Before I was a school chaplain, I was many things. The child of two teachers. The dysregulated ADHD kid. The bored student in religion class. The poor, scholarship boy at a parochial school. And the bullied one with glasses in an era before Harry Potter magically made them fashionable and cool.
Since the age of five, I can remember telling people I wanted to be one of three things: a teacher, a paramedic, or a priest. Since becoming a chaplain, I honestly can say that I’m all three. The joys of school life, and the wrestling with what my schooling often was not, means that a sense of vulnerability always sits close at hand when embracing this rich and exciting ministry.
There were amazing experiences of school along the way too. Mr. Griffith, my 6th-grade teacher, saw right through the hyperactivity and into my complex family history, channeling all my energy into the track team where I was able to flourish. Ms. Iszlaub, too, with her embrace of a multiplicity of musical styles, who even turned up to my wedding years later.
I guess then, you could say, that I didn’t find chaplaincy. It found me. This is, of course, to be completely unfair to the Holy Spirit, who knew what was going on with my call, long before I did!
School Chaplaincy formally began, then, during seminary years. From that public elementary school in Australia’s capital, Chaplaincy has literally taken me across the seas, to an independent Episcopal School in the middle of the Pacific.
So, mahalo nui loa–thank you very much–to my teachers, and to students, past and present, who continue to teach me not just what it is to be many things; but also and always to embrace oneself as a unique child of God.
The Rev. Christopher P.J. Golding is Chaplain at Seabury Hall in Makawao, HI.