Imperial College London

Honouring the 60th anniversary of Imperial’s Chaplaincy service

by

Father Ivor Smith-Cameron

Father Ivor Smith-Cameron (second from left) founded the Chaplaincy in 1958

The College is celebrating 60 years since the formation of its Chaplaincy service.

The Chaplaincy Multi-Faith Centre works with students and staff from different faiths and philosophical backgrounds, providing a confidential space where individuals can meditate, pray, study and explore their faith. 

"It was a remarkable time and the work was vigorous. I wanted to help students understand the meaning of God.”  Father Ivor Smith-Cameron

The Chaplaincy was founded by Father Ivor Smith-Cameron in September 1958, who came to London from Madras (now Chennai) in India in 1950, aged 20. Initially, it was called the West London Chaplaincy and was a chaplaincy to a group of colleges, including Imperial’s neighbour the Royal College of Music. 

“It was wonderful,” says Ivor, aged 88. “I used to leave my home in Notting Hill every morning on my scooter and travel to the South Kensington Campus. My ambition was to start a Christian group in every department and to support staff and students in their Christian faith. It was a remarkable time and the work was vigorous. I wanted to help students understand the meaning of God.” 

Imperial Chaplaincy at 60

In his book titled The Church of Many Colours, published in 1998, Ivor writes about his time at Imperial: “My home became the place where vast numbers of students learned the value of hospitality. It was a gathering place for meals, theological discussions, liturgical experiments and social events. 

Father Ivor with friends
Father Ivor Smith-Cameron (second row, centre) with members of the West London Chaplaincy in 1959

“The West London Chaplaincy became a fresh model of church life for university chaplaincies in the UK and for the Church of England at large.”

As well as leading Bible study groups and weekly celebrations of Holy Communion, Father Ivor also supported staff and students in raising money for charitable projects overseas. The projects supported by the Chaplaincy included hospitals, scholarships and farming. 

Approximately 70 alumni from both Imperial and other institutions gathered for a special service in Christ Church, Streatham, to celebrate Ivor’s work and the Chaplaincy’s 60th anniversary. 

Building a multi-faith network

Reverend Andrew Willson with Hindu society at Imperial
Reverend Andrew Willson with members of the College's Hindu society

Reverend Andrew Willson, Coordinating Chaplain for Imperial, said: “Ivor’s spirit of co-operation has continued and today the Chaplaincy has a team of chaplains from many world faiths, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Buddhist and Christian. 

"Today, the Multi-Faith Centre is a place of calm and quiet in a busy campus. Chaplains offer meditation including non-religious Mindfulness, as well as Buddhist and Christian meditation." Reverend Andrew Willson Coordinating Chaplain for Imperial

“Ivor did a great deal to build student communities at Imperial. The positive effect of those student friendships and faith has supported many alumni. In the 1950s and 60s, Ivor was a force for innovation in the church – one of the first to experiment with new worship, to relate faith to the working life of engineers and scientists, pioneering co-operation between different Christian churches and being an early encourager of women in church leadership. 

“Imperial is a more religiously diverse place compared to 1958, when Ivor first started serving as Chaplain. Today, the Multi-Faith Centre is a place of calm and quiet in a busy campus. Chaplains offer meditation including non-religious Mindfulness, as well as Buddhist and Christian meditation. Just as in Ivor’s day, student faith groups and development societies are still raising money and doing projects to support people in need in the UK and around the world.”

Father Ivor at interfaith walk
Father Ivor Smith-Cameron, now aged 88, continues his multi-faith work

Reporter

Martha Nahar

Martha Nahar
Communications and Public Affairs

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Contact details

Tel: +44 (0)20 7594 6708
Email: m.nahar@imperial.ac.uk

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