I sat down for breakfast in the home of Ricky Waters, my host and counterpart in Aukland, New Zealand. It had been an exhausting time for him, culminating in the NZ tertiary chaplains’ conference the week before and a post-conference colloquium that brought together the main stakeholders – university and church representatives and sponsoring bodies. It had all gone off well and he was satisfied it had progressed tertiary chaplaincy in NZ to a new level. Ricky had worked hard for this, and I had benefited from being there, though, like Ricky, I had wished that NZ had Uni chaplains from other faiths and the conference could have been multifaith rather than Uni-faith! My workshop, telling the story of the beginnings of multifaith chaplaincy at Flinders seemed to be well received.
We were unwinding.
“Last night I had a dream,” Ricky offered.
“Tell me about it,” I invited.
As soon as he began to recount it, I felt its significance. I asked if I might write it down, and as he continued, struggling to find the right weight of words to articulate the images and feelings, it seemed to become ever more vivid in his mind. He began to find himself surprised by it all, like a spectator watching himself on TV action-replay – he said he didn’t usually remember his dreams.
It was quite long and complex.
Perhaps it was because I was there to listen that helped fix these fleeting visions and illusive feelings. But I wonder whether it was also because the struggle to recall was valued as much as the dream itself. I think we were both pleased that we’d captured the dream, captured what at other times had been lost.
Later that day I tidied up the verbatim on my computer and asked Ricky if my record was accurate. I asked if I might use it when I talk about multifaith chaplaincy – it seemed to me that Ricky’s Dream captures some of the very best aspects of multifaith chaplaincy in a pastoral situation:
Deep confidences require trust. The size of the trust account depends on the extent to which the chaplain has been “checked out”. And if it’s to be a multifaith or a ‘no-faith’ conversation, the chaplain has to be “checked out” in previous multifaith or ‘no faith’ situations. For me that means unconditional service to others.
The agenda is always with the other. Questions are to help the other do the exploration. There are no ‘answers’ from the chaplain, they are discovered, if at all, by the other in the conversation. There is certainly no colonising of the other. The encounter is unconditional.
The chaplain recognises others who may help the other. These encounters are not to satisfy one’s own needs or ends. The object is to empower the other, not oneself.
In the end, the chaplain feels like s/he “hasn’t done anything”.
The antidote to this feeling of uselessness lies in the necessity for chaplains to work in community with colleagues, so that the valuing, which I had done collegially with Ricky, becomes revelatory and enlivening.
Ricky’s Dream is attached. See what you think.