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The impressive campus of the ecumenical Liverpool Hope University was the venue for the third national conference for school chaplains from 18-20 June.  This biennial event – inaugurated in 2011 – brought together around 150 practitioners working in the front‑line ministry of chaplaincy in schools.  Chaplains from maintained and independent Christian-based schools including both Anglican and Roman Catholic foundations (with strong representation from Woodard schools) heard keynote addresses from Fr Timothy Radcliffe; Professor of the Sociology of Religion, Linda Woodhead; Broadcaster, Roger Bolton, and Christian Aid’s CEO, Loretta Minghella.  A widely-varied seminar programme looked at practical issues in chaplaincy ranging from crisis counselling and adolescent mental health to Ignatian spirituality for schools, and the university chapel was the scene for ecumenical worship in several traditions.

Delegates enjoyed pre-dinner receptions and wine provided by sponsors SCM Press, The Prayer Book Society, Wind Sand and Stars and Gresham Books, and both meals and social time were a chance to exchange experiences and approaches with fellow-chaplains.  The aim of the conference was to bring together those working most closely for the spiritual well-being of school students and to resource their ministry among the young: said one delegate, “A great conference – there was real energy and openness at Liverpool Hope and we shall go back to our schools with broader perspectives and enhanced commitment”.

A Vital Ministry by the Revd Dr John Caperon, explores chaplaincy in Church of England secondary schools, arguing that the ‘post-millennium generation’ of the young live in a cultural context which threatens their well-being and human flourishing.  Church schools, however, have the potential to offer a holistic education which seeks to build spiritual capital in their students, and a key element in the provision of this is the ministry of chaplaincy.   Drawing on the testimony both of school chaplains and school students, the book argues that the chaplain’s ‘ministry of presence’ is one which signals the divine dimension and which embodies a commitment to the young as ‘children of God’.  The ministry of pastoral care has a key part to play in the fostering of students’ spiritual development and personal growth, and as a liturgical leader a chaplain may enable the opening up of the spiritual realm for students.  The institutional Church needs to take seriously this vital but neglected ministry, the book concludes, arguing for better recognition, professional support and development for those working as chaplains in schools.

A Vital Ministry is available from www.scmpress.co.uk and £5.00 will be deducted off the book price at checkout (quote code ‘SCM932’).  This offer applies to those who attended the 2015 National School Chaplaincy Conference held at Liverpool Hope University and is valid until the 31 August 2015.