We spoke to Mr Venn-Dunn, the new Foundation Chaplain at Mill Hill School to learn more about him and his role.
How long have you worked at the school?
At the time of writing – five days! I have used this time to meet some staff members, update my learning with some courses, and become better acquainted with the school grounds (and lunches)!
What does your role involve?
A Chaplain is usually defined as something akin to ‘a religious leader who works outside of a typically religious establishment’. I am ordained as a Priest in the Church of England, and I will be offering pastoral and spiritual care to all pupils and staff, regardless of their faith position.
As the Foundation Chaplain, my role will primarily involve being accessible. This will involve listening to others and helping to cultivate a culture where complex and deep questions can be openly held, discussed, and considered within a community underpinned by mutual kindness and compassion. I will be overseeing chapel activities, supporting pupil-led initiatives, teaching in lessons, and participating in the co-curricular life of the Foundation.
What is your favourite thing at the school?
In my very short time here, I have come to enjoy the wonderfully friendly and welcoming staff team. I am very proud to be working alongside colleagues who displayed great kindness and character alongside being extremely competent. I am excited to be a part of such a strong, multi-faceted team.
Do you have any advice for our pupils which could help them to get the most out of their time at the school?
I was once told by a former tutor that ‘questions are your currency. The more you have, the wealthier you are’. Please make the most of the safe learning environment you have here, where you can discuss difficult questions in non-judgmental environments!
I am always keen to hear your questions and queries.
What is your favourite book and film for our pupils and why?
In-between other bits of reading, I have been wading through ‘Dominion’ by Tom Holland. It is brilliantly written and raises some very important ideas and questions about the history of our contemporary society that are worth exploring, particularly in the context of the origins of Mill Hill School.
I recently watched ‘Oppenheimer’ and was quite taken aback. The film builds tension very well while showcasing individuals who had to hold difficult and competing ethical questions as they worked together on something that would reshape the world.
Other than that, I think Pixar movies are brilliant, and I will rewatch one of ‘Up’ or ‘Inside/Out’ at least annually! They connect deeply with the human experience in the most fun and accessible ways.
Could you share an inspirational quote with us? How does it inspire you?
The late Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish Rabbi and Philosopher, once wrote in his book ‘The Prophets’
‘Few are guilty, but all are responsible’.
It is a very short and simple quote that carries a great deal of meaning. I find it inspiring because it is challenging; I may point a finger of blame at others, but what is my/our responsibility in this moment? What can I do? It moves me away from individualistic tendencies towards a sense of holding my responsibility as a fellow citizen and human being.
Can you tell us something that we might not know about you?
I am fairly obsessed with football! I enjoy all sports, but football is my game, and I still play 5-a-side and 11-a-side weekly. I am a Chelsea supporter, but please don’t hold that against me!