Higher Education after Brexit

Here are a few brief observations from Chaplaincy on the uncertainty created by Brexit for  UK  Higher Education.

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Chris Hale, Head of Policy at Universities UK spoke at the HE Chaplains annual conference in January 2017.  He outlined  the general uncertainty that now affects staff and  students, as well as threatening future research funding and partnerships.It is a picture chaplains see in thier own universities.

I have had conversations with staff from EU countries worried about whether they can stay in the UK. Some have been working here for decades.There is now much evidence that the usual right to remain procedures don’t work for existing EU nationals. See the LSE Brexit blog on this.

At Imperial about  20 per cent  of  students and 25 percent of staff  come from EU countries other than Britain. Student applications from EU countries are down by 7%.

A significant  amount of research funding comes from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. The UK Government has now agreed to meet any loss of funding to these projects when the UK leaves the EU. This may do something to maintain collaborations between EU and UK  universities.This area is being watched closely. What will happen to science funding after 2020 is not yet clear.

 

See also Universities UK Brexit round-up.

 

Tom Beaudoin: speaking a second religious or secular langauge.

thomas-beaudoinAs a team of Buddhist and Christian chaplains at Imperial we were really excited to hear Tom Beaudoin’s key-note talk at the Conference of European University  Chaplains  in the Netherlands last year.

Tom is Associate Professor of Religion at Fordham University. In his talk he was looking at life in a globalized world. He argued that there would be great advantages if we were all to learn to speak a second religious or secular  language.

Language, as a metaphor for our worldview, suggests that we all have a religious or secular ‘first language’ for talking about how we see the world and what we believe, for example Christianity, Islam, Buddhism  or atheism, humanism, agnosticism.

To learn a second ‘religious language’ does not mean  giving up our first language, our ‘mother tongue’. In a world were we are constantly meeting people whose world view is very different from our own it is good to be able speak even a little of another language.

So, while Christianity is my first language, I can ‘speak’ a little Buddhism. I have learned this second language from working with colleagues, sharing silent meditation together and hearing about their traditions. I am not fluent and I am not a native speaker.  But I know enough to be a good ‘house guest’ and (I hope!) to travel courteously  with my second language. This way I learn more, and see a little from the Buddhist perspective.

The other gift of learning a new language is returning to our first language with new eyes, and a better ear for the language itself. I now have a better understanding of my mother tongue for having started learning a second language!

New year and a new role!

30 B TorringtonNot many posts this last year!

The reason – I spent six months temporarily acting as  lead Higher Education Chaplain for London Diocese. Then, since the retirement of our boss Stephen Williams in March, I was asked to continue in the role. It is an ‘additional responsibility’ and not a new job!

So I am also continuing in my present role as Chaplain to the Colleges here in South Kensington (which is the calm way of saying I have been trying to compress an extra full-time post into one day a week! – the reason that blog posts have stopped!)

It is a great opportunity to support our Diocesan team of nineteen highly talented HE chaplains.

Looking forward to a new year year ahead.

Space for Spirit, Room for Religion

Here is a copy of a post about the European Conference coming up in June ’15 for ‘Thinking Chaplaincy’ – a blog for university chaplains.

Hi, as the UK and Ireland rep for the Conference of European University Chaplains I want to invite all of you working in HE Chaplaincy to  our conference in the Netherlands, June 8-12th 2015.

All the practical details are on the website and there is a very ambient trailer to watch too!

The theme is ‘Space for Spirit, Room for Religion’.DSC_0225

As Higher Education Chaplains we are always talking about space. “What kind of space do you have?” is a frequent question we ask each other- some of us work from a desk in student services, some of us manage multi-faith centres, some of us have space ‘off campus’, and while some dream of what could be done with ‘more space’, others deal with the daily caretaking issues of ‘shared space’.

Along with these very practical issues the conference will explore the question “Is any space left for Spirit in contemporary, secular society?”

I like the approach of the organisers when they say,

“We won’t approach secularity as a problem nor as something to regret. Rather, we consider it as a given fact that shapes both our context and our work. In the keynote speeches, we will be considering society, secularity and the changing role of religion and spirituality. Among the many related themes we will consider some contemporary tasks of theologians, the room we give to our ‘clients’, as well as the rooms we are given and spaces we claim for ourselves.”

There is information on the conference website about the key note speakers but here is my own summary of what’s going to be on offer in the Netherlands.

Hope to see you there.

Andrew Willson, UK and Ireland representative for the Conference of European University Chaplains  a.willson@imperial.ac.uk

The conference will be opened with an address by Karin van den Broeke, Chair of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (PKN).

The first key note speeches are on ‘Exploring chaplaincy in a dispossessed world’  with Prof Tom Beaudoin, from Fordham University, New York, USA and Prof Theo de Wit, Faculty of Catholic Theology, Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

There’s a trip to Amsterdam, where we will hear Prof Mechteld Jansen, Protestant Theological University, ask ‘Why does society need theologians?’

Followed by a visit to ‘De Nieuwe Poort’, a pioneering chaplaincy Center at the Amsterdam Financial Center and a meeting with its founder the pastor and social entrepreneur Rev’d Ruben van Zwieten. (There is free time in the great city of Amsterdam too!)

There is also a key note talks on “chaplaincy, theology and innovation – what can we learn from internet marketing and customer feedback?” by Florian Sobetzko, Innovation Evangelist and teacher at University of Bochum, Germany.

Finally, Prof Martin Walton (who has a great reputation for using singing, drama and artistic improvisation in his talks), will reflect on these themes from his perspective as professor in spiritual care and chaplaincy studies at the Protestant Theological University, in Groningen.

Interfaith Action for Social Justice

News flash! You need to follow the link to see the pictures and get the details

I have just seen details of this great project ‘Sukkah’ at St Jame’s Church Piccadilly who are working with the Jewish Social Action Forum at West London Synagogue. It’s  joint celebration of the Church’s Harvest Festival and the Jewish Sukkot Festival. With food donations going to local food banks.

Very pleased to see the involvement of

  • RCA sculptor and alumni Anna Sikorska
  • the Trussell Trust
  • scriptural reasoning

Great event!

Memorial Service for a well loved and much respected engineering entrepreneur

Colin with Turbine editedIt was a great honour to assist at the memorial service for Prof Colin Besant, who died suddenly during the summer. The service was an opportunity for friends and colleagues to pay their respects and give thanks for the part that Colin had in their lives and work. Colin was a highly creative engineer, and engineering entrepreneur. He began working to develop nuclear reactors in the 1960s. In the late 1960s he saw the potential for Computer Aided Design for engineering and manufacturing. He also worked on power generation, heat exchange and electro-magnetic imaging. Colin was one of the pioneers of what is now known as ‘the spin-out company’, the way of developing ideas from PhD research into businesses. You can read more about his career in this obituary.

With all memorials – whether for someone with religious or philosophical beliefs – we want to prepare an event that is true to the values and beliefs of the person being remembered. So, for Colin, this was something very traditionally Anglican. He was a member of his local Church and a Church Warden – one of the key elected lay leaders. Yet, with academic colleagues coming from a wide range of world views, we also explicitly say that everyone is welcome, and that we do not presume that everyone has the same beliefs. Those attending are, I hope, then free to use the liturgical space and time for their personal reflections, thanksgiving and farewells. That’s not exactly rocket science. But it is, I hope, a rooted, and open, expression of Anglican Christianity.

For those who are interested, the engine in the picture is an Auxiliary Power Unit for a Vulcan aircraft. This was discovered by Colin in Derby and brought back to the department of Mechanical Engineering for experimentation!

Colin Besant, may he rest in peace, and rise in glory

Not one but two Buddhist colleagues?

DSC_1533 Zafus - Buddhist meditation cushions, black with white labels saying chaplaincy

Here is an article I have written for  ‘Kalyana Mitra – Caring for others through Spiritual Friendship’,  the newsletter of The Buddhist Chaplaincy Support Group.

The Church of England Chaplain at Imperial College, Andrew Willson, talks about Higher Education Chaplaincy and working with two Buddhist colleagues.
In the Chaplaincy Multi-Faith Centre at Imperial we have four key areas to our work. The first is the multi-faith approach – using the Centre as a place where students of different faiths can practice their religion.
The second area is pastoral care. Sometimes this relates to a person’s religious life, but often it does not. The third area is interfaith – promoting better understanding and co-operation between people from different religious groups. The fourth area is offering opportunities to reflect on meanings and values arising from studies or work. For example, supporting medical ethics teaching, facilitating staff and students to share together their motivations and inspiration as civil engineers, or reflecting with animal care technicians about the stresses of their work in bio-medical research. In reality these four key areas all overlap!
For me, working with chaplains from religions different to my own has been the best way to do chaplaincy in education. Collaborative work between Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Sikh, Christian and Muslim colleagues demonstrates our commitment to interfaith co-operation and dialogue in our own lives.
For the last 6 years at Imperial we have used our budget to employ part-time chaplains who have a generic role serving anyone who comes to the Chaplaincy, as well as those from their own faith tradition. We have had Hindu and Lutheran chaplains, who have supported Chaplaincy in the four key areas. A year ago we invited Karuna Priya, our volunteer Buddhist Chaplain, take on a paid role as a generic chaplain in this way, as well as continuing to support the Buddhist communities at Imperial.
Sixteen months ago Hogetsu Baerndal came from ‘Kalyana Mitra’ for a voluntary placement to learn about HE Chaplaincy. My Lutheran colleague, Rikke Juul, and I were already running a non-religious mindfulness group. When she returned to Denmark we were able to employ Hogetsu for one day a week to lead our mindfulness work. As a trained Zen Mindfulness teacher, Hogetsu strengthened our mindfulness programme. Given the great interest in mindfulness in Higher Education we are in a good position. Together we offer a mindfulness programme that includes introductory sessions, workshops, and a weekly group. We also offer Buddhist and Christian meditation. I sense that staff and students like seeing people from different religions working together. It demonstrates that both sides respect each other, and that creates a safe, respectful space for others to enter.
Working closely with my Buddhist colleagues has energised my own Christian meditation practice. It has sent me back to the sources of my own contemplative tradition, especially to read those Christians who have a deep understanding of Buddhism, like Thomas Merton, Anthony De Mello, and James Finlay. Buddhism has helped me see the integration of mind, body and spirit that is deep in the tradition of Christian prayer and meditation. And that only deepens my understanding of Jesus and his teaching.

Pieta from Product Design on Good Friday

Here is something for your visual meditation this Good Friday. It is a short film by Emilie Voirin, who graduated last year from the Product Design Course at the Royal College of Art.

Play link to ‘Pieta’ on Vimeo.

I really like the questions about religious practice and art that Emilie asks as a product designer – they were great conversations.

For the majority of us thankfully, holding the body of a dead adult child is not an experience we are likely to have. Yet religious practice does set aside days of the year as invitations to contemplate subjects we might prefer to ignore. And there are many places where, tragically, the Pieta experience happens to many.

Today is Good Friday – the day of the year when Christians remember Jesus’ death and this scene of his body being held by Mary his mother. So time to ponder both art and life.

These are Emilie’s own words on the project;

“I have deconstructed the gesture of the famous Pieta, which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, and created tools to reproduce it as a filmed performance. In this way I want to reinvigorate traditional religious art by re-contextualizing its production, conveying the power of religious codes and their interpretation through the language of objects.”

 

 

Multi… and Inter…Faith (Our new home at No 11)

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It’s taken a while, but here are some photos of the Chaplaincy Multi-Faith Centre in our grand new home – 11 Princes Gardens.

In September we moved into five rooms on the ground floor ( just in case the photo suggests we occupy all five floors!)

It is great to have one place to offer hospitality to  a multi-plicity of groups from different faith and world views. It is also good to see signs of inter – faith collaboration and working together. Such as, the student led ‘Seeker’s Corner’, a  weekly interfaith discussion group.

It is proving very popular with student groups, for prayer, meditation, talks, music, discussions and social events.

We are delighted to be welcoming  Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh student groups. We are especially pleased that the Community Action Group are using the kitchen to prepare for  their Sunday Soup Run working with local people who are homeless.

It was also good to welcome the Erasmus Society – supporting European exchange students – for a large social gathering.

And with our Meditation and Prayer Room, and the beautiful Garden Room, we now have great spaces for our  meditation groups – Buddhist, secular Mindfulness, and Christian.

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perspectives in education – from MoTiv

During their three-day visit ‘MoTiv’ gave a talk for the Imperial’s Education Development Unit. The talk  was part of the regular ‘perspectives in education’ series.

Motiv - teamI had been sharing the plans for the ‘Night of Engineering Philosophy’ at an away day for support staff to look at the new Education Strategy. It seemed a perfect example of how Chaplaincy might be doing work to compliment the curriculum.

This led to an invitation for ‘MoTiv’ to give a lecture about their educational work and practice.

So, Gunther talked about the German idea of ‘Bildung’ – education as a personal, cultural and critical formation. For those of us in the UK this is a different approach to education.

Renske shared their experience of assisting students to develop their leadership skills. And Hans shared the ideas of Richard Sennett about the skills of co-operation. (When we discovered over a year ago that  we had all been reading Richard Sennett to think about chaplaincy we knew we should look to do some work together!)

There is more information about the talk, and links to ‘MoTiv‘s slides at Imperial’s   Educational Development Unit.