1. Can you tell us about yourself and your role as Roman Catholic Chaplain?
I’m Fr John Dickson and I have been Roman Catholic Chaplain for more than 10 years. I’m a Scot but was born in Iran, or Persia as it was called in those days. I love the international make up of our students at staff at Royal Holloway. Meeting students and staff from so many cultures and backgrounds has been a very enriching experience. One of my roles is to support Catholic Students and this usually involves making friends with students from a vast array of nationalities and cultures, for instance, our current committee is made up of students from Thailand, India, Italy (but lives in Northern Ireland) and England (with Irish family). We also have students from Poland, Ukraine, Latvia and India attending our services and events.
One of the favourite parts of what I do is listening, and I am lucky enough to have a weekly radio show on Insanity radio called 'Shipwrecked' where my guest chooses six pieces of music and six topics that they are passionate about. Listening brings out so many stories about my guests that are so enriching and make great radio shows. This gives me the opportunity to listen to students and staff from different backgrounds and beliefs and to share their music, which is never the same each week
2. Today (7 February) marks the end of Interfaith Week of Harmony. How is a culture of mutual understanding and respect fostered within our Multi-Faith Chaplaincy?
I am blessed to work as part of the team and I regularly lead our Christian Ecumenical Services as well as Catholic ones. I also try to attend Muslim Friday prayers when I can and have helped with Hindu Arti too. Every year I help organise the annual Holocaust Memorial service which is led by the local Jewish Community from Weybridge and their Rabbi Kath Vardy qualit. Being there in prayer together is a profound recognition and respect for the movement of God’s spirit in others and a deepening of one’s own faith.
3. What do you enjoy most about working within the Chaplaincy team at Royal Holloway?
For me, some of the most wonderful moments are the services we do with our wonderful choirs, the choral Scholars, the Founder's choir and the Jane Holloway choirs, which bring a profound quality to our worship. The Christmas Carol Services and the BBC recordings of choral Evensong stand out as highlights. One extraordinary moment for me during the pandemic was being able to lead the BBC Sunday worship, which was broadcast nationally at a time of deep distress and crisis.
4. The Chaplaincy hosts multiple events throughout the year. Which is your favourite event to host or attend?
One of my personal favourites is the pancake race which we hold on Shrove Tuesday before Lent (which will be celebrated on Tuesday 21 February this year), a completely fun event which we hold in the Founder's Quad and which a Muslim team won last year. The other event which I love to organise is our regular pilgrimage to Rome, which is a fascinating chance to explore the history and culture of Rome and the church with groups of students.
5. How do you like to spend your free time outside of work?
I love to cycle, swim and motorcycle. I also love cooking and baking cakes.
I have been privileged to travel extensively in Africa, Europe and America. My own background is as a historian; exploring archives and visiting other countries help me understand and better appreciate their histories and cultures.