Chaplaincy Annual Report 2019-20

Chaplaincy team members and faith consultants





Faith Consultants



The Chaplaincy staff team saw some changes during the year. A new Methodist Chaplain was appointed and started in September. Revd Gill Sharp, minister at Mickleover Methodist Church, has settled in well to her new role. Tom Vause returned to his former role as Catholic Lay Chaplain for one year, and was joined by Revd Deacon Martin Farrell as Assistant Catholic Chaplain. The team also had the bonus of a placement student this year. Revd Dawn Knight, an Anglican curate, spent the autumn semester with us. Safiyah Hashim joined the team as Assistant to the Muslim Chaplain, following her successful placement in the previous academic year.

Over the course of the year, the Chaplaincy team met six times in person and then nine times virtually during the lockdown period. We also enjoyed a New Year meal together in Birmingham, courtesy of the Muslim Chaplain.


Hilary Benson took three months leave from Chaplaincy from January to attend to family matters. During the summer, she resigned her post as Anglican Chaplain as she and her husband have decided to move away from the area. There are no immediate plans to replace her.

The year in Buxton has been dominated by the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even before Covid struck, it was announced in October 2019 that the University is phasing out some elements of the University’s academic provision in Buxton from 2020 through to 2022 as part of a broader, ongoing review of its portfolio. Some courses will close, some are migrating to Derby, so some staff will teach at both sites in the interim. The Chaplaincy should be ready for an increased role with the remaining Buxton HE students during this period.


Following their redundancy by Synapse last summer, Cate Hall and Jane Watson kindly returned as Chaplains, now as Synapse volunteers rather than staff members, while seeking alternative employment. JW departed at the autumn half term, leaving CH to hold the fort, fitting it around supply teaching. However, in practice, the supply teaching took off, leaving CH no time to be in College for the remainder of the term. From January, with CH’s supply work still going strong, IK started to work two mornings a week, where possible, at Leek. At the time of writing, CH has kindly agreed to become a Chaplaincy volunteer (rather than a Volunteer Chaplain)

Sharing the room with Wellbeing has continued to work well. It has now been agreed that the two Progress Coaches can also access the room when Wellbeing and Chaplaincy are not there if they want a confidential space in which to talk to a student.


Sue Wheeler, Lay Anglican Chaplain, continues to be a weekly presence at St Helena’s on Tuesdays.

Pastoral work with students


Pastoral work happens through building relationships with people, and those relationships emerge from being in the thick of things in the public spaces where one can be seen and come to be known. Therefore a certain amount of time and energy is given to profile-raising and making connections. The work mentioned in the categories that follow often help to provide initial contact with students and staff that is then developed over the course of the year.

Some of that initial work happens over the Welcome Weekend to new students. Consequently, the Chaplaincy was a presence at the Welcomefest Event at Markeaton Street, and was also part of providing brunch to new students in Halls of Residence on their first morning (AD, AA). The team also ran its usual stall at the two-day Freshers’ Fair, (AD, GS, RW, DJ, BM, AA, DK) to which were attracted over four hundred students. Again, as in previous years, we gave away mugs to anyone willing to ‘friend us’ on our Facebook page. The mugs have written on them contact information about the Chaplaincy and a mixture of ‘Keep Calm and…’ messages. AD also did short presentations at various student inductions [eg International, Chinese specific group, English], but it is practically difficult to cover many of them.

We also hosted several large groups; ‘Get Ahead’ students and ‘Forward Thinking’ students, over one hundred in all, came and enjoyed Fairtrade lunches.

In addition, over 60 international students enjoyed a fish and chip supper and local quiz. Good co-operation with Student Wellbeing and the International Student Centre made these events possible.

The Chaplaincy (AD, AA, GS, RW, DK) also visited eight Halls of Residence to offer tea and cake to students (contributions from local church congregations, plus a mosque; a big thanks to all concerned). On each of the occasions, large numbers of students came along, giving us direct contact with about 300 in all. This activity has also helped to maintain good working relationships with Halls of Residence staff, as well as enabling students to build relationships with each other.

As the year unfolded, other work took place. Chaplaincy provided input to an online SAGE (Student and Graduate Experience) presentation re. student support, and developed a regular pattern of visits to Markeaton Street, Britannia Mill and One Friar Gate Square.

The Chaplaincy has also been part of the monthly ‘Love your Mind’ Campaign with Wellbeing, the Union of Students (US), and the International Student Centre. This has involved us having a stall in the Atrium at Kedleston Road and at Markeaton Street (AD/AA) and allows for interaction with students, helping to increase awareness of the Chaplaincy presence, and what we offer.

The Chaplaincy was also a visible presence in the Atrium, following a new initiative called ‘Sit and Knit’ (GS). This offered the opportunity for an informal chat alongside our Methodist Chaplain who started knitting squares to make into a blanket to send to orphaned children overseas. Each week GS would ‘Sit and Knit’ in the Atrium, greeting those who passed and engaging in conversation with those who stopped to chat or who sat to knit.

Regular ‘One-to–one’ support is offered by all of the chaplains, in the Chaplaincy Office and elsewhere on campus, as appropriate. A steady flow of students and staff came our way. It is our general policy that any of us will be happy to see a student regardless of tradition or religion but will offer appropriate pointers if something more specific is required.

Informal support is offered to the students frequently using the social space, which the Chaplaincy team manages; free tea/coffee and biscuits, and beanbags in which to ‘collapse’, have proved very popular with students throughout the year.

The Chaplaincy has also provided ‘stop gap’ payments, via food vouchers, to students referred by Support Services/US.

This has been a vital service enabling students to buy food over a short period until other monies become available.

The Chaplaincy was again involved in a joint exam ‘give-away’ project with other student support services at the fortnightly exam period in January, which connected with approximately 300 students (on site exams in May didn’t happen due to Covid 19). This enables students to see the chaplains (AD, AA, GS, DJ, RW) as a supportive presence at a testing time; Fairtrade bananas were handed out to examinees.

Shortly afterwards, as a new semester began, the Chaplaincy were again in the thick of things with a stall at the Refreshers’ Fair, an event aimed at encouraging students to re-engage, or engage for the first time, after the Christmas break.

The Chaplaincy also inputted to University Mental Health Day in March, offering singing by the University Choir in the Atrium. There is considerable research that supports the idea that singing is very good for your mental health.

Work with postgraduate research students has continued to evolve. Representation from the Chaplaincy was invited to their induction sessions, which happen several times a year and AD and AA contributed.

Ongoing work with International students happens at the Meeting Place at St Alkmund’s (BM) which large numbers attend. Also, some international students responded to the invitation to Christmas Lunch (AD).

Pastoral work also happens with specific groups of students. Tom Vause and Martin Farrell focus work with the Catholic students. TV is also Warden at Newman House, a Catholic residence for students. Muslim students have been well supported by AA; KM, Buddhist Faith Consultant, has fielded enquiries from Buddhist students. Jewish students, though very small in number, have access to a Faith Consultant, and there is also provision for Sikh, Hindu and Baha’i students.

The year has also seen a development in our use of social media. The Chaplaincy Facebook page became filled with new and interesting posts thanks to the efforts of GS and AA, which has enabled it to reach, sometimes, hundreds of viewers. AA has also been improving our website.

On a sadder theme, student deaths in the course of the year saw AD lead a memorial service, attend two student funerals to support students/staff, host a bereaved family following a funeral, and provide reflective space for students to remember a fellow student, a year after their death.

Obviously, since lockdown in late March, the scope of work has been limited, but chaplains have continued to support students via the phone and video links, as well as helping in practical ways with shopping and fetching prescriptions.


Pastoral support has continued to be offered with the usual pre-Covid range from hurried corridor conversations to those who drop by the Chaplaincy for an hour or more’s chat.

Since lock-down, we’ve kept in touch with a small number of “Chaplaincy regulars” via phone, email and video-calls, and gained one new one.


It’s been interesting to compare experiences in Leek, with the different set-up, with how things work in Buxton. There is always a steady trickle of students coming through the Leek Chaplaincy room, up to a dozen each morning, looking primarily not for support, or a chat with a Chaplain, but for space to relax and enjoy free refreshments. Some, in fact, request take-aways, but most stay for between ten and 40 minutes, usually before going on to their next class.

As there is only the one room, there’s a fine balance to be established between interacting with and getting to know them a little and giving them this space. Previously, the Synapse Chaplains could do this by talking among themselves; with a single Chaplain, turning to the computer gives the students at least a notional “privacy.” Some of the conversations certainly demonstrate that they feel no constraints! The facility is valued. Some of the visitors identify as “Chaplaincy students” and asked why it was closed for a time before Christmas.

The Chaplaincy continues to become established and recognised on the campus, and some staffing changes have helped with this. In the autumn term, for example, there was a referral from a counsellor for the first time.


Until March this year, Sue Wheeler (SW) was a weekly (Tuesday) presence in the Refectory at St Helena’s, enjoying many conversations, building relationships, and sharing a good healthy bit of banter! Often conversations have become opportunities for support or encouragement, and it is difficult to capture this sort of work in a statistic but every week there have been mutually rewarding encounters. SW has supported one student with ‘face to face’ catch-ups through the autumn, as she had a few issues settling in, and others whom she has interacted regularly with on social media, particularly when they are struggling with enduring mental health problems.

Social media has been an important communication channel because the community here is often dispersed, with students on placements and away from the building.

Since the lockdown in March, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, no-one has been in the building and social media has come into its own. SW loves being able to continue supporting, encouraging, and celebrating with students on Twitter.

She has also been proactive on Twitter putting out content relevant to specific events or situations.

As adjustments to the lockdown were made, SW reflected on the loss of “normal” and of how our reactions and feelings are like that of a bereavement; a lot of people found this helpful. She also proactively tweeted during Mental Health Awareness Week offering particular thoughts to the third-year students with unsaid goodbyes and an uncertain job market. Feedback on Twitter has included things like “Thanks so much!!! I feel a lot better now after not being so harsh on myself”, “You are so Kind” and “Thanks so much Sue, made me smile!!”

The Chaplaincy had a stand at the Freshers’ Fair in September and at which students were welcomed and were given contact details. SW also joined as many of the Student Union “Well Being” special events as was possible.

SW was involved with the pilot of “Break out” sessions designed to offer students a space to step away from study and to recharge by taking part in a 15-minute activity. She offered relaxation sessions. Overall, SW understood that these ‘break out’ sessions were not generally very well attended which could be for any number of reasons.

Pastoral work with staff


Contact with staff has been made via various routes. In addition to staff relationships formed through the ‘normal’ round of activities and meetings, there have been various staff specific endeavours.

The staff giveaways have again proved popular. Small chocolates (Fairtrade, of course!) were given to about 400 staff at Christmas (AD, DJ, RW). This simple activity, which involves walking around staff departments, has again proved to be an excellent means for connecting with staff on all sorts of levels, and is also greatly appreciated. Sadly, with the onset of Covid-19, the usual Easter giveaway didn’t happen, and for similar reasons, neither did the Eid giveaway, which AA introduced last year.

AD and AA have attended a number of the new staff induction sessions, over the past year in order to meet new staff; about 20-30 new staff attend each one.
Via AA, contact with Muslim staff also happened on matters relating to faith enquiries and personal and social issues, and this contact was maintained during the Covid 19 period.

KM has also developed the work of meditation with staff, including on-line provision during lockdown. The numbers are steady, with growing interest.


Our weekly call-out for Midweek Prayers seems to provide a useful mechanism for some staff to alert us to pastoral needs, even if there’s no intention to come to prayers. This continued during lockdown.

One sad feature of the lockdown period has been our inability to “properly” mark the departures of numerous staff. I’ve sent appreciative messages to all I’ve heard about but have presumably missed some.

Along with a dozen or so of others, the Chaplaincy took part in a successful audit of the Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism, meaning that it is indeed now an accredited Centre of Excellence.

Some of us also contributed to the “People of Faith and Belief Month” entries circulated among staff (and students).

As a member of the Buxton Parish Team, HB has twice taken the funerals of parents of staff members. In neither case had HB known the staff member beforehand; in one case, where her services were particularly appreciated, a new relationship has developed.

It’s also been good to participate in some of the morale-boosting initiatives that have been offered, such as the BLC virtual staff quizzes during the lockdown. These, and attending the BLC conference, tuning in to various sessions and reading the accompanying chat, have given me a new view of BLC. I’ve been impressed by the good spirit among the staff.


Chance encounters on site and Twitter interactions have offered the opportunity for pastoral support and one of the Lockdown proactive “Tweets” SW offered was to recognise the amazing work of the staff adjusting to online teaching.

At the end of October last year, SW started a Choir for Staff and Students and between nine and 12 participants met weekly on a Tuesday afternoon, culminating in singing carols in harmony for the Christmas Party event in December. Sadly the choir didn’t regain momentum after Christmas but SW felt that she had taken things as far as her limited skills would allow [surely not true! (Ed.)]

carol singing around a Christmas tree in Chesterfield

Work with University committees and departments


The Chaplaincy has maintained its good relationships with a number of departments, mostly in relation to student support, such as Student Wellbeing, the Union of Students, and the International Student Centre, as well as the Multi-Faith Centre (not a University department as such, but an integral part of the scene!). AD is a co-opted member of the MFC Trustees and is on its Planning and Development group.

Structurally, this has expressed itself through the Pastoral Services Committee. PSC is chaired by Jo Jones, Head of Student Services. During the year, PSC met twice, with its third meeting being transferred to September due to Covid 19.

Areas explored included Race and Religious Hate Crime; Lorraine Stokes from the MFC presented on this OPCC project which she is co-ordinating, and an Advance HE document on Religion and Belief, which is serving as a stimulus in regard to the implications of ‘Religion and Belief’ as a Protected Characteristic.
Following on from the above, AA has been liaising with the Academic Registrar and Head of Student Services in relation to the development of a Religious Observance Policy.

AD is also invited to the monthly Student Services Managers’ Meeting and members of the team are invited to the Student Services Conference.

AD and AA have attended SELTC (Student Experience and Learning and Teaching Committee) which draws together staff from a range of departments in order to improve the student experience.

AA sits on the University Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee; this helps to keep ‘faith and religion’ on the agenda. This year it has raised issues around student (and staff) needs with regard to Ramadan, and dietary issues, amongst other matters.

RW and AD have also been part of the University’s Incident Management Team.

RW sits on the University’s Environmental Management Committee.

It is also good to have a positive relationship with the University’s Chair of Governors, Stephen Smith, with whom AD meets twice yearly, and with the Chancellor of the University. Following last year’s visit to the Chaplaincy and MFC, Lord Burlington followed this up by meeting with our Muslim Chaplain.


The Chaplaincy continues to work closely with other Support Services, especially Wellbeing, the Union and the International Student Centre.

As usual, we planned a number of joint Support Services Dome events for the year and were able to deliver three before lockdown. For the first, for World Mental Health Day, despite our attempts to make our stalls interactive, there was hardly any student engagement, and none at all for three out of the four externals who attended. Perhaps this is simply not an enticing topic for most students?

By contrast, “Staying Safe at Christmas” was a great success – due entirely to the students who delivered it on our behalf, as an assessed event for their course. We assisted them rather than vice versa. Wonderfully refreshing! We hope this can become a regular arrangement.

“Feel Good”, on Shrove Tuesday, was sparsely attended by support services, but provided the opportunity for our main Fairtrade Fortnight events and attracted a good crowd of FE students, attracted by the Hoopla and the free pancakes.

Refreshers’ Fair in January went better than expected, providing a useful opportunity to stand and be seen on the Dome floor and catch up with various people.

A hastily convened Covid-19 meeting including all the Support Services just before lockdown has since been formalised into the Buxton Student Support Group, chaired by Precious Taylor from SAGE. Since the break-up of the Wellbeing Service in Buxton, the Chaplaincy has taken the facilitating role in preparations for Support Services online FE Induction 2020.


The idea is that all the joint Support Services campus-wide events put on in Buxton are replicated in Leek; however, in reality, this doesn’t happen. The Support Services are still largely Buxton-based, with staff making trips to Leek from there. It’s therefore harder to find a time when we can all commit to being in Leek together. There is also an issue around where to hold such events in Leek. The space around the entrance to the Gallery is really only big enough for three stalls.

While the topics for all the events can usefully be addressed by all the Support Services, the Chaplaincy has no choice sometimes but to ignore the topic in favour of delivering what is higher on its agenda. Unfortunately, this can lead to situations such as happened this year at Leek at “Feel Good”, when the Union stall, sticking more closely to the topic and offering free apples, was next to the Chaplaincy stall which was flagrantly offering a wide interpretation of the topic and offering free Fairtrade chocolate.

Fairtrade and other social justice issues


The University Fairtrade Steering Group, with strong Chaplaincy representation, met regularly throughout the year, and enabled the University of Derby to be accredited as a Fairtrade University, following a student-led audit. This makes Derby one of only 12 institutions to be so awarded under the new standards of the revised Fairtrade University and College Award in conjunction with the Fairtrade Foundation and National Union of Students. The new award structure encouraged partnership between sustainability, catering, staff and students to cover procurement, awareness raising and campaigning activities.

Among the Chaplaincy-led activities were the Fairtrade lunches, which had steady numbers throughout the year with between 15 and 20 students/staff/members of the general public attending, until lockdown saw their suspension in mid-March. Linking the lunch with the 'Get Real' Philosophy group (see Academic Engagement section), organized by DJ, again proved beneficial to all involved, but there remains scope for more students to engage with it. Plans to run it on-line from September onwards due to Covid 19 restrictions may serve to attract a wider audience.

Fairtrade Fortnight was marked with variety of events, and it was good to have increased involvement from students at committee and hands-on levels.

Activities included having the University Choir singing in the Atrium, featuring songs that include Fairtrade products (Yes, We Have No Bananas and The Teddy Bears' Picnic), alongside a FT stall aimed at engaging students and staff in discussion about the issues.

There was also a Chaplaincy-led FT stall for International Women's Day, focusing on the campaign 'She deserves…', which gave students and staff opportunities to send postcards to Government, urging it promote fair trading practices. 25 cards were signed and sent.

In response to Climate Change, KM, our Buddhist Faith Consultant, has been instrumental in developing an inter-faith group, engaging with the University and wider city groups, and a large range of events and activities happened in the autumn semester, with Chaplaincy support, under the heading 'changing minds and creating action'. These began with a conference during Freshers' Fortnight, with 80 people attending. This included contributors from the Islamic Foundation for Ecology, the University's Environmental Science Department and the local Extinction Rebellion Group.

A further event during Inter Faith Week, entitled Toward a Theology of Climate Change, included students from the Chaplaincy's newly launched Interfaith Buddies Group. This led to a project exploring faith-based writings on the theme of faith and climate, and supported by the Inter Faith Youth Trust. A booklet was produced with student contributions.

Among other social justice issues, the Chaplaincy supported 'The Movement' Event for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (AD) whilst AA supported the Ikhlas Centre in organising an event for Refugees.

The Chaplaincy (AD, AA) also attend the regular meeting of a Race and Religious Hate Crime Project of the OPCC (Office of Police and Crime Commissioner)


Work on the Fairtrade Committee's application to renew the University's Fairtrade status has been a major theme for the year, absorbing a significant amount of Chaplaincy time. The criteria have recently become much more stringent, and greater involvement from students as partners rather than just participants is expected. The Chaplaincy led the Buxton and Leek contribution. As well as the intrinsic value of this work, it has also offered opportunities to develop relationships with a wide range of staff and students, from the campus's Commercial Manager, Richard Greensmith and team, to the BLC Learner Journey Team, to the students in the Culinary Society who cooked for our Shrove Tuesday Fairtrade Pancake Party.

The Buxton Chaplaincy also covered a Fairtrade chocolate-tasting event in the Atrium at Derby, and a meeting with Derby DSRL (Derby Student Residences Ltd) students, who were interested in partnering with the FT Committee in the delivery of some events.

IK had good support from an FE student for the Buxton Fairtrade Fortnight activities, which were part of the joint Support Services "Feel Good" event in the Dome. Richard Greensmith had obtained a great selection of free FT samples from our regular FT suppliers, which helped to make our Fairtrade Hoopla stall very popular. Students could get a free FT hot drink in the Dome or Balcony Cafes in return for giving us their idea on how the University/College could better promote FT. As it was Pancake Day, we also gave out about 60 free pancakes with FT toppings. Following this, the Chaplaincy helped with the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Society's Pancake Party in the new Union Living Room.

When our success in gaining the Award, for both University and BLC, was announced, this boosted the Chaplaincy's profile with BLC. We featured in the press release, and also in a video made for the Festival of Learning about BLC's sustainability work.


Again, as part of a "Feel Good" joint Support Services session, IK ran a Fairtrade chocolate-tasting activity, which was very well received by staff and students.


On 25 February during Fairtrade Fortnight, the Chaplaincy (SW) set up a "stall" offering Fairtrade chocolate tasting and engaged students and staff with an interactive game whereby nine cards were presented, with different ways individuals could support Fairtrade. People were asked to place the cards in order with "I already do/Definitely could consider" at the top to "No Way!" at the bottom. It created lots of discussion and debate and raised awareness of the things that are unfairly traded and helped people to recognise they have choices when they shop.

Informative posters were displayed throughout the building, and tabletop cards were on the tables in the Refectory and upstairs seating area.

Chaplains at the Fairtrade stall at Kedleston Road

Festivals, celebrations and memorial services


As part of Inter-Faith Week, AD again worked with students from the SLLET course (Sound, Light and Live Events Technology) to project a series of images and words onto the outside of the Multi-Faith Centre. The theme ‘Pilgrimage’ included extracts from the main faith traditions represented at the University, as well as more generic ideas, and engaged good numbers.

The annual University Chaplaincy Carol Service in the Atrium took place in December, with the theme of ‘Reconciliation’. As in previous years, it was quite well attended with between 100 and 150 people, although the inclement weather saw a small fall in attendance. There were contributions from between 30 and 40 students, including the Team Derby Ravens Cheerleading Squad, and the established Staff/Student Choir, with members of the Chaplaincy team (AD, DJ, GS, BM) leading other aspects of the service.

Again, many thanks must go to students from SLLET for their support. A collection was taken, courtesy of the US Sport Teams, in support of the Nightshelter in Derby; Revd Julio Abraham, the CEO of Derby City Mission talked about its work with those sleeping rough in Derby. A good mixture of civic dignitaries were in attendance, and the University was represented by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kath Mitchell.

This year’s Cathedral Awards Service took place only once (the July event fell at the hands of Covid-19), in the week of the Awards Ceremonies in November. It was extremely well attended with over 200 gathered. Revd Dr Alan Flintham gave the address, the Vice-Chancellor spoke to student prizewinners, and undergraduate student Ed Merrick sang a solo. Sam Tanaka Chikowore, an undergraduate student, read from the Christian tradition and Raj Bali, the Hindu Faith Consultant read from the Hindu tradition; the University Choir also sang; Christian and Muslim students assisted in the prayers; the usual impressive array of student art work was on display; refreshments followed.

There was formal Chaplaincy representation (DJ, RW) at the Awards Day Ceremonies in November, plus behind the scenes Chaplaincy support (AD, GS). AD sits on the Awards Day Committee to input over the Cathedral Awards Service.

This year also saw an important milestone in that the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead approached the Chaplaincy about participation in a ‘People of Faith and Belief’ Month, akin to other already established monthly celebrations (Black History Month, LGBT+ Month).

AD and AA formed part of the planning group, alongside representation from SAGE and EDI. The month of May had been highlighted and so Covid 19 restricted what could be done, but it was decided to present a daily input, to both staff and students across the University, via regular online communications. This took the form of ‘thoughts for the day’ to ‘faith role models’. Content was invited from staff and students, and supplemented by input from the Chaplaincy team. This feels like an important initiative in that it is a clear statement that the University is willing to acknowledge and celebrate public expressions of faith and belief, recognizing that they form integral parts of people’s identity. Hopefully, if this can establish itself as a regular feature, there is the scope to do all sorts of creative activities around it.

In November, the Book of Remembrance Service, held in the Multi-Faith Centre, had its fifth outing. It remembered those in the University community who had died in 2019/20 academic year.

It was a short reflective service in which the names of the departed were read from the Book and those attending were given an opportunity to light candles. It was attended by about 20 people, a mixture of students and staff, plus the relatives of two bereaved families.

Also in November, AD was asked to deliver a short Act of Remembrance, to mark Remembrance Day, ahead of a US Charity Football Match.

In December, AD organised and led a Memorial Service for student who died suddenly and unexpectedly, with 50 attendees.

In May, the Holy Month of Ramadan and the celebration of Eid-al Fitr were marked on-line with messages from AA, via the Chaplaincy’s Facebook page.


BLC has now more or less taken over Remembrance Day in Buxton, but the Chaplaincy is still part of the planning group, ensuring that there continues to be some faith input. We also used our contacts to involve the local Royal British Legion and an ex-student bugler.

The Graduation Day Service returned this year to its normal venue, St Anne’s Church, and went well, with good student contributions. The same Leek Performing Arts student who sang at last year’s Graduation Service helped us out again this year. For the first time, we asked the organist at St Anne’s to play for us – there seems no good reason to invite someone up from Derby. She did a great job, and this arrangement proved to be much more convenient for rehearsing the singer etc. Fr Gerry secured us the services of Fr Eamonn Mulcahy, an excellent speaker in this context, his address earning a spontaneous round of applause from the congregation and an enquiry about whether he’d be likely to accept an invitation to Switzerland from our partner hotel school there.

The Carol Service followed the usual cycle of booking up students for contributions, who then drop out, leading to further bookings and a different end–product than the one originally planned! The “firsts” this year included Fairtrade mulled wine (made from cheap Fairtrade red wine, Fairtrade sugar etc), a movement piece by the Performing Arts students, a signed carol, and having a team of HE hospitality students assigned to the event as helpers.

Among other benefits, the latter meant that for the first time an on-the-spot evaluation of the event was carried out. Other highlights were an interview with a “Pathways” student about Amnesty International and a wonderfully frank interview with a member of “The Discussion” (see below) about what her faith meant to her at Christmas time. The choir of St Anne’s Catholic School were excellent and the head-teacher is keen to work with us again. It gave an opportunity for our Catholic Chaplain to develop her relationship with the school.

Steph Bennett, who has recently started the “Signs from the Peaks” signing choir in Buxton, has been teaching sign language to FE students as part of the Enrichment programme. The Carol Service provided a good opportunity for them to demonstrate their new knowledge. Some members of Steph’s choir were invited to support the students, and we removed the stage to accommodate a wheelchair user. Despite the knock-on effects in terms of visibility, we received some complimentary comments about the inclusivity of the service.

choristers singing

Worship, prayer and meditation


Opportunities for daily prayer within the Christian and Islamic traditions continued to be available, and the Quiet Space is maintained as a place for stillness & reflection.

In the Christian tradition, a simple form of Midday Prayer took place every weekday (with a few exceptions!) over the last year in the Quiet Space in the MFC. Numbers have been very small (ones or twos) but there is something about a regular praying presence on the campus that has real value. The fact that it is offered is what matters, not how many people come, though it is always good when others participate.

Student Catholic Mass (MB, TV) took place on Sunday evenings at St Mary’s in the city.

Buddhist Meditation was led on a regular basis by KM and, following increased publicity, attracted very good numbers of both staff and students.

Muslim Prayer happened collectively on a Friday, with good numbers during term time, and individuals use the prayer space during the day to fulfil their daily prayer commitments.

Yoga sessions were offered weekly by staff member Sian Davies-Vollum and were well attended by students and staff.


Midweek Prayers continued this year, with a very small but faithful attendance by staff and students. Our Ash Wednesday service was poorly attended, perhaps due to snow – always a potential hazard in Buxton.

Since lock-down, a weekly invitation has been sent to staff to join us, wherever they are, at 12.30 on Wednesdays, to pray for the University.


A small private room is available for prayer on the top floor with copies of different Holy Scriptures, soft seating and a prayer mat.

Work with student societies and groups


The Chaplaincy supported various societies in the course of the year. Links with the Christian Union have further developed. The Chaplaincy supported its ‘Real’ Week’ attending its events (GS), providing practical support for its ‘Café’ and room space for its morning prayer sessions. CU students joined a special FT lunch, and smaller numbers have also supported the weekly FT Lunches, all leading to a good connection with the Chaplaincy. BM is also in regular contact.

AA supported students to help them re-establish the Islamic Society, although it may require further support to give it stability. AA also developed links with the Law Society and Sikh Society.

Interfaith Buddies Group (AD, AA) was launched in October and has met weekly throughout the year, including on-line meetings following Covid-19. A small but very committed group (between three and six students at any one meeting) from Christian, Muslim and Sikh traditions gathered to listen to each other.

As the students became more confident, they suggested topics and led discussions, and a range of issues were discussed from ‘how we approach our scriptures?’, to ‘faith and the LGBT+ community’, to ‘how faith helps to support student life’ . The students also contributed individual articles to a published brochure on faith and climate change as well as having fun decorating an inter-faith Christmas tree which was then displayed at St John’s Church in the city as part of their Christmas Tree festival.

In response to an initiative from the Union of Students, and alongside the MFC, AD and AA provided two sessions of Religious Diversity training for representatives from student sports and social societies. This feels like a significant step forward as it shows the US are wanting to develop their awareness of faith and belief.


There are very few student societies now in Buxton.

The faith-based group “The Discussion” that began last year, has continued to meet this year up until lockdown, despite its founder and leader having moved on. Sadly, however, a natural new leader from within the group has not emerged, and nothing would have happened without our Catholic Lay Chaplain (YR) taking on the facilitating role. With the scattering of its members beyond Halls, where it started, ‘The Discussion’ now meets on campus in a room off the Library. It has moved from being a discussion of a topic, with reference to Scripture, into more Bible-study focused meetings.

It has had its bumpy moments, but it’s nevertheless hugely encouraging that the group is so valued by its members, and that it tackles big spiritual issues so seriously. It continues to resist being formalised into a Union society. YR has kept in touch with some members since lockdown.

The Fairtrade University Application, with its requirement that students be delivering Fairtrade events rather than just being on the receiving end, gave a prompt for the Chaplaincy to reach out to the Culinary Arts Society, who agreed to two Fairtrade events during the year, one food-based and the other beverage based. Sadly, changes in leadership led to a reduction in this impressive commitment; nevertheless the Society did, with Chaplaincy and Union support, put on a Shrove Tuesday Fairtrade Pancake afternoon in the Union’s new Living Room accommodation. One of their members, the Buxton Chair of Students, also spent a happy hour wandering the campus in the Fairtrade banana costume.


Due to the nature of the courses run at St Helena’s (requiring academic work alongside practical placements, possibly having a job to supplement income and often all while raising a family!!!) there is little if any free time for Student Societies on site.

Community building


In addition to various activities mentioned above, especially those built around food, which serve to build a sense of community, there have been other things that also help students and staff to cross boundaries and engage with one another and the wider community.

The University Choir is one such example, attracting staff and students from a variety of departments and disciplines, as well as some alumni. It re-grouped in September and met weekly throughout the year until the onset of Covid-19 in March. This continues to have a solid core of 20 to 30 staff/students, but with various other commitments, an average of fifteen attended each week. In addition to playing a key role in the Carol Service, and in the University Cathedral Service, the choir also sang in the Atrium for both Fairtrade Fortnight and University Mental Health Day. Thanks again go to Ed Turner, the Director, who continues to extract better sounds from us than might have been anticipated! Although considerable work is involved in maintaining the Choir, it enables members of the Chaplaincy team (DJ, AD) to engage with a wider group of staff and students, and is increasingly known throughout the University

AD also hosted a social evening at Flamsteed Court, the smallest of the Halls of Residence, and without a common room.

About 15 students attended and these occasions have helped to nurture a sense of community within the Hall.

In January, the Chaplaincy, in conjunction with the International Student Centre, hosted a social gathering of about 20 recently arrived international students.


Community building begins each year with inductions and welcome events. At Buxton, the FE students arrive first, followed by the HE students, usually two weeks later.

This year, another new format for FE students was tried. Both Leek and Buxton students, new and returning, all came to the Dome for an Induction Day, of which the Support Services induction was part. We were initially doubtful about the value of standing up in turn and addressing groups of 200 students, but we seemed to get away with it. One colleague on behalf of us all finished off the session with a Kahoot quiz, which was memorably and wildly popular with the students. Having them all together on that day certainly created a buzz.

During HE intake weekend, IK joined in with the activities put on at Halls by DSRL and Student Experience and met some of the new students. It was also valuable to get to know the Union PTOs better, and some useful contacts were made.

IK also gave the usual input into the Post-graduate inductions at Buxton.

We don’t know why only three students came to the Chaplaincy/Churches Together Welcome Lunch this year. In the past it’s always been on the Sunday of intake weekend, but now that so many activities are being put on by Halls and others, we held it two weeks later to avoid clashes. However, despite the small number of students, it turned into a good opportunity to get to know two key new church leaders in Buxton, the new Rector and the new youth worker at Trinity Church, whom we’d invited as guests. Nevertheless, there will be no further lunches.

This year, the HE term began an unprecedented three weeks later than the FE term. Usually, our annual Cake Extravaganza is targeted at FE students, but also marketed to HEs. We didn’t want to delay it too long after the beginning of FE term by waiting for the HEs to arrive, so we put it on just for the FEs, and were delighted that numbers weren’t affected at all – we had over 60 student guests. As usual, the LDD students did us proud with their freshly-baked Fairtrade cakes.

Freshers’ Fair suffered as it has done in recent years from small student numbers, but the Fairtrade chocolate fountain worked its magic at least on the FEs and it was great to have support with the stall from the Muslim Chaplain (AA).

Following welcome/induction events, the Chaplaincy continued its community building work with further regular events.

Fairtrade Tea in Halls continued to sometimes be a useful event for meeting students, but numbers have fluctuated wildly, from none to a dozen.

Just before lockdown, we transferred it to the Union’s new and lauded “Living Room” facility, as this would open it up to all HE students, not just Halls residents. Those who came to the first and only Tea in the Living Room were a completely different group to the Halls cluster, so it was worth doing.

The Union has now joined the Chaplaincy and International Centre in delivering a fortnightly Global Café. Logistics forced us into a less than ideal 5-7pm slot on a Thursday, but we thought we’d at least try it. Twelve students attended “Smoothie Party” and nine “Diwali Night,” with a great atmosphere at both, but clearly fewer students than we would have liked. We had an approach from the Chakra Lounge, a new Asian café in Buxton where one of our MA students, a Global Café keenie, works. He and his manager invited us to meet there regularly. We tried it out for the Diwali session, for which the manager most generously donated a box of Indian sweets. There were pros and cons. Just four students came to our Guy Fawkes night, and a dozen to the Christmas games night in Halls. The Global Café didn’t continue after Christmas.

Since lockdown, we have been trying to think of ways of building community through social media.


Induction for most Leek students actually took place at Buxton, as above. However, the Chaplaincy was also part of the separate induction for the relatively small number of HE students based at Leek.

This involved a twilight session in which we had a stall, along with others, in the Union room. However, there were only a handful of visitors. Apparently they are still experimenting with formats for this event.


SW has built a good relationship with “Community Chesterfield”- a partnership of the University of Derby with the Derbyshire Voluntary Action group and they have partnered with us in the Choir initiative.

Intellectual exchange and curriculum interaction


This has taken a variety of forms over the last year. DJ and RW, as members of the teaching staff, naturally bring a strong Chaplaincy presence into this field. AD has also been able to continue to develop already established contact with a number of different departments. This has included input into:

College of Health and Social Care

Input into Nursing curriculum on spirituality for District Nurses/Health Visitors/Occupational Therapists/School Nurses (40). One session on Silence in the Christian tradition to MA Dance Movement Therapy students (7), and one on Religious Literacy to Access students (20). AD

College of Life and Natural Sciences

Input to Global Development students on Fairtrade, plus explorations about dissertation projects on Fairtrade (AD).

College of Arts, Humanities and Education


Exhibition of student artwork in Derby Cathedral in November as part of the Awards Week celebrations (AD)


AD provided eight sessions on Literature and the Bible and has inputted into various lectures (one session on G.M. Hopkins poetry). DJ has also inputted material on Russia into the History department.


With MFC, provided a full day of Religious Diversity Training to 60 PGCE students, training for secondary education, which included a faith tour in Normanton. There was also input to about one hundred PGCE students, training for primary education, on Islam (AA) and Sikhi (Hardial Singh Dhillon and Anisha Johal).

AA was exploring opportunities for establishing a course around education and religious faith leadership with the Director of the Institute for Education, prior to the latter’s departure to a new post. It is hoped that there will be opportunities to revive this opportunity.

College of Engineering and Technology

Joint projects (University Carol Service and Inter-Faith Week projection – see elsewhere in the report) with students from SSLET(Sound, Light and Live Event Technology).

College of Business, Law and Social Sciences

AA delivered input to the Law School on countering radicalization, which was well received.


Videoed group discussion (AD, AA) on Religion and the Environment for Inter-Faith Week, with plans for more on-line work.

Each college has been pleased to have the contributions and are keen to develop the involvement in 2020/21.

Also important to mention is the weekly Get Real, the Philosophy group which DJ started about ten years ago. It includes both staff and students and continues to thrive, tackling a wide range of issues, taking place over the Fairtrade Lunch but which also continues on Facebook. In the course of discussion, all major areas of modern philosophy are visited.

Encounter, a new discussion group, also offered over the Fairtrade Lunch period, focused on the various life-changing ‘encounters’ with Jesus that are found throughout the Gospels and in other accounts in the New Testament.

Led by MF and TV, following an initiative from the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham, students were encouraged to participate and were free to enquire and contribute to the topic. The sessions began in late November and continued until March when the MFC had to close. Although take up was small, it was valued by those who engaged with it.


The Chaplaincy’s contributions to the FE Enrichment programme continue to be welcomed. AA was invited to feature in a “Cultural Encounter” workshop on Islam for a group of Health and Social Care/Childcare students in Buxton, and it was encouraging to be asked afterwards for copies of the materials we’d used.

IK ran two “Multi-Faith Workforce” workshops with childcare students, following which it was encouraging to be booked to deliver the same workshop, tailored to different curriculum areas, to all Level 3 Year 2 students, in a series of seven workshops across Buxton and Leek, at the end of March, which of course couldn’t happen.

This year the Christmas Club was a new Chaplaincy Enrichment initiative, running from autumn half term until Christmas, the idea being to help FE students discover a more meaningful Christmas. It transpired that all the students who came were “Pathways” students, accompanied by their tutors.

These are students who have been out of the education system for some time for various reasons. The tutors were delighted with how the students responded to the activities. They helped with our Christmas Foodbank Appeal and became very enthusiastic about writing to Prisoners of Conscience through Amnesty International’s Christmas Write for Rights campaign. One member of the group, not known for his confidence, nevertheless challenged himself to give a short presentation about it at the Carol Service.

It is more unusual for the Chaplaincy to contribute to the HE curriculum in Buxton. However, this year, wearing the Fairtrade hat, IK negotiated a table at a dissertation event where, before disappearing for the summer, second year students are required to wander around the tables in search of inspiration for their dissertations the following year. This obviously got cancelled this year, but we hope to renew our invitation for next year.


SW delivered one day of teaching this academic year, more in her capacity as a Public Health Specialist Nurse than a Chaplain, but it does afford her more contact with students and staff.

Relationships with local faith communities


The Chaplaincy and Faith Consultants team are rooted in their local faith communities, which contributes to the University’s connections with the city and wider county. Moreover, having such a rich spread of traditions within the team mean that there are many links between the Chaplaincy, and the wider Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish and Baha’i communities.

The Joint Churches Liaison Group met at its annual gathering at Carsington Water, this time in September, at which its annual report was presented and Chaplaincy teams had an opportunity to share with members from the supporting church communities, the highlights and struggles from the past the year.

The Chaplaincy has strong connections with Derby Cathedral, at which AD is based, and a new connection with Mickleover Methodist Church via GS, and with the local Catholic community via RW, TV and MF. There are also links with a variety of local ethnic minority groups via DJ (Eastern European Orthodox Christians), AA (Muslim community). In particular, AA’s developing connections at various mosques in Derby is making him a vital link between the Muslim community and the University, in which he delivered training alongside the MFC on Anti-Semitism, and Islamaphobia.

AD has also preached and represented the Chaplaincy in the following Derby churches: St Francis, Mackworth; St John’s, Derby; and the Bridge Chapel. And he regularly leads services for the Community of the Holy Name at Oakwood.

AD maintains the link with the Cathedral as one of its Chaplains. He preached on themes emerging from his work and contributed articles on the life of the Chaplaincy to Outlook, the Cathedral magazine, that was circulated throughout the diocese until the end of the year.


The Chaplaincy continued to develop its good working relationships with many of the churches in Buxton. HB’s membership of the Buxton Parish Team keeps us close to the Anglicans. St John’s, which sees itself as the “civic church” in Buxton, always asks for a Chaplaincy representative to do one of the readings at its “Nine Lessons and Carols” Service, along with the local MP and other dignitaries. HB represented us this year. YR likewise keeps us close to the Catholic community.

Churches Together in Buxton continues to be a supportive forum, always open to collaborative working, and as usual it supported our Welcome Lunch with gifts of home-made food.

Student Sunday, the time each year when we put out a University update and prayer requests for the churches, require the sharing of further information about the changes at the Dome.

Since IK was to start covering Leek in January, organising the third of the Chaplaincy/Churches Together annual events, the Public Lecture, usually put on in April, had to go. It was at least gratifying to hear at this point how much it had been valued. Given lockdown in March, nothing has been lost anyway and a great deal of time has been saved. The work of CTiBuxton has continued during lockdown and it was good to be able to attend a virtual meeting via Zoom.

The Buxton and Leek Churches Liaison Group held a sparsely attended meeting on a snowy day in January, where the forthcoming changes were discussed, and it was agreed that the Buxton and Leek CLG should continue meeting for the time being.

In lieu of its second planned meeting in May, cancelled due to lockdown, IK circulated an update and prayer requests.


Since the coming to an end of Synapse, the Memo of Understanding between Synapse and the Chaplaincy will be dissolved. This also brings to an end the Chaplaincy’s channel of communication with the Leek churches. This will be addressed next year, probably through the Chaplain approaching Churches Together in Leek.


SW attended several meetings of “The Chesterfield Interfaith Forum” and intends to continue to do so when they resume.

SW was also invited by Christians Together to speak about her Chaplaincy role at their annual Songs of Praise event in January.

Chaplaincy training and development

During the course of the year, the following chaplains attended and undertook the following training/developmental activities:









Concluding remarks

Finally a number of thanks need to be expressed:

Edited by Adam Dickens on behalf of the Derby Chaplaincy Team.
Edited by Ingrid Keith on behalf of the Buxton, Chesterfield, Leek Chaplaincy Teams.