £3 [Refreshments tea/Coffee & 'really good' biscuits included].
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.

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Alan C.
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Re: ‘Chaplaincy & the non-religious’

#18 Post by Alan C. » February 24th, 2008, 12:08 pm

Well Ian, I sincerely hope you get a better response with this one.
really good' biscuits included
Intriguing :question: That'll get folks attention.
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

Ian Abbott
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Re: ‘Chaplaincy & the non-religious’

#19 Post by Ian Abbott » February 24th, 2008, 7:12 pm

The little things can be the big things :thumbsup:
The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.

Rogerrp
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Re: ‘Chaplaincy & the non-religious’

#20 Post by Rogerrp » February 25th, 2008, 12:34 pm

Some of us are fighting a similar battle in Scotland. Your event seems very interesting and I would like to ask whether there will be some sort of summary or report of the main points for those of us too far to attend. Will an article about the event/debate be published anywhere? or will the whole thing be recorded and put online (youtube)?
We will certainly learn from your discussion.
Thanks,
Roger
Student Humanist Society at the University of Edinburgh: http://humanist.eusa.ed.ac.uk

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