Moore Matters speaks with Sarah Seabrook about her role as a Moore College Chaplain.
Moore Matters: What does a Moore College Chaplain do?
Female Chaplains have a special role at College to care for, assist and support the female students primarily, and then to be pastorally available for the wider student body in mixed chaplaincy groups and other meetings.
We spend one day at the College per week, where we co-lead Chaplaincy groups (made up of students from 1st to 4th year) with a male faculty member, share morning tea and lunch with the students, and have 1-to-1s. We also co-lead with another faculty member either Proclamation Groups—where we listen to the 2nd or 3rd years preach and give feedback—or Intentional Ministry Reflections (IMR)—where one student answers structured investigative questions about a conflict situation and we reflect with them on that with 3 of their peers in attendance. We attend the Mission week with our chaplaincy group (so I went to Tamworth this year – excellent!) and we get to sharpen one another as Chaplains by preparing papers on ministry topics. We are also available to the faculty if they need assignments marked, to listen to oral exams, participate in leading the Day of Prayer, and sometimes guest lecturing. But really, it’s getting to know the students in our chaplaincy group well over the year that we are with them. That means lots of listening, lots of questions, praying, bashing around big ideas and the practicalities of ministry, and knowing when to give input.
MM: What made you want to become a Moore College Chaplain?
Well, when you read what the role is, wouldn’t you want to do that too? I was just really drawn to it. For me, and I’m sure it’s the same with the other chaplains, it’s about connecting with the students so that they can trust you with whatever is going on for them. It’s a joy!
MM: In your experience with pastoral care at Moore Theological College, what are some of the most common challenges students face as they navigate their theological studies, and how do you help them address these issues?
I think one issue that looms large is balancing the desire to minister well in their churches and families with dedicating themselves to working diligently in their studies. They are keen to serve, and obviously love their families too, but the time they have set aside to study is a privilege. I want them to delight in the time they have at College. This is a stage, a season that won’t last, and the opportunities for being moulded and sharpened are abundant when they live in community. They are making friends they can lean on for a lifetime. Recognising the limits to what you can achieve on all fronts is a life skill. It’s good that we can talk these things through now. Then there’s the fact that Satan opposes what they are doing, so reminding them of the spiritual battle is crucial. That becomes very significant as they head into ministry where they are “on the front line”. Thankfully Christ has overcome all evil and the work of Satan, so it’s also important to pray a lot together.
MM: What do you enjoy about the role (and any stories that you’re happy to share)?
So many things. I think it’s pretty unanimous that we all love Mission week, and as that happened recently, I’m reflecting on how enriching the experience is for learning from older Christians and being in different contexts, raising self-awareness, caring for one another and putting into practice good theology. In Chaplaincy group I’ve loved getting to know and work with my co-leader. In previous years that’s been Paul Williamson, who lectured me in OT when I was a student, Lionel Windsor, and now George Athas, both of whom were in my year group! I think it’s imperative to be a bit silly and to bond through laughter. Last year there was much hilarity playing a charade game of “Who’s the Dude?” based on life at Moore, and another which for all intents and purposes I only know as “the hat game”. Then there are moments when the only appropriate thing to do is pray or cry. But there’s the fullness of it all—walking alongside students as they grow and face challenges. It’s pretty wonderful.
MM: What do you find challenging about the role?
I would love more time with the students! We’re only in one day a week. There are conversations I would rather not have with some students. I’ve had to tackle some pretty big issues that have arisen, but I figure that’s what we’re here for, to address things that come up and have them in the light so that God can work.
MM: In what ways is the student experience at Moore College different/the same as when you studied here?
I absolutely loved my time at College! We also had excellent teachers, ample opportunities to serve and to have the rough edges taken off in community! But when I was at Mary Andrews College the single women lived together in one place, and the single men were separate. We women also had two Chaplaincy groups. One was like the current ones, except led only by a male faculty member, and the other was just for the female students and led by a MAC Chaplain. We also didn’t have IMR (which is excellent) or Proclamation Groups (not the way the students have them now), and we didn’t have part-time students joining in. But I’m thrilled that the female students still get to preach and lead in the women’s chapel as we did, and also have a chance to preach in Proclamation groups.