SA’s longest serving school Chaplain still passionate about serving his community

By Cathy Moore.

Sam Thomson has been living in the Blackwood Hills area in South Australia his whole life.  He was 6 years old when his mother passed away, and being the eldest of three, he helped bring up his younger brothers while his father was at work and supporting the family.  Sam saw the wonders and intricacies of the natural world around him, the trees and animals, and enjoyed being outdoors.  When confronted as a teenager by the claims of Jesus, Sam responded not out of a need to change his life, but it made sense to him to align himself with the Creator of the natural world that he enjoyed so much.

Sam got married, worked as a teacher, travelled around the world and had three lovely daughters.  However it was his passion to serve his local community that led to him becoming a Youth Pastor at Blackwood Hills Baptist Church.  His heart was to minister to and support young people in the whole community, so he also commenced as School Chaplain with Schools Ministry Group at Blackwood High School where he has served for 25 years.

Sam explains “School Chaplains are positive role models who bring genuine compassion, understanding and practical ongoing support to students and families.  I work alongside other wellbeing staff in the school, and help link students and families to community resources and services.

“I see my Chaplaincy role as a bridge, stepping out into the community in a formal context.   I am in the bottleneck of the community; I work at the high school, but I also do a lot of Chaplaincy when out doing my grocery shopping.  I often have students, parents and school staff approaching me to have a chat.”

Sam is the longest serving public school Chaplain in South Australia!  His longevity in the role has enabled him to become a respected, knowledgeable and trusted person in the community, with parents seeking him out for help for their children, particularly with issues around grief, loss, family and friendships.

Sam shares “There was a camp where a girl came with a couple of her friends.  She lived in a violent home situation and lacked a sense of safety and security.  When she saw that how we lived and served each other on camp was completely different to the dysfunctional environment she lived in at home, she wanted that for her life.  With my support and mentoring from volunteers from a local church, she started to make good decisions for her life which brought about positive outcomes.  Today, this young woman is 30, and works in a regional area with Indigenous children to help and serve the children and their families.

“When I look back I have to say that very early I felt a calling to serve my community and the people living in the Blackwood Hills area.  The school Chaplaincy role I believe brings a sense of balance to the community; it is good to have someone whose role reaches in to the realm of spirituality.  I also think a significant segment of our community is comforted by the knowledge there is a Chaplain available to them and their family.”

Brenton Ragless, Channel 9 News Presenter, attended Blackwood High School when he was a teenager.   “I was clueless in school, no clear path in mind and here I am 22 years later, still no idea on what I’ll be doing next!  But I credit the state’s longest serving School Chaplain, the legend of Blackwood Hills Sam Thomson, for instilling in me the confidence to embrace life and all its challenges.  Sam was and still is a pillar for me, a listening ear, a wise voice, a life teacher, leading me through those fundamental teenage years of personal faith and career development.  I am who I am today thanks to Sam’s influence on my life.” Read Brenton’s story here.

Sam may not always know about the impact that he has on each person and family he helps, but he knows his Chaplaincy role is a vital one that assists and supports people at their time of need.  A Blackwood High School staff member commented recently that “Sam is an invaluable resource.  He develops relationships with our students which enables the development of trust and therefore facilitates an environment for support to be given on a level which staff cannot provide.”

Even after 25 years of service, Sam is still passionate “I am still excited about the opportunities I have to serve my community and help people see they have purpose, value and hope.  I love what I do.”

To find out more about the Chaplaincy Services provided by Sam and over 330 School Chaplains across the state – go to the Schools Ministry Group website

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