Simeon Hayns and Seirian Watkins (affectionately known as Sim and Sei) are the first Chaplaincy Interns that St David’s has welcomed into the new Chaplaincy Team, run by Revd Tim Hall and Beki Grey. In a year like no other, they have already made a huge difference to the Christian pastoral care that is an essential cog in our extensive pastoral care programme. Sim, an Old Davidean and Sei, who was due to take a gap year in Australia last year (thankfully for us, kiboshed by Covid), talk about their extraordinary experiences this year in the St David’s Chaplaincy.
What compelled you to come to St David’s?
Sim: While looking for a job as my next step, I reached out to Tim Hall and St David’s to see if there were any Residential Assistant jobs available. Tim explained his hopes to initiate a Chaplaincy Intern Programme. As soon as he described the job, I knew it was perfect for me. Life is about challenges and I knew I needed to take the leap. Returning to my old school as a member of staff would be tricky but I was keen to make it work and to spread the Gospel in a good way by connecting with people. And of course, as so many people are, I am passionate about St David’s.
Sei: I really believe the way I got here was through God. While the position was suggested to me by Mrs Mulvihill, it was the nature of the pastoral provision that got my attention. I had never heard of a school that provided Christian nurture in a pastoral way or of a whole centre within a school that offered it. I wanted to be a part of it.
Seirian Watkins - Chaplaincy Intern
What were your expectations, aims and goals?
Sim: I knew it would be challenging and very different to being a pupil. While there are memories of my school days around every corner, my friends have all moved on, so it was a bit strange, to begin with. But my aim was to gain Chaplaincy and pastoral experience, helping others through God with emotional problems and continuing a family tradition (my mum is a Chaplain.) I am dyslexic and can identify and understand the barriers to learning that some pupils experience. I wanted to show the kids a way of bringing out their passions – that you can do something you’re good at. Music helps me to overcome difficulties with speech and language as I can say what I want to say through songwriting.
Sei: I thought I was coming into something with a structure and that there would be things like Bible study and group meetings at certain times. I soon learnt that we are here for when the pupils need us and that’s far more beautiful than going by a routine or timetable. We have been here when we needed to be and it’s much more fulfilling in that way. I also wanted to give as much time as possible. We recognise the importance of consistency in a child’s life and Sim and I are here if needed – even if the time is voluntary.
What have you gained from your experiences so far?
Sim: I have become much stronger mentally, have learnt to filter information and to take information in patiently. You very much have to learn to listen in this job. In my boarding responsibilities, I have developed confidence in my own voice and I am listened to by the House Parents in situations where another perspective is needed. I’ve developed my music and shared it in Chapel services. It’s been the biggest year of my life so far and so good for me personally.
Sei: It’s also been the biggest year of my life. Like Sim, I have also become more confident. I did worry how it would work, being only 19, and only slightly older than some of the students. Beki assured me that I would grow into the role quickly and she was right – one day I turned around and naturally diffused a situation between pupils because they listened to me in a respectful way. I’ve learnt adaptability and also (again from Beki) that nothing has to be 100% perfect. 80% is good and trying to achieve the extra 20% can burn you out. The kids will see your efforts as 100% and you will be more positive and energised because of it.
Simeon Hayns - Chaplaincy Intern
Is pastoral care in the boarding houses different to pastoral care within the Chaplaincy?
Sim: My pastoral role within the boarding house is to notice the quieter boarders who may be left out or who are struggling emotionally. I try to offer caring, emotional support. I can sense when someone is feeling a bit down and I know what boarding can be like – the emotional ups and downs. No one is happy all the time, but it is important to be there to help lift spirits if anyone needs to chat. It can take time for the kids to fully understand your role but once they understand that you’re there to look after them, they start to open up. It’s all about connecting through faith.
Sei: In Chaplaincy, you can so easily get to the heart of the matter through truth, the Bible and God’s teaching. The Chaplaincy is ‘Christ in words.’ In the boarding house, that approach would be too intense and so it's more of a case of ‘Christ in action and love’. In other words, demonstrating God’s kindness and compassion. Boarders respond to you because practising God’s will allows them to see the level of care for them and it helps them to open up and trust without ever putting pressure on them to discuss faith and belief.
What initiatives have you started that weren’t there before?
Sei: The Chapel Walks are something that we have loved to develop. The brilliant thing is that they are individual initiatives tailored for each year group. We have really enjoyed working out what different aged students respond to the best. For students in the purple bubble (years 5, 6 and 7), they prefer storytelling to walking. I will choose a story every week and after reading it to them, we talk about the message.
Sim: Our music has also changed the atmosphere both in the Chaplaincy and in Chapel. I think it helps us to connect to the students and in a gentle way.
Sei: Singing is always a great way to connect.
Sim: When I was a student, the Chaplain was Mr Hall but there was no centre or Chaplaincy team. I feel very privileged to be part of this new approach as the Chaplaincy Centre is a place for people to come if they want to. Equally, kids who struggle with anxiety or stress can come and talk to someone and have the space to talk.
Sei: That’s it - The space is here and open when you need it.
Sim: Especially in boarding as the pupils are here all the time. Our aim as Chaplaincy Interns is to help nurture a safe environment that offers additional support to the amazing pastoral care that St David’s already offers.
Sei: Absolutely. To think that we are making a difference is a wonderful gift.
Sim: I agree. The role is a gift for me. It came out of nowhere and I hope to continue to make the most of it.