Student Group Feature: Peer Chaplains

Ben Stumpf

The Peer Chaplains are a relatively new group on campus. They’ve been active for two years and the group consists entirely of students, under the domain of Hampshire Spiritual Life.

Sunday night at 7:00, I walked down to Enfield and into the Wellness Center to meet with Jacob Prescott and Olivia Wargo and to learn about Hampshire’s Peer Chaplains, the work they do, and perhaps clear up any misconceptions about what they call a “ministry of presence.”

The major misconception surrounding the Peer Chaplains is that they are a religious group. “People hear ‘chaplain’ and think religion,” Jake said, “but what we do is not even necessarily spiritual.” The work of the Peer Chaplains is to provide “non-judgemental active listening” which, while manifesting differently with each student-to-student chaplaincy session, really means that the role of the Chaplains is to provide a listening presence. “We are a resource for students who need to talk, and want to with another student,” Olivia explained, “It’s about peers caring for peers.”

The Peer Chaplaincy is not therapy, although getting a recommendation from the Peer Chaplains to Hampshire Counseling Services will get you an appointment the next day. Rather than being trained to give advice, the Peer Chaplains are trained to actively listen and hold space for, as they put it, “open communication and radical acceptance.” The Chaplains follow strict ethical guidelines: they won’t see personal friends and they avoid socializing with students they’ve spoken to unless invited by the student. And unlike the nebulous levels of confidentially among staff, RA’s, and the Wellness Center, Peer Chaplains operate under complete confidentiality between the students and the chaplains. They do not have a mandatory reporting rule, and unlike the Wellness Center staff, do not report or collect statistical data. In the isolating place Hampshire can be, they are an incredible resource.

The Peer Chaplains offer drop-in hours in the Wellness Center from 6-8pm on Sundays through Thursdays, and be reached at 413.313.6500 7-10pm on Sundays.

You can also schedule an appointment at : https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1aE54pESEFyWsc8u4NIPCsVyDSMwslMLL63Y9AGwQ8lU/viewform

Trainings are offered every year and any students interested in becoming a Peer Chaplain can contact Liza Neal of Hampshire Spiritual Life at lmnSA@hampshire.edu.

For more information:

https://www.hampshire.edu/spiritual-life/peer-chaplaincy-program

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