Blessed is the chaplain who keeps us off work

17th January 1997 at 00:00
We are indebted to the Church of Scotland's Chaplains' Bulletin for a primary pupil's eye view of that unsung toiler in the educational vineyard, the school chaplain.

"He is a very, very, very nice man. In school he keeps us off our work and goes to our assembly. He is left-handed and I do neater work than him."

This comment just goes to show that chaplains are not always best known for their spiritual powers, as another pupil confirmed. "Running is his hobby. Last week he went to New York to run in a marathon and ran all 26.2 miles."

Chaplains are, of course, renowned for imparting their messages in a child-centred fashion, not always to best effect. "Our chaplain sings dead funny. He runs about the floor pretending he's different people in the Bible story." But then a distant memory is kindled as the pupil adds in an afterthought: "He teaches us about Christ."

Sometimes pupils and chaplains can even be on the same wavelength. "For our assembly we were going to do the Prodigal Son but he stole our idea so we had to change it to Diwali and Hanukkah."

The message gets through to some children none the less, even if their retelling of it sounds less than Biblical. "About two weeks ago he got us to sit in a circle. The story was about a boy who said to his dad, 'Give me my share of your money.' And he said, 'Here take it.' "Then about eight weeks later he came back and said, 'Please forgive me. I will work for you.' And the father said, 'No you won't. You come in and have a bath'."

At least the main point was not lost: "It was about welcoming people and everyone belonging."

Chaplains have a life beyond school and this seems to be appreciated by some pupils. "He does one of the jobs I would not like and that is taking funerals, because it is one of the creepiest jobs I know."

Another apparently "goes round in a van giving soup and sandwiches. He makes margarine and jam." One poor soul gets the sympathy vote: "I don't think people appreciate him that much."

But there was fulsome appreciation for one chaplain who is described as "kind, caring, friendly, nice, fit and [the ultimate accolade] cool".

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