The birth of Real World

Real World has now ( 2005 ) been ticking along for nearly thirteen years, and already its origins are in danger of being lost in history. This has become clear quite recently; as our new chaplain, Uesifili Unasa, was taking stock of the activities around the chapel, he started asking perfectly reasonable questions. The answers he got about Real World were not always entirely correct ( he should have asked me first - but he didn't know that either ). Particular questions about Real World that arose were : - and there were some others, but those were the big ones.

As I am the only person who was involved in the original discussions and is also still actively involved with Real World ( evidence : attendance lists for various meetings at the time ), I thought that it would be worth putting some of the facts on record before I too am lost in history. Here they are. I've added some observations on the original aims and how they were, or weren't, addressed.

The source for these comments is my collection of bits and pieces from Chaplaincy Network meetings over the years. As it is unlikely that you, whoever you are, will have easy access to these valuable documents, I have provided excerpts therefrom in chronological order in a separate file. I think I've included all the relevant bits; anyone wishing to explore the original documents further is welcome to get in touch.

Who owns Real World ?

The Chaplaincy Network owns Real World. All the evidence, from the original proposal onwards, is Chaplaincy Network business; for what it's worth, the Contents page of every issue of Real World has included the text "Published by the Chaplaincy Network, University of Auckland". The moving spirit was Calum Gilmour, but there was general acceptance that it was a good idea, and many members of the group contributed in various ways to the early issues.

That is what you might call the legal position. In practice, as is not unusual, things are a bit different. That's because the Chaplaincy Network itself has changed in nature. There's a bit about that on the Network's web page; from being an active organisation encouraging cooperation between people involved in Christian ministry it has evolved ( I do not actually say "deteriorated" ) into a talking shop, with no visible activities except a weekly meeting. ( The meeting does give us an excuse to put a notice in Next Week, which is a little witness to Christianity in the university. )

"But", you say, "there is also Real World, which is the subject of this very web page, and the web page itself." I know that very well, because both these manifestations of the Chaplaincy Network depend on me. I have done the layout for every issue of Real World, except those from 1996 when I was on leave. ( Robert Sheehan did those, which was much appreciated. ) I have done all the web pages, which is why it's part of my university web pages, and also why it's so old-fashioned and boring.

As I also organise ( too strong a word for the context, but it will have to do ) the Chaplaincy Network meetings, this begins to look suspiciously like a one-man band. I know that, but I don't like it. I believe that the University needs something like the Chaplaincy Network as it was originally intended to be, and I keep its ghost alive in the hope that someone with more time and energy will organise a reincarnation. Nevertheless, so long as it is alive, the Chaplaincy Network owns Real World.

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Why must the Maclaurin Chaplain be the editor ?

There is no reason why the Maclaurin Chaplain must be the editor. There is no reason why the Maclaurin Chaplain shouldn't be the editor, either. The first editor was Calum Gilmour, whose chaplaincy status varied between official and unofficial, but who was never the full-time established Maclaurin Chaplain. Calum was the editor for the first eight issues; his final appearance as editor was in April 1995, after which there was a gap until April 1996. I don't remember the details. Around that time the Maclaurin Chaplain became involved in unfortunate legal issues ( referred to in the Editorial of Issue 8 as "the struggles of the past year" ) of which I know nothing but rumour and hearsay, and it was quite some time before the next Maclaurin Chaplain was appointed. At that time, I was preparing to go on sabbatical leave in 1996, which perhaps goes some way to explaining my lack of information and involvement; whatever the reason, Issue 9 did not appear until April 1996 under the editorship of Murray Rae, the new Maclaurin Chaplain.

It's perhaps interesting that in Murray's editorial in his first issue he almost implies that Real World is a function of "the Chaplaincy team". An alternative interpretation of his words is that, because of an unusually heavy load on the Chaplaincy as a whole, Calum didn't have time to look after Real World, and no one else in the Chaplaincy Network came through.

Nevertheless, Murray was the first Maclaurin editor, as one might say, and ever since then the Maclaurin Chaplain has edited Real World. That statement is not in fact quite as impressive as it might sound, as Murray stayed until the end of 1998, and was followed by Terry Wall who remained until the middle of 2004, and brought Real World up to Issue 32. During the following interregnum, Calum was appointed as interim Maclaurin Chaplain, and - not surprisingly - edited Issue 33. One could therefore equally assert that only two real Maclaurin Chaplains have edited the magazine.

In practice, it has worked very well. The primary function of the editor, apart from the routine business of checking grammar and spelling ( which I've done as well, just in case ) and - only very occasionally - rejecting articles deemed unacceptable, is to get the articles. There is not a flood of unsolicited submissions; someone has to go and meet people, and ask them to contribute. Chaplains are perhaps ideally suited to this function, and are certainly as likely as anyone to meet potential authors of reasonably intellectual Christian articles from a variety of viewpoints. I certainly can't do it - I just don't meet the people.

I add a personal note : I have always wanted to keep the Chaplaincy Network separate from the chaplains - not because of any antipathy towards the chaplains, or because I didn't want to support the chaplains, but because I thought that a recognisably independent voice could better support the chaplains. In practice, the Chaplaincy Network has, after the first flush of enthusiasm, been so feeble that it just didn't matter.

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Who pays for it ?

The true answer as of May 2005 is that the Maclaurin Chapel pays for it, almost wholly. I have only recently found that out. ( So I don't know everything either. )

That was certainly not the original intention. Look at the examples : in the very first proposal, there is mention of "grants from Churches and Chaplaincy Boards", "advertising" ( as a possibility ), "the Council for Christian Nurture". In the revised version of the same proposal, two days later, we read, "We should aim to attract some $10,000 in funding from donations from Christian Trusts and Chaplaincy Boards and Church administrations". There's also a related principle : "The journal would be distributed free to students but others would be asked to pay.". In the early days, there were certainly attempts to apply for support from various sources, at least some of which - as I remember - were successful. I wasn't directly involved with this activity, and can't remember much more about it.

Later we find : "Long Term Funding - Include a note on funding in the next issue. The Present issue was funded 50/50 by the Maclaurin Board and Tertiary Board. It was suggested that readers be asked for donations."; "Funding was also discussed and it was agreed that donations/subscriptions should be sought from staff who receive the magazine.".

For some years now, it has been the custom to send out with copies distributed to the mailing list a request for donations with the first issue of each year. I have ( similarly ) recently found out that only a smallish proportion of those receiving the magazine do contribute, and the contributions cover less than the cost of a single issue. This conflicts with my previous impression that we had a pretty good response, but I don't remember where that came from.

No one has mentioned funding to me for some time. I suppose I assumed that all was well. I appear to have been wrong.

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Plans and their evolution.

The material in the documents show how certain decisions evolved during the time from the first discussions to the first issue. Here I collect a few examples and comment.

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Alan Creak,
2005 May.