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Going to University is an exciting time, packed full of life-changing experiences and great memories.  To ensure your University experience is unforgettable for all the right reasons, we have a fantastic range of support services that you can access at any point during your time at Chester.  

Over the coming weeks, we’ll be getting out and about around the University to meet staff from some of our support departments and find out exactly what they do!

Introducing the Chaplaincy

Our Chaplaincy staff and community are on hand to support students and staff and to ensure there is always someone that you can turn to for anything such as advice, a place to make friends, pastoral care or just someone to talk to in confidence. The University of Chester has two Chaplaincies, one based in Longfield House at Parkgate Road (Chester) and one in the Martin building, Warrington Campus. As many students are unsure about the role of a Chaplain, we thought we’d sit down over a coffee with our Warrington Chaplain, James Wallace, to find out what his role really consists of.

What is a typical day at work for you?

“What I really like is that the role is really varied, although I do try and have a routine consisting of different people and students who I try and see regularly. A lot of my time is spent in social spaces to make sure I’m available if anyone needs me. People will meet with me for all sorts of reasons, many don’t have any religious belief but they do see me as someone who has time for them and who they can share something with confidentially. They could be having a problem in their halls or with friends and just come for advice and a listening ear.”

What is your favourite part of your job?

“I really love my job so there are so many aspects to choose from! Working with students is so varied and there are all sorts of different students who will engage with me. I really enjoy building a community on campus in different ways including having coffees, meeting over food or taking students off campus to Blackpool or the Trafford Centre. These trips are a good way to get students away from campus to have a break for a short time.”

Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?

“At the Warrington Campus, we are moving our ‘Mondays in Chapel’ to ‘Tuesdays in Chapel’ as many students were unable to meet on the Monday evenings due to sports training. This will give students the opportunity to have conversations with us about anything ethical, topical or religious, but everyone’s views are welcome. It’s a great chance for great conversation in a group, plus there’s free food! We also will be starting £1 lunches on Thursdays which gives students the opportunity to have a social gathering with an affordable tasty lunch!

Similar events are also held at Parkgate Road (Chester) and all events are listed on the Chaplaincy webpage.”

What has been your proudest moment whilst working at the University?

“This would have to be when I’ve been nominated three times and shortlisted twice for the Above and Beyond Award which is voted for by students. This was so important to me as the perception of a Chaplain could be that they are almost irrelevant, however, through the engagement that I do on a daily basis the role is actually seen as having a positive impact on the students here, which really meant a lot to me.

A close second to this would be organising and leading the Queen’s Park Campus carol service – this involved some fantastic carollers, mulled wine, leading the service and a brilliant brass band!”

Choose a movie title for the story of your life.

“Lost In Translation. Just the title, because I’m not what people immediately expect of a Chaplain, but hopefully they’re pleasantly surprised once they get to know me.”

If you could have a superpower what would you choose?

“Omnipresence – first of all I could get a lot more done! Second of all, I could see everything that is happening.”

What are the general misconceptions of a Chaplain?

“Believe it or not, we actually struggle to gather students to go on trips away from campus as many students believe the Chaplaincy is just for Christian people. In fact, Chaplaincy is for everyone, no matter what faith you are or even if you don’t have a belief system. It is always important to be non-judgemental and anyone can come and speak to us no matter how outrageous the issue might seem. We’re certainly not here to convert any students; we are more here for support whatever that may be, including exploring spirituality.”

What does your role as a Senior Residential Tutor consist of?

“The role consists of managing Residential Advisors/Coordinator who are normally students who support students living in halls out of hours. I am on call 24/7 to support them in any emergency situations. I help these students to work as a team and be conscious of what the community is like in the halls. If there are any students of concern, we will then signpost to the appropriate services.”

What would you say are the key aspects to your role?

“As Chaplaincy, we are independent from Student Futures but work very closely with them, the Student’s Union and academic departments to provide appropriate support for all our students. We provide a non-judgemental, pastoral and spiritual support and always show compassion to people in need. An example of that would be our provisions of a food bank for people in crisis. We try to make sure that students know about all of our services through our dedicated social media pages (Warrington Campus Chapel and @UofCChaplaincy) so that they are always aware of the wide range of support we offer. Another key aspect is being present around campus, such as attending all major student events, Open Days and being around in the evenings. The final thing would be linking the two roles together, using the Residential team with the Chaplaincy on campus to build a positive and encouraging community.”

What is life like at Warrington Campus?

“I’ve been here full-time almost three years now and part-time for an additional five years. The campus is a small but vibrant community where everyone is made to feel welcome and supported. There are obviously times when life isn’t always easy but people should always feel there is someone that they can go to and talk to. I’m very proud to have the roles that I have here, to encourage and maintain this amazing community.”

How would you summarise your Chester story?

“It has been a privilege to serve staff and students at the University; here to support, help, guide and I am always available for anyone to have a chat over food or a cup of coffee!”

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