Welcome Chaplain Jackie
It was a great pleasure to officially welcome our new chaplain, Jackie Belot, to Gippsland Grammar on Wednesday this week as she was commissioned by the Right Reverend Dr Richard Treloar, Bishop of the Diocese of Gippsland. Before handing Chaplain Jackie her licence, Bishop Richard spoke to the students, staff and guests about what it means to be a chaplain and I thought this should be shared with our wider School community. It was an eloquent and beautiful outline of the important and yet very complex role of the chaplain in our School. I hope you will enjoy Bishop Richard’s words which follow.
So, what is a Chaplain? Perhaps a little acrostic might help. When I asked our 6-year-old ‘What’s an acrostic?’, he said ‘A stick that’s angry?’
C is for ‘Cups’, speedily stacked
A chaplain is someone who creates spaces – opportunities – like ‘speed-stacking’, for people to come together and just ‘be’, in a safe, trusting, and welcoming environment, free of judgement, just as Christ welcomes us.
H is for ‘Hats’
A chaplain wears lots of these – not actual hats, like the funny ones a bishop wears, but hats as in roles: in Jackie’s case those of a teacher, a leader, a pastoral carer, a Lay Reader at the Cathedral, a student of theology, an ordination candidate; hers is a complex and demanding position, and she needs our support, as we will be glad of hers.
A is for ‘All’
A chaplain is here for everyone: those of all faiths, and those of no particular faith; Jackie’s job is not to convert you to anything, or from anything; her job is to walk with you while you discover the truth that will set you free – free to be and to become most fully, authentically, and gloriously yourself, made in God’s image – each one – the gift of diversity in which we can all flourish.
P is for ‘Prayer’ and ‘Praise’
A chaplain helps to lead our celebrations when we gather for beginnings, like the opening of the Kukun Kalak Centre this time last week; and for endings, like a Valedictory Service; and in the regular weekly rhythms of Chapel, or assembly in between; times when we can count our blessings, or mark a significant rite of passage, as we do today, in word and music, symbol and ritual.
L is for ‘Laughter’and ‘Lament’
A chaplain is someone who helps us to ‘keep it real’: rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep. There has been some horrible stuff in the news lately, hasn’t there: terrible things that have taken place in our churches and in our region? A Chaplain can help us to process our grief, confusion, and anger, and to abound in hope, offering it all up to that amazing grace.
A (again) is for ‘Asking’
A chaplain is someone who values your questions – not least as an educator who knows that asking the right questions is often more important than having the right answers. Because the opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is certainty. And it’s not only questions about religion, or ethics, or social issues that you can bring to Jackie; you can ask her about pretty much anything, for a chaplain is a person of first resort: someone staff and students and families can go to for wise counsel, or for careful referral.
I is for ‘Integrity’
A chaplain is someone who has the School’s confidence, and the Church’s confidence, as a person of integrity: that is, someone who walks the talk. Jackie brings to us her careful formation in the skills and the standards expected in public ministry, a wealth of professional and life experience, and a deeply grounded spirituality. A chaplain is also a champion of culture; someone who encourages and occasionally provokes us to live out the values of our School.
And N is for . . . ‘Netball’!
Sadly, Jackie’s netball comeback has been postponed! A chaplain is not necessarily someone who plays netball, or kicks the footy; but a chaplain is someone who is fully engaged in the life of the community for which they care. By her valour on the netball court, Jackie has already shown us that she’s in it with us, whatever ‘it’ is. And that’s important, because underlying all of our values at Gippsland Grammar – everything we stand for, and stand by, as a community – is the story of God who is in it with us, whatever ‘it’ is: with us in the flesh and blood of Jesus of Nazareth. Above all else, perhaps, as Chaplain Jackie embodies that kind of solidarity.
Chaplain Jackie will spend time at all campuses as she works with and within our School and wider community, and we celebrate and give thanks for her ministry. Welcome Chaplain Jackie.