For the newly appointed assistant chaplain, Reverend Sam Ferguson, working in St. Andrews feels like coming home in more ways than one. She began her journey as a chaplain here nearly 20 years ago working towards her Masters degree at St. Marys College of Divinity while her husband was stationed in Leuchars with the RAF. In the time since, she has held positions across Scotland from Aberdeen to Pittenweem. She looks forward to catching up with old friends and giving back to the community that brought her so much happiness.
She repeatedly expressed how excited she is about working with the University of St. Andrews, calling it her ideal dream job and telling me, “I love my job. I really do.”
The assistant chaplain is a wonderful addition to the university’s structure. Throughout my entire conversation with her, she was able to balance the seriousness her job demands of her with a bubbly outward personality. She also harped on some of the same struggles students have, insisting that despite her decades of experience in the field she still feels overwhelmed and is waiting for someone to realize that she, too, is not always sure about what to say next.
Sam is reassured by her faith, family and friends, and explained that she is rarely telling people anything they do not already know, “I’m there to tell them that they’re loved and we can help them if they don’t feel loved.”
Revd Ferguson seems energetic and excited about returning to the university’s dynamic atmosphere. The chaplaincy works closely with student services and provides an outlet for students when counselling is not available or as a faith-based alternative. One of her biggest concerns, she says, is that students are so overwhelmed that there is barely room for them to breathe and take a moment for mindfulness.
The reverend emphasized that community members seeking support do not need to be people of Christian faith or any faith at all. One of the chaplaincy’s key responsibilities is to signpost the community, directing helpful resources and guiding those in need of help. The assistant chaplain’s primary message to the public was simple and clear. “Come and see us, you’re not alone. You don’t need to have a faith.”
The chaplaincy is equipped with dozens of honorary chaplains of a wide variety of faiths. Sam did admonish that the university has not yet been able to connect with a Jedi chaplain despite her best efforts but assured me they will work on it.
The chaplaincy on the whole is passionate about supporting staff and students alike, noting that both groups carry the weight of academic and personal struggles and often lack a support system. And as Sam insightfully commented, “people don’t always want a parent to run to, but they do want someone just to run stuff by.”
When asked what role she sees herself playing in the future of these services, Revd Ferguson admitted she is still finding her footing at the University, though she plans to dive fully in next academic year. She is using this semester to see where there is a gap in the university community’s welfare and assessing the needs of these individuals. She has personally learnt the
importance of having good friends and making time for family to build a support system and is eager to give her advice to members of the University.
The only downside Revd Sam Ferguson could report about her new position: “Parking in St. Andrews is an absolute nightmare.”