What is a chaplain?

As one student put it, a chaplain is a "portable pastor." Originally, "chaplain" referred to representatives of the Christian faith, but is now a widely used and accepted term to refer to men and women who represent other religions or philosophical traditions.

Chaplains are usually (but not always) ordained in a religious or spiritual tradition and work within a certain group or community without necessarily being attached to a church. They can be found in a multitude of places, such as hospitals, the armed forces, universities, and various other settings. The role of a chaplain varies depending on the community to which they belong.

Chaplains generally have a professional graduate degree beyond a basic baccalaureate. To become part of the Chaplains' Association, members are expected to fulfill the conditions required by their religious body, whether this be ordination or its equivalent through education or training. 

Who are the chaplains?

The current membership includes Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Bahá'í representation. Among Christian denominations you will find representatives from the Anglican, Baptist, Brethren Tradition, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United Churches.

What do the chaplains do?

The main function of the chaplains is to help members of the UBC community to engage with their spirituality and faith. The details of each of the chaplains' work are slightly different depending on the faith community that they serve. Most chaplains offer one-on-one pastoral/spiritual counselling and opportunities to engage in exploring in the faith tradition they represent. Most of the chaplains have student groups that include some combination of fellowship groups, meals, worship, faith exploration and training/study in the traditions of their own faith. These groups are a good way to explore some of the 'big questions' of life, as well as just have some fun and get to know your peers.

Besides serving their own faith communities, chaplains cooperate on several fronts. They participate in international student orientations, Imagine UBC, the Wellness Fair, and Convocation. Chaplains participate in special programs, as well as occasionally sponsor workshops and lectures, film festivals, and art displays. They also sometimes partner with others on campus to develop many programs on social and ethical issues.

Where do chaplains fit into UBC?

Opportunities for religious observance are available under the guidance of Chaplains representing a variety of faiths. Chaplains are an important spiritual resource for students, but they are not UBC employees and are completely separate and independent from UBC. They are accountable to and financially supported by their own religious constituencies, and they do not act under the direction or authority of UBC.

Where can you find a chaplain?

The Chaplains' office is in Brock Hall room 1262, but most chaplains also have other spaces they use. If you are looking for a particular faith tradition, the contact information for each chaplain can be found on their individual pages. If you are looking for more general information (or aren't sure which chaplain offers what you're looking for), you are welcome to contact the Coordinating Chaplain, Craig O'Brien.

In addition to contacting the chaplains directly, you can find them on campus in a student residence near you. Each week, chaplains are available to help you develop your spirituality and give some thoughts on faith issues. Drop by one of the Chaplains in Rez booths for information on what's happening in the various spiritual communities on campus, to check out the interactive theme for the week, and to find contact information for any of the chaplains serving you at UBC.

  • Walter Gage – Mondays  5:00 to 7:00 pm
  • Place Vanier – Tuesdays  5:00 to 7:00 pm
  • Totem Park – Wednesdays  4:30 to 6:30 pm
  • Irving K. Barber Learning Centre - Tuesdays  11:30am-1:30pm.

Mission statement

The Chaplains' Association seeks to serve the University community. The chaplains appreciate and share many of the University's aims, including a commitment to truth in research, the education of the whole person, and excellence in the development of skills for the service of humankind.

The chaplains develop many social and ethical programs. They are available to participate in formal occasions in the life of the university, such as memorial services and other special services of worship. In keeping with the various traditions, religious services and "open door" counselling are provided on a regular basis.

The Chaplains' Association, constituted by chaplains from various denominations and religious groups, exists:

  • To assist all individuals within the university community in recognizing and enhancing the spiritual dimension of their lives.
  • To encourage independent and critical thinking on moral and ethical issues, and to nurture personal faith development.
  • To promote awareness of the moral and ethical dimensions of corporate decision-making in the life of the University.
  • To facilitate inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue that will contribute to wholesome relationships, unity and understanding on the campus, while respecting the distinct and unique teachings of the diverse religious traditions.
  • To provide opportunity for the practice of faith through private and public prayer, meditation and the living out of our religious traditions individually and as communities.
  • To be available in times of special opportunity, or need, to counsel or to refer, as well as to give support and encouragement during times of trauma, indecision or other difficulties.
  • To nurture community, intimacy and wholesome interpersonal relationships within the context of a large institution.
  • To reach out in service to UBC, Vancouver, and the larger world and to encourage service by others in the community.