Learning Journal 6 - Community Placement
When I arrived at Lazarus house this week I met two of the other support workers, A and D. Neither of them were expecting me or knew anything about my placement. When they discovered I was a ‘trainee vicar’ they were keen to stress that volunteers were not supposed to talk about ‘spiritual’ matters with the residents unless they themselves bring them up. The ethos of the houses is that, although they are run by a Christian organisation, and most of the staff and volunteers are Christian, there is to be no expectation of the residents to follow a particular spiritual path. Indeed, one of the residents is a Muslim. If the resident asks questions or expresses an interest in Christianity then we may share our own beliefs with them but it must be initiated by them. I reassured them that I had no intention of giving my views where they were not requested. I will play things very low key, just chat to the residents and get to know them and help out around the house in any practical ways that I can.
I spent a good part of the afternoon in the garden chatting to some of the residents. Of course, one of the first questions they asked me was why I was doing a placement here. I explained that it was part of my course. ‘What course are you doing?’ they asked. ‘er.. theology.’ I replied. ‘Oh, so you’re going to be a priest then?’, ‘er..yeah.’ So much for being low-key! One of them explained how he had been going to church, but he wasn’t quite sure about Jesus and all that stuff. He did, however believe in some kind of higher power, which had helped him through the 12-step programme. We had a very open conversation about church and reading the bible. They seemed quite happy to chat about such things. I am learning the importance of when it is and isn’t appropriate to speak about faith.