Justifying my existence

15th April 2016 at 00:00

Everyone’s a bit nervous in college again this week. After the college merger, there’s been a restructuring. What this means, in effect, is that some people have moved on, while others have found themselves working from new desks in parts of the college that they never knew existed. A week doesn’t seem to go past at the moment without a card to sign, a leaving gift to chip in for or an opportunity for a quick drink at the local pub after work on Friday (although, to be honest, someone leaving is not a necessary excuse for the latter).

It also means that some departments have got a new boss from the college that we’ve merged with. The chaplaincy department is one of them. And to clarify: when I say the “chaplaincy department”, what I actually mean is me. I am the entire chaplaincy department. The college in the next town that we’ve gone in with doesn’t have a chaplain.

Chaplains are part and parcel of life in Oxbridge colleges and universities but chaplaincy in FE is a rather recent idea and one that’s not always widely implemented. But the number of chaplains is growing. My new departmental overseer from our sister college came over this week to see what I get up to. What were they missing out on by not having a chaplain, I was asked. Was there an argument for a replica Rev Kate at the other campuses? What a horrific thought: not merely one Kate Bottley, but two!

My lovely new “boss” arrived and we talked through some policy stuff for the multi-faith prayer rooms and then got down to the crux of the meeting. Why am I here? An existential question if ever there was one.

To be fair, this was probably not one we could answer over a tepid cheese panini and a cup of Kenco in my office. I showed her my scrap book with pictures and write-ups for the things I get up to, only to realise that some bits of it I hadn’t updated for a while. Thankfully, I managed to fudge my way through it.

She smiled and was enthusiastic but I’m not sure she quite got what I was talking about, and I can’t blame her. After all, they’ve never had a chaplain before and they’ve managed perfectly well, so why would they want one now? She nodded, smiled, said, “Very interesting, thank you,” and left. I’m not sure if my department will be expanding. Will I finally have someone else to invite to staff meetings instead of sitting there all by myself?

What I do know is that there’s nothing quite like someone asking you what it is you actually “do” to make you question your existence.

Rev Kate Bottley is chaplain of North Nottinghamshire College @revkatebottley

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