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Your wellbeing: what happens at the Meeting House?

Revd Chris McDermott, Lead Chaplain for the University of Sussex.

Twice a year the chaplaincy team hosts an informal ‘Chaplains’ Welcome’ for new undergraduate and postgraduate students to the University of Sussex, featuring pizza, snacks and drinks.

At one of these recent welcome events a group of students tentatively approached the entrance to the Quiet Room, where food and drink were laid out. Cautiously one of the group asked: "Do we have to go to church or something to get some food and drink?" Hopefully you can guess the answer to that query, but just in case there are doubts: "No, of course not!"

Behind the question, I suspect, was a not uncommon assumption that the Meeting House is mainly a religious building and chaplains are there to push religion and trawl for potential converts and punters. Many people – students and staff – walk by the building without ever entering it during their time at Sussex. Some, on the other hand, find its resources, charms and beauty late in the day and are pleasantly surprised by the discovery.

Self-indulgently, perhaps, I would like to use this article to offer the Meeting House and the chaplaincy as a wellbeing resource, alongside others on campus that are available for everyone, whether or not they subscribe to a religious belief.

As regards the latter, the chaplaincy team certainly represent a range of faith traditions – Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, etc. But each chaplain, regardless of religious affiliation, regards themselves as available for the whole campus community. (Most of the people who come to my office have no interest in religion as such, but do come needing a listening ear or support of a ‘non-religious’ kind.)

We are there to support people when there has been a loss, often working with colleagues in Student Experience, schools and other constituencies to create a space for expression of grief, sharing memories and celebrating friends or colleagues who have passed away.

We routinely host a range of activity focused on supporting physical, emotional and mental wellbeing: several mindfulness sessions a week; ‘experiment with light’ meditation, focused on problem solving; meditative exercises based on ‘focusing’, a therapeutic model; and a regular pattern of yoga classes. All of the above are open to anyone and everyone who thinks they might benefit from such practices.

The space is also made available to the Students' Union to run drop-ins and other services for students. It is a venue where One World is celebrated in various ways. It is the place to come to on the first Wednesday of each month during term time for a free brunch, with a menu that varies from month to month. In conjunction with the Student Life Centre and the International Student Support team, we also support students who have hit a temporary blip with regards to finances, especially when it affects their ability to buy food.

Dedicated spaces for study and quiet or for socialising, with facilities to make hot drinks and microwave food, are also a part of what the Meeting House offers the campus.

And, if you have not done so already, once the construction work currently underway upstairs is completed – hopefully by the end of March – visit the upstairs chapel area on a morning or later in the afternoon, and be bowled over by the exquisitely magical dance of colour as the sunlight pours through the multicoloured glass windows.

Whether you want to just talk to someone – or want to know of another resource within Student Experience or the University that can help, or simply want a place to chill, chat with friends and enjoy lunch between lectures or other commitments at Sussex – we are ‘here for you’.

Perhaps during Wellbeing Week, taking place from Thursday 7 to Wednesday 13 March, you may wish to take advantage of the well of wellbeing resources noted above here at the Meeting House.

By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 8 March 2019