Educational Chaplaincy – Connecting On and Off Campus

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This invaluable ministry could not exist without support from individuals and parishes, said the Rev. Scott Sharman, educational chaplain. He welcomed friends and supporters of the educational chaplaincy to an annual fundraising dinner and silent auction, May 3, at the University of Alberta Faculty Club.

“God made us for connection,” said Scott, sharing some of the many ways the chaplaincy creates opportunities for building relationship, such as the Worship Room, a Sunday evening supper followed by a service of word, sacrament, prayer and worship, and Pub Theology, which provides a casual atmosphere for mulling over life’s big questions. Making connections with inner city communities through the PrayerWorks Common ministry at St. Faith’s and St. Stephen’s is also a focus of the chaplaincy. “Preparing and serving food at community dinners helps humanize need and create a path to right relationship and justice,” said Scott.

With the addition four months ago of Ruth Sesink Bott, associate chaplain, the chaplaincy team is stronger, said Scott, welcoming the new perspective and leadership qualities of his partner.

The two Anglican chaplains continue to build connections with their Lutheran and Roman Catholic counterparts also seeking to love and serve others in Christ’s name.

“I think we should try to do as much as we can together,” he said, both from an ecumenical and interreligious perspective.

“The University is a snapshot of the whole world. As a chaplain I am part of an interfaith association that advocates for the spiritual needs of all people, and that has been a great opportunity for learning and growth. This year we brought groups of students from different religious communities together – Muslims, Buddhists, First Nations, Jews, and others – on a monthly basis to share our stories and talk about how our faiths and spiritual practices influence the way we live and act in the world. This kind of connection is absolutely essential today.”

A ministry hub for younger adults within the Edmonton diocese, the chaplaincy now reaches beyond the U of A campus to NAIT, MacEwan University and other institutions. It includes members of the diocese’s Christian residential communities, St. Aidan’s House and Ascension House, as well as youth and young adult groups from the parishes of Holy Trinity, Christ Church and St. John the Evangelist, Edmonton, to name a few.

It was the “FREE Food” sign outside St. George’s that caught the eye of engineering student Kirsti Ann Bell when she moved to Edmonton from Drumheller three years ago. “I thought this offer was a great opportunity, not only because of the food, but because it would be a bit of a connection to back home,” Kirsti told chaplaincy supporters at the annual banquet. Much like her close-knit farming community, “here was a group that eats and worships together. What better way to build community than with food?” She said the chaplaincy has provided opportunities for her to see what it means to live out her faith in a variety of situations, and see how God works in each of these places. “It is actually amazing to see how well food and faith brings people together.”

Prior to coming to the U of A in 2014 to pursue a Master of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering, Dominic Thompson studied at Cambridge in the UK. While Canada and the UK have many commonalities and share many traditions, he said adapting to life here was a “surprising” challenge. Limited cooking utensils and skills meant he dined on “the same old beef and vegetable stew and didn’t eat well for those first few months.” Googling “Anglican churches in Edmonton,” he found St. George’s to be the closest.

“You can imagine my surprise, and my delight, when I realized they host a free, home-cooked meal for students every Sunday,” he said.

“I have found the community at St. George’s to be extremely welcoming, and they have given me the best impression they can of Canada. I would like to extend my thanks to Scott, Alex (Meek Sharman, rector of St. George’s), Sue (Oliver, former university chaplain), Ruth and the many others who, through their tireless, public-spirited endeavour, have helped new students such as myself settle in.”

For more information about the educational chaplaincy and/or to donate online, visit anglicanstudentministry.ca.