University Chaplaincy: Welcome Week

18 March 2021

As Chaplaincy Coordinator at City, University of London, Methodist minister the Revd Ian Worsfold serves students of all faiths and none along with his multifaith team that includes Muslim, Anglican, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox chaplains.

img_2840Each autumn up and down the country, young adults embark on a new phase of their life. Some approach university with utter excitement, others with nervousness. There to welcome all students at most, if not all, of our universities are the Chaplaincy Teams. In October 2017 here at City, University of London the multifaith Chaplaincy Team was ready to welcome the new cohort with some gentle and cultural activities.

First up was a session of mug painting: because as a student you can never have too many mugs, so painting your own at the start of your university career will be unique! Thirty-eight students came and engaged with both the chaplains and each other. Many of them were meeting for the first time, and nervously establishing those all-important early bonds.

Visit to places of worship

After two days of Freshers’ Fair – where we chaplains had a chance to meet anywhere up to 5,000 students and hand out copious amounts of chocolates, as well as halal and kosher jelly sweets – we ended the week by taking a small group of students to visit some of London’s iconic places of worship.

Beginning in the splendour of St Paul’s Cathedral, the group came to understand something of the place of cathedrals in the nation’s life, while also braving the 259 steps to the Whispering Gallery. A short hop took us to The East London Mosque, where we heard the story of the mosque’s development from the early days of the 20th century, involving the likes of the Aga Khan (the Ismailis’ spiritual leader). Our host taught us about the four pillars of Islam and gave us a tour of the facilities, including the spacious prayer hall. We finished our tour in the Central London Synagogue, where the effervescent Rabbi Gavin Broder (Jewish Chaplain for the London Region and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland) hosted us, fed us and taught us about the worshipping life of the synagogue.

Meaningful differences

The engagement with and between students along the tour and in these places of worship was meaningful and informative. It highlighted both the differences between our faiths and also the common ground we share.

In these turbulent times, chaplains are there to interpret life’s events for those they encounter and to build bridges between individuals and communities. Please pray for your chaplains wherever they are serving.

092This article originally appeared in the connexion magazine, issue 10.
Banner image and photos: © Ian Worsfold, TMCP