Authenticity is key

18 March 2021

The Revd Julie Coates journeys with Rosehill Methodist Community Primary School to discover authentic partnership goes beyond her roles of chaplain and governor.

When I arrived at Rosehill in 2010 the role of school chaplain was already well established and supported by the Ashton-under-Lyne Circuit. Volunteers from circuit churches come into school to help readers, run clubs or lead collective worship. Others exchange pen-pal letters with pupils. Another member of the circuit and I serve as Foundation Governors.

Pupils come out of school to visit Hurst Methodist Church for Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and Harvest ‘experiences’, and the school choir takes part in café church at Mossley Methodist Church. While the Executive Head Teacher is a regular speaker at Stalybridge Methodist Church fellowship groups, the school itself is used by the circuit for community Fun Days.

So is this authentic partnership?

john-wesley-warmed-heart2Yes, because authenticity is a key element of chaplaincy – what you say and do, and how you journey alongside others as they explore the big questions of life has to be genuine.

Yes, because it is two-way – both the school and circuit benefit from this relationship. Under the Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools pupils are required to have an appreciation of the ministry of John Wesley and what it means to be a Methodist today. Church members help teachers explore these topics.

In return, the work I’m privileged to join at Rosehill feeds my ministry in local churches and community. Here’s what I mean…

Godly Play is included in the RE curriculum. I share a story with a couple of staff who then pass it on to a group of pupils. Part of the sharing is to ‘wonder’ together about the story. The open-ended questions used for this begin with the words “I wonder…”. For instance, “I wonder what you like best about this story?” and “I wonder which is the most important part?”

Sadly, the father of one of these members of staff died recently. She asked me to take the funeral and suggested I include an “I wonder” question, just before the prayers. It’s hard to describe how moved I felt by this. I usually encourage a moment of quiet for people to think about their own memories of the deceased, but this time I prefaced it with the words “I wonder what your favourite memory of your loved one is?” Many people came up to her afterwards and told her what they had been thinking about.

I’d shared something precious with this staff member – and she showed me a whole new meaning to it. That’s authentic partnership.

This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 6.
Banner image and photos: © Rosehill Community Methodist Primary School, TMCP