Unheard Oxford: Megan Daffern, chaplain at Jesus

Another view on the dreaming spires. This week, Alex Walker talks to Megan Daffern about inter-faith work and college community

I studied classics at Exeter College. After that I had a year in West Bromwich where I was working in a Church, because I’d started to discern a vocation towards ordination while I was an undergraduate, which surprised me and my family, me more than my family I suspect. I went back to Exeter as a part time D-Phil student and a year later I needed to find another job. The job at Jesus came up and I went for it and that’s that really.

I think obviously the name of the college is quite fun, from a chaplain’s point of view. The jokes never dry up. It’s great fun being at the boathouse and being able to shout about Jesus. There’s lots of scope for humour.

I think that it has become more pressured since I was an undergraduate. I was the first year of undergraduates who had to pay fees – it was gutting! Of course they were much lower then so I am really aware that there are more pressures on students these days, partly because they’re aware how much it’s costing.

I’m here to run the things in chapel and I’m here to be a hopefully good presence in the college. So I try to make myself available to talk to students, from all faiths or none, from all backgrounds, all cultures: everyone. I like chatting with students and I like having coffees with them, as you may have noticed. And equally it’s about trying to build community: welcoming new people, building relationships, letting them know there’s someone out there who cares. So I don’t go round proselytising or anything. I do what I do because of my faith but I think people generally can trust me and come and talk to me, and I’m not going to start talking about God things – unless they want me to.

A lot of people from other faiths use the chapel as well. We have Hanukkah in there as well, that’s always nice. I know that some of our Muslim students feel content to go and use it as a quiet space. It’s a space that’s prayed in. And there’s going to be more scope for interfaith work in the future. I think there’s a real thirst for that in the college. I’m going to be thinking about events which can promote interfaith dialogue, and understanding and valuing of different faiths. I think at the present time in the world, in society, actually, that’s really important. How wonderful that we have the opportunity to do that in a safe context here; where we can really learn to value other traditions, other faiths, and none. It’s an opportunity to learn in a really unthreatening way and to have decent conversations.