By Rev’d Deborah Jeanes
In the heart of Flinders University is Oasis, a student Community Wellbeing Centre -a place of calm, peace and tranquillity, referred to by students as “a home away from home.” All are welcome. All are valued in their individuality, diversity and uniqueness. It is in Oasis that I have the privilege to minister as a Chaplain.
For the past three years, three times a week, students and spouses have gathered to connect, share concerns, and practice their communication skills in a safe, non-judgemental environment. What begins as a tentative toe in the water visit to test the openness and welcome, they will receive, has resulted in a warm, cohesive extended family, who are not afraid to tackle the hard topics or ask challenging questions of life, culture and faith. As a mini-United Nations, it is a group that accepts participants where they are at, with opportunities to grow in understanding through the sharing of varying cultures, faith journeys, life experience and referral to support resources.
Oasis has three focus areas: Community and diversity, faith and spirituality, mental and physical wellbeing, with an on-campus chaplaincy team to support the campus community across all areas, but particularly in the faith and spirituality component.
Being a volunteer at Oasis for the past three years has provided an opportunity for me to identify areas of support and need that a chaplain can provide. Having recently received my licence to be the Anglican Chaplain at Flinders University, it is with great excitement that I look forward to the challenge of officially joining the Chaplaincy team to support the significant student needs on campus. Already this has opened opportunities for planning a new Faith and Spirituality discussion group commencing next year and gaining the facilitation role for the English communication group for spouses. Because of offering increased hours to Chaplaincy next year, I have recently been supported by Flinders University to attend the Tertiary Campus Ministry Conference in the Gold Coast, focussing on accountability frameworks for Chaplaincy and full of new and innovative ideas to meet student needs.
Three and a half years ago I felt called to volunteer at Flinders University Oasis, which strengthened through the Discernment and Formation journey. At the conclusion of my first year as Vocational Deacon, I now find my faith journey is coming together with the vibrancy and unpredictability of chaplaincy combined with the valuable learning experience, stability and support of parish ministry at the Church of St Michael, Mitcham.
I thank God for the ministry opportunity and look forward to the great joys and challenges that 2020 will bring.