Sarum College


Chaplaincy Ministry and the Mission of the Church

Victoria Slater, SCM Press 2015, 160 pages, pbk, no price marked, ISBN 978 0 334 05315 6


There are three distinctive and attractive characteristics of this book. The first is the authors’ skilful ability to open up her research in an accessible and stimulating way. The second is the quality of theological reflection based, thirdly, in the reflective practice of her experience as a healthcare chaplain.


Six chapters work together towards a conclusion in responding two questions: ‘What is chaplaincy?’ and ‘What is the significance of chaplaincy within the ministry and mission of the church?’ These questions are discussed within the context of the extensive social reach of chaplaincy and in its ability to connect with a range of people beyond the traditional reach of the church. We are reminded of the growth and development of chaplaincy in recent years but also of the need for ongoing theological reflection on practice. Slater shows how critical theological reflection is for the illuminating of our wisdom about mission, the nature of God’s involvement in the world and how discipleship and vocation might be nurtured. This narrative takes seriously the significant and seemingly irreversible decline in numbers across church congregations but also challenges some of the marginalisation of chaplaincy present within church structures and discourse.

Chapter 1 offers some historical perspective in the context of our pluralistic and ever-changing culture. Chapter 2 models a practical theological approach with a careful use of experience through three case studies. It deals with role, relationship, self understanding and practice within a theological framework. Chapter 3 looks at the relationship between chaplaincy and mission opening up some of the tensions that are present in the ways in which we value some ministry above others. Chapter 4 deals with the identity of chaplaincy, necessary Slater makes clear for an understanding of good practice. Throughout there is an articulation of the distinctiveness of chaplaincy. With this in mind chapter 5 offers some challenges to the institutional church and the range of ecclesiologies always present when we explore the nature of mission. Chapter 6 keeps an eye on the future as it offers some guidance and frameworks within which to develop practice. It aspires to wanting to support further chaplaincy research and indeed encourage innovation through the setting up of new chaplaincy roles. Dialogue, presence, openness, reflection, faithfulness and transformation are key words fleshed out in and through the shape of the six chapters.

This reviewer shares the authors conviction that part of the future of church will lie in its moving beyond traditional models and boundaries into an engagement that meets and connects with people where they are and through what they are experiencing. This book, therefore, deserves to be used by all those who might want to explore ways in which we might be faithful to the gospel and share its grace. Our structures need this voice to inform this urgent task of reflection on the future shape of being church.

JWW Sarum College



I have  had somewhat of a break from WordPress and decided on this first day of Lent to reconnect with this medium by way of re-engaging and reflecting on what had been very demanding but stimulating past few months.

During the early part of 2015 I engaged in a discernment process which led to my appointment as Principal of Sarum College in Salisbury. You will see above an aerial view of the College. Saying farewell to Windsor was difficult and especially to a community and place that I had got to know so well. I carry with me many of the rich experiences of that place but especially the shaping and deepening of my spiritual life through the work of prayer, worship and service that characterise St George’s Chapel and much of the work in the College of St George. Although, as the months pass by, different  perspectives emerge from those years there it is fascinating  interesting to note how vivid, immediate and sometimes complex human memory can be. Put simply – some days it feels as if I’ve been here in Salisbury for ever and other days for a very short period of time. In this particular learning community there is a great deal to learn about transitions and change.

I’m grateful to my new colleagues in Sarum College for extending such a warm welcome. This is a good team of committed people giving of their best in so many different ways. The work of the College is very diverse and this places particular demands upon leadership. For a flavour of some of what we do have a look at our website.

I hope to be able to offer more reflections on particular aspects of our work but for the purposes of breaking myself back into the task of blogging I want here simply to offer a picture of the diversity of the community that I describe as enriching and enlarging. The core group of visitors this week are over 30 people gathered for a week’s intensive Bible study on the book of Ruth led by my colleague Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh. Her skill in reading the Hebrew Scripture and enthusiasm for digging deeply into its shape and meaning for us has led to some fascinating conversations in the refectory. Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting two new bishops from the Anglican Communion who are spending a week in the Diocese of Salisbury who are partners with the church in South Sudan and Sudan. They represent the global reality of Anglicanism and offer us all an opportunity to listen carefully to a very different context and experience of Christian discipleship.

Last night as I left the building a number of excited participants were coming for a session on our Theology Quest and Questions led by David Catchpole. This long-standing course offers participants an opportunity to reflect in some depth on the shape of Christianity and  the subject matter to hand yesterday was the pondering of the parables.

So the week goes on with a lecture on the parish churches of Wessex, a book launch from a travel writer Harry Bucknell who will talk about his journey from Venice to Istanbul. The college on Friday will play its part in the launch of a major exhibition of sculpture by Sophie Ryder – well worth a visit to see these monumental pieces scattered in and across Salisbury Cathedral Close.

There are also all the hidden elements that make up the days here in the college. Visitors to the library, bookshop or those simply wanting some time out to think and to be refreshed. Clergy coming for support and supervision. Groups from the wider community who simply want to be here to connect with one another and relax.

I hope that gives a little flavour of what might begin to form a small part of this blog in the coming months. Please bear with me as I update one or two things and I look forward to renewing my connection with you. Here is a word cloud picture from one of my lectures with the Sarum Ministry Programme last weekend! I wonder if you can guess what the title of the lecture might have been?