An Improbable Feast

Book Cover, An Improbable Feast

An Improbable Feast is authored by Flinders University Chaplain Geoff Boyce, and focusses on multifaith tertiary chaplaincy.

An Improbable Feast: The surprising dynamic of hospitality at the heart of multifaith chaplaincy

Tertiary Chaplaincy is probably one of the most challenging forms of chaplaincy in the education field. Our tertiary institutions are peopled by bright young minds, with faith, without faith, with predjudice, without predjudice. Given that is this Australia, religion has not been polite discourse in the public domain, no doubt thanks to our origins (a convict colony) and the flogging parson, the Rev. Samuel Mardsen.

If we think back to our origins and those early colonial days, Mrs Macquarie did give a sumptuous feast and celebration for the Irish devoted to St Patrick, and men of all classes and faiths mixed in pubs and worked with one another, while labouring and laying the foundation of this nation. It was a tolerance born of necessity, a joint goal of taming an inhospitable continent and bringing to a state of hospitality, which brings us to the the theme of Geoff Boyce’s book, An Improbable Feast: The surprising dynamic of hospitality at the heart of multifaith chaplaincy.

Chaplaincy takes time. Continuous “walking the floor”, introducing people to the role of chaplain, and dealing with expectations and the tags people place on themselves, tags like “religious”, “believer”, “communicant”. In an academic setting, given the drivers of privatisation, profit centres, key performance indicators, there is little of any acknowledgement of a spiritual or faith dimension to the human beings who make up a workplace, or in this case, halls of academic disciplines.

A multifaith hospitality model is discussed extensively in this book. What is also discussed is the formation of multifaith (ministry) (ministry being of Christian origin, is there a better term available? Would it be “service” as it is understood in the different faiths?) and a charter for multifaith ministry. The charter scopes to include:

  • Mutual Recognition: A multi-faith ministry recognises the right of all faiths to meet the needs of their respective members in any given community.
  • Mutual Concern: A multi-faith ministry intends to meet the pastoral concerns of, rather than convert, members of the various faiths.
  • Mutual Understanding: A multi-faith ministery seeks to udnerstand the values and beliefs of each faith in a given community rather than to pass judgment on them
  • Mutual Service: A multi-faith ministry is committed to serving the spiritual and personal needs of each member of each faith tradition in the community;
  • Mutual Advocacy: A multi-faith ministry is commtted to advocacy for other faith traditions in terms of what is known to be the best spirit of each tradition;
  • Mutual Deference: A multi-faith ministry encourages direct contact with authentic sources of information rather than mediating in any investigation of one faith tradition by a member of another.

While is this is an obvious charter to faith ministers in Australia and interfaith practitioners, these principles are more likely written for a non-religious, non-church, readership and go a long way towards facilitating understanding of exactly what multifaith chaplaincy is all about. Hospitality to the other (a key foundation of this book) is the kernel of agape-filled acceptance of the other. The other is like myself, so the other, whatever his or her beliefs, is first a human person, with joys and griefs, sorrows and sufferings, something this book covers in narratives of chaplaincy encounter.

The faith space in any institution is a place of refuge for those on the journey of life and learning. Refugio is one of the topics of this book, a refuge which covers asylum, other nations, other faiths. Hosting in a refugio is not only for those seeking refuge; chaplains must care for themselves also.

The potential readership of this book is very wide; it functions as reference to understand what multifaith chaplaincy is for those who have not encountered multifaith in the workplace, in the halls of learning, in the aged care home, in the hospitals. It also functions as a useful primer and reflection starter for those contemplating entering the chaplaincy field.

“An Improbable Feast” is available for $20 at:

If you would like to examine the Table of Contents and/or read the preface and introduction, you can do a “look inside” at Amazon’s website where the book is listed.

Video interview: Antonella Cavallo talks with Geoff Boyce about the theme of Hospitality in his book “An Improbable Feast” prior to the International Festival of the Sustainable Imagination, Lizzano, Italy – August 16 – 20, 2011

Book Cover, An Improbable Feast