Being alongside the St James Schools community – Chaplain, Revd Canon Dr Rob Marshall
March 8, 2024

Being alongside the St James Schools community – Chaplain, Revd Canon Dr Rob Marshall

My association with St James Schools started just before the new millennium when the Prep School was located across the road from St Augustine’s Queen’s Gate in Kensington where I was parish priest. 

I have continued to serve the three schools as School Chaplain alongside my other work and ministry ever since.

The Collins dictionary defines the role of a chaplain as “a member of the clergy who does religious work in a place such as a hospital, school, prison, or in the armed forces.”

As Chaplain to St James Schools, I see it more as being alongside– as a friend, a support, someone people can hopefully rely on – as well as praying for and supporting pastorally all staff and pupils.

St James has a philosophical foundation drawing on sources from eastern and western wisdom. But it inevitably wrestles with big theological truths too: love, light, goodness, strength. The aim is to give the best start to life for all its pupils.

I have been asked questions about this many times. A regular one is “Why does a school with such strong philosophical foundations take the name of a well-known Christian saint who was the author of the New Testament Letter of James?” Another is “what about the famous scallop shell associated with another St James (the Great) who attracts thousands of pilgrims every year on the Camino route to Santiago de Compostella where his remains are said to be buried?” ( See )

The author of the fascinatingly challenging New Testament Letter of James is believed to be James “the brother of the Lord”. He eventually became Bishop of Jerusalem before being martyred at the hands of Annas the High Priest. He was deeply spiritual, open, practical and honest.

In 1975, those who founded St James were so taken by the teaching contained in James’ letter, they named the schools after him. They celebrated the King James Bible and embraced the simplicity of the teaching the Lord’s Prayer as a fine guide to modern living. You did not need to be a Christian to appreciate the wisdom here.

St James wrote that faith without action is dead (means nothing) and that we should be true to the words we speak. This dovetailed perfectly with the philosophical framework undergirding the day-to-day life of the then new schools.

The schools have always welcomed people of all faiths and none. That is my starting point as School Chaplain.

People visiting the schools, whether staff, pupils or visitors, always note the sense of calm reflection and acceptance of others. In a world of constant noise and friction, a pupil of St James is urged to focus on the inner self which is common in many faiths including Christianity.

At the start of every academic year, I always look forward to what lies ahead. A series of regular assemblies each term forms the backdrop to a series of special events including a beginning of year service for all schools, harvest, remembrance, Christmas, Easter and leavers’ services.

The pupils are encouraged to face daily living by reflecting philosophically on why the teaching of St James the brother of Jesus is still relevant for today. My own theological reflection on the same has helped me enormously in this role.

It is a great honour to serve St James Schools. The Prep School pupils never fail to brighten my day. The Senior Boys and Girls are mainly eager to chat and talk about a wide range of things from sport to media and a whole range of things in-between.

I hope all at St James feel that I am a person they can talk to, and some seek me out to do that. I am always encouraged by how articulate many of the pupils are in expressing themselves to others.

The staff are also so welcoming and accommodating.

For sure, as St James says, we need to be true to the words we speak. And we need to do what we can to make the world a better place by reflecting on the eternal truths in a world in which so much is transitory.

Fr Rob 

The Revd Canon Dr Rob Marshall 

Chaplain, St James Schools