As visiting chaplain Sabina Koij and visiting cantor Mattias Koij will be returning to Sweden a year earlier than expected, the search for a new chaplain is near completion. The Chaplain Search/Call Committee has chosen four candidates for the Chaplain position originally vacated by Chaplain Brian Johnson in 2011 when he accepted a position at Valparaiso University. Since Chaplain Johnson’s departure, Chaplain Rod Anderson has served as Interim Senior Chaplain. As of this week, two of the four candidates have been named: Rev. Dr. Beth Marie Halvorsen and Rev. Siri Celine Erickson. The other two names will be released next week.
The four candidates for the vacant chaplain position were chosen by the Chaplain Search/Call Committee consisting of 12 faculty, staff, students, and clergy. The process began by soliciting, collecting, and reading nominations and application. Upon the selection of a potential candidate pool, the committee conducted phone interviews and contacted references before selecting the final four candidates to bring to campus.
During the campus visits the candidates will be evaluated by the committee, and the comittee while they are on campus will also consult written responses from those that interact with the candidates. Ultimately, one candidate will be chosen by the committee and a recommendation will be made to the President, who will formally extend the invitation to the candidate.
In December, the committee hosted three conversations with the Gustavus community centered around three questions: What leadership does Gustavus need from a Chaplain? What experience and credentials will best prepare someone for this role? What competencies, character, and commitments will be most important?
Dr. Darrell Jodock, Bernhardson Distinguished Endowed Professor in Lutheran Studies, is the Chair of the Chaplain Search/Call Committee, and he considers the conversations to be an invaluable part of the selection process.
“The community conversations were very helpful for the committee. A variety of concerns and hopes were expressed. The community conversations prompted significant, thoughtful, and constructive conversations within the committee,” Jodock said.
From the conversations, the committee developed a list of desired experiences and competencies for the chaplain position. These include: “a collaborative and visionary leader,” “a student-oriented, highly relational, hospitable member of the pastoral team,” and “a person able to articulate what it means for the College to have faith as a core value.”
Sophomore Communications Studies Major Heidi Vanderpan is a member of the committee and brings a student’s perspective to the chaplain search. She believes the chaplain should “be someone people can turn to in any situation” by being open and welcoming. She is also enthusiastic about community participation in the chaplain search.
“I encourage students to go to interaction sessions even if they are not Christian, just to be involved in this important process,” Vanderpan said.
She also suggests talking with other members of the Call Committee with questions and feedback. Other members include Bishop Jon Anderson, Classics Professor Will Freiert, Political Science and Peace Studies Professor Mimi Gerstbauer, Associate Provost and Dean of Sciences and Education Darrin Good, Psychology Professor Mark Kruger, Music Professor Doug Nimmo, Assistant Director of Vocation and Integrative Learning Amy Pehrson, Vice President for Student Life JoNes VanHecke, Pastor Heather Wigdahl, and Senior Religion and Music Major Ben Whalen.
Whalen also provides the committee with a student perspective, and he sees value in the different backgrounds and considerations the members of the diverse group brings to the search.
“Obviously we all come from different places and so the different perspectives are hugely important. As a student myself and as a regular attendee of several Christian organizations on campus, it is easy to get caught up in the chaplain’s role of relating to students and encouraging them in their faith growth, but the chaplain does so much more than that,” Whalen said.
Beyond direct interaction with students, community, and faith formation, there are also administrative and other aspects of the chaplain’s role.
“Those who have worked with the Campus Ministries Team know the more administrative side of the chaplain’s role and Bishop Jon Anderson has had a lot of valuable insight into what it takes for a team of pastors/chaplains to lead a congregation,” Whalen said.
Jodock agrees that the diversity of the committee has enhanced the search process and has overall functioned effectively to achieve their objective.
“The ten on-campus members of the committee functioned very well as a team. The responsibilities were shared, and each person contributed in valuable ways. Perhaps I should add that the students on the committee worked right alongside the faculty and staff members, contributing important insights to the committee’s deliberations,” Jodock said.