Well here I am one week back at work...
It was a strange week back I can tell you. I spent a lot of the first day crying if truth be told...
but then I had to summon up some positivism and inject some of that into a wedding, 'in the midst of death we are in life' I found myself thinking. And then I went off on the annual chaplains' conference...
Having been on two chaplains' conferences now I have a theory that chaplaincy nationally is going through something of a crisis...or at least is suffering from a bit of low-self-esteem. I was struck last year with a sort of resentment towards Christian Unions which I felt from some chaplains. It seemed to me that they were feeling that they were clever liberals who had worked out their intellectual faith and then along came the CU with what they saw as a bunch of fundamentalist-flat-earth claptrap and students signed up in droves.
How dare students be so stupid!
Of course the fact that CU is a tad lively and has a bit of direction might help them on the numbers front but personally I don't see myself as in competition with them. There are probably times when I am wrong and CU is right. Who knows?
Maybe there are times when I am right and CU is wrong...I'm not sure. I'm going to check the UCCF website later to see if this is possible.
At the conference I kept thinking about the numbers as person after person made a comment to the effect that Chaplaincy was not about getting students to turn up but rather about Christianizing the university by getting staff to refect on values. In the end I asked the key not speaker if numbers were ever important. She dismissed me with a a simple 'No'.
Afterwards I reflected with another chaplain about numbers and we were drawn to a bit of the Bible which seems to talk about the numbers, the bit about the lost sheep which is at the beginning of Luke 15 (for those of you who like to open your Bibles). This basically says if you have 100 sheep and then when you count them one night there are only 99, you go and find the other one. (Because sheep are quite expensive - if you're a shepherd.) And there it is in black and white. Numbers are important.
Not in the sense that you need to count them, no because I recon that someone with 99 sheep is the mac daddy of shepherds, no in the sense of caring for each and every one.
All of which bought me back to where my week began.
There are 20,000 students at the University of Southampton and right now the bulk of my emotional energy is directed at just one of them.