Matt Bodinham leads the Chaplaincy programme at the Marlborough Church of England School serving young people in Woodstock and the surrounding villages.
In 2021, St Mary Magdalene, Woodstock, received a grant from the Development Fund to extend the hours of the existing town-based youth worker to provide Chaplaincy in the local secondary school.
Since the project began, the Chaplaincy has grown through outreach work in the school, engaging with the school Support Bases and Student Services, building relationships with staff and students, and supporting with school with Religious Education programmes and assemblies.
Matt has a dedicated chaplaincy room where he can offer a quiet, safe and welcoming space for young people to ask questions, get support and help them feel heard and valued:
“Both students and staff have been overwhelmingly positive about the chaplaincy and students have shared how much they value having an inviting, welcoming, and safe space to talk about, and process what they are going through. It is a privilege to be here to support and guide these young people, nothing has had more fruit in the chaplaincy role than the simple act of being available; whether for riotous laughing, uncontrollable sobbing, and anything in-between!”
In early 2022, the team launched a new whole school faith exploration group for students in the sixth form, called ‘ReTold’. The group had a slow start with only the volunteer students attending for the first few weeks, but the group has grown to more than 20 students with those with no faith background making up the majority of the group. Meeting each Friday lunchtime, they discuss and explore different elements of faith together.
Matt shares more about some of the projects he has been working on this year:
“Within the school, there has been increased movement towards becoming a more contemplative community as a result of the chaplaincy work, particularly through the creation dedicated prayer and reflection spaces. We have been able to provide times of whole-school reflection, using outdoor space as a means of having a dedicated space to reflect on the situation in Ukraine as well as hosting a prayer space in a classroom for an entire week. As a result, there was a significant increase in the number of students who have been accessing the space during breaks and lunches, which is a really encouraging sign of the relational impact the chaplaincy is having.”
The chaplaincy work has not only involved the school, Matt has also rekindled connections with local churches. Visits by various year groups to the churches in the town, including a visit to St Mary Magdalene by a group of year seven’s to experience the church service for the World Day of Prayer.
There are plans to expand the chaplaincy service to the local primary schools and establish a strong presence of faith in the lives of children and young people throughout their primary and secondary school time.
Hear more about the Chaplaincy work from Matt in this video.
The Development Fund
The Development Fund is open to all parishes and benefices in the Diocese of Oxford and especially those with limited financial resources to invest in missional activity. Find out more and apply via the Development Fund page of our website.