Calgary Christian School has hired its first chaplain in the school’s 50-year history. The question everyone seems to be asking is, “Why would a Christian school need a chaplain?”
In most states and provinces, Christian education happens in private, independent schools. In Alberta, however, schools like Calgary Christian School (CCS) are part of a public school system. “Here we have a public/private collaboration,” explained Ken DeWyn, executive director of CCS. “We happen to be a public school that distinguishes itself as an ‘alternative’ to the traditional public school. Our differentiating feature is the integration of the Christian faith. Other alternative schools might be based on sports, language, or the arts, but we are dedicated to understanding and living out our faith in every subject, discipline, activity, and moment.” CCS opened its doors in 1963 and joined Palliser Regional Schools approximately six years ago. The school has 420 high school students and 425 attending kindergarten to grade 6.
“There had been a desire over the last few years,” DeWyn explained further, “to augment staff with additional support to help with weekly chapels and other areas of faith development. We realized that if we were to intentionally shape the student experience at CCS as a definitively transformational Christian experience, it meant a more holistic approach was needed. We agreed that a robust chaplaincy would be effective in actively defining and directing that effort.”
Jason Kupery, principal of Calgary Christian High School, cited a heavy teacher workload as one reason for hiring a chaplain. “Educational demands and high expectations, coupled with reductions in prep time and a growing student population, have created heavy expectations for our staff. Hiring a chaplain has alleviated the strain of that burden and allowed for a fresh perspective on our foundational faith programs such as peer advisory groups, Bible programs, and chapels. The chaplain will also be a sounding board for students who are struggling with or need support in their faith. The school environment moves at such an incredible pace and in the midst of the noise, we need a calm, understanding, and wise voice to support our students.”
That voice is embodied in Layne Kilbreath, a minister in the Christian Reformed Church, who himself graduated from CCS in 1999. The Lantern CRC in Calgary has called him to serve in this capacity.
“In the few weeks I've been on the job,” says Kilbreath, “I can see that the school is running at light speed—I pray my presence will help people see and respond to God’s light in the busyness of everyday life. Overall though, my huge goal is to be a friend on the journey, a safe person for students to be real with as we wrestle with what it means to be faithful to Jesus in our world today.”