Otago Uni appoints first chaplaincy lecturer

Otago university’s appointment of its first chaplaincy lecturer will help with the nationwide shortages of chaplains, says Monsignor John Harrison.

Harrison, who is the Dunedin police chaplain, says there are many shortages across the diverse field of chaplaincy, including among Catholic chaplains.

Chaplains play a crucial role, including being part of the overall response to traumatic incidents, such as the recent Dunedin supermarket knife attack, he says.

Otago’s first chaplaincy lecturer, the Very Rev Dr Graham Redding, says New Zealanders call on chaplains often.

The demand for their services ” — be they paid and unpaid, secular and religious — across sectors ranging from the military to healthcare to education to sports and the arts, exceeds supply,” he says.

In his view, suitable training and credentialling is “crucial”.

Despite New Zealand becoming an increasingly secular society, people remain interested in issues of faith, meaning and spirituality.

Events of “deep personal significance,”which can often be traumatic, could trigger such interests, Redding says.

Since 2016, Otago University has offered a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma and a masters in chaplaincy. These are the only specific university qualifications in chaplaincy offered in New Zealand.

While various academic staff teach the programme, Redding is the first person to be hired specifically as an Otago lecturer in chaplaincy.

Many organisations see the value of chaplaincy for enhancing the wellbeing of those who come under their care and employment, Redding says.

Schools, tertiary institutions, hospitals, hospices and retirement homes, the military, police and corrections facilities, professional sports teams and the media all have chaplains, he says.

Redding has been the master of Dunedin’s Knox College since 2015. He is a former moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand (2008-10) and was principal of the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin (2007-14).

His five-year, fixed-term post – which began this week – is funded by the Longview Trust and the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland.


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