Sussex says farewell to University Chaplain
The University Chaplain is leaving Sussex at the end of the autumn term – and heading off to the Channel Islands.
The Revd Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden, who since 1989 has been University Chaplain and an academic in the English department, is taking early retirement so that he can write - specifically to finish his book on Metaphysics and Modernity.
He is to become vicar of the parish of Gouray St Martin, on the island of Jersey. Gavin explains: “I won't get paid, but in return for living there I will look after the church, which is too poor to support a parish priest, a couple of days a week. For the rest of the time, I will write.”
The Chaplaincy provides pastoral and spiritual support for students and staff of all faiths and none.
Gavin says of his two decades and more at Sussex: “I have enjoyed helping to create communities of faith and exploration in the Meeting House.
“I have loved being part of the intellectual community of scholars. I've enjoyed teaching, writing, arguing, levering open people's minds and soothing their hearts; I've hated marking.
“And I have felt the privilege of being part of the journey of students, staff and faculty at some critical junctures in life.
“Sussex has been a mixture of my place of work, my community and my place of belonging, so I feel very deeply about it both as an institution and the people who comprise the institution.”
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, says: “I would like to thank Gavin for his many years of service to Sussex, his breadth of engagement across the University, and his commitment to the promotion of inter-faith respect and collaboration.”
Professor Alasdair Smith has been at Sussex since 1981 and was Vice-Chancellor from 1998-2007. He says: “Gavin has been a central figure in the life of the University for many years, and when I was Vice-Chancellor I developed a great admiration for his qualities.
“I have particularly strong and warm memories of the extraordinary skill with which he conducted funeral and memorial services. He made these into valued occasions to recognise the diversity and solidarity of the University community, as well as to celebrate the lives and contributions of our colleagues and friends.”
If you would like to contribute your own reflections on the work of the Chaplaincy during Gavin’s time, or if you would like to join others in saying goodbye to him at a leaving event in the Meeting House on 11 December, E Janine Thorogood: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gavin was the first Anglican priest in the role of Chaplain at Sussex and only the fourth individual to hold the role since the University’s foundation in 1961. The first was a Baptist minister, Daniel Jenkins; his successor was a Presbyterian, Duncan Forrester; Colin Thompson, a minister of the United Reformed Church, followed him.
The University is about to enter into discussions with the various Christian denominations about the Chaplaincy at Sussex after Gavin’s departure.