The Chaplain Search/Call Committee is currently seeking a new College Chaplain to serve after the departure of interim Chaplain Rodney Anderson at the end of this academic year.
The committee held a series of three sessions this past week that were formatted for the community and campus to voice their comments, suggestions and concerns on the search for the new chaplain.
“The announcement of what we will be looking for will be crafted at the hearings,” Drell and Adeline Bernhardson Distinguished Professor in Religion and Director of the Chaplain Search/Call Committee Dr. Darrell Jodock said.
The committee then hopes to begin interviewing candidates by February of next year.
“What we do know is that we’re looking for a person who has an awareness of tradition, different ways of expressing creativity and different approaches that both fit with the Lutheran tradition of the college and that connect to the campus today,” Jodock said.
In light of the recently released documents concerning the discord of opinion between different academic and administrative departments on campus, Jodock is looking towards a more positive future in the search process for a new faculty member.
“I want to keep these events and conversations open and clear. All I can do is keep the process open and to be as responsive as possible to the college campus,” Jodock said.
Besides holding the three sessions this past week, another way the Chaplain Search/Call Committee is trying to keep the dialogue open has been by consulting with the College Chaplains, the College Ministry and to various student groups affiliated with it such as Prepare, Proclaim and the Fellowship of Christian Student Atheletes.
“One thing that we are looking for in a chaplain is someone who is interested in interreligious relations on campus, someone who can reach a variety of different segments of campus: students, faculty, alumni and community members,” Jodock said.
Currently, the four Gustavus College Chaplains are Chaplains Rachel Larson, Grady St. Dennis, Rod Anderson and Sabina Koji. Koji and her husband Matthias, who now serves as cantor were hired for these two-year interim positions by President Ohle after the abrupt departure of Cantor Chad Fothergill.
The history of the Chaplain’s office dates back to 1962, when Reverend Richard Q. Elvee became the first full-time Chaplain of the college. His successful and inspirational 38-year Gustavus career ended officially with his retirement in 2000. Chaplain Brian Johnson then took over and was soon joined by Chaplain Rachel Larson.
The change from one to two college co-chaplains in 2005 was just the beginning of a series of changes that have since occurred in the Office of College Chaplain, and in the campus as a whole.
Chaplain Brian left Gustavus in the spring of 2011 and the role was taken over by interim Chaplain Rodney Anderson, who was appointed by the administration and the college President. Chaplain Grady St. Dennis, also Director of Church Relations in the Center for Servant-Leadership, was also appointed at the same time.
Part of the tradition that Chaplain Elvee, and Chaplain Brian who succeeded him, seem to have left behind are connections to all parts of campus, not just in terms of spirit and worship, but in the academic traditions.
“The chapel is a place of both worship and learning. Some of what happens in Christ Chapel will be familiar to many. Some things will be different than students’ home faith communities …such as the ideas in homilies, the music, the ritual practices. Hopefully the Gustavus community will take the liberal arts approach and make a commitment to exploring, listening and learning together within the ministry of Christ Chapel,” Chaplain Larson said.
Many members of the Chaplains’ Office and College Ministry wish to emphasize the Chaplain’s dual role as Chaplain and as a faculty member. The roles of Chaplain and Cantor, like the Bernhardson Chair, have had intergral connections to both the academic and spiritual sides of campus.
“We are invited into classes, to collaborate with professors on different projects and we act as liaisons to a variety of student organizations. It is important for us to have a presence in as many parts of campus as possible. It is a big job but it is the expectation this college community has for its chaplains. We enjoy our work,” Larson said.
In recent years, a lack of communication between the Ohle administration and faculty members as well as students has been a cause of concern in academics and in student life.
As of late, many members of campus have retaliated, through GustieLeaks and public forums on campus, in defense of what some have described as a loss of academic, spiritual and tradtional intergrity on campus. Larson hopes that the College can positively move forward despite the negative atmosphere that seems present on the College’s communication lines.
“I hope to have someone [hired for the chaplain position] who is committed to the living traditions that we have here, particularly in worship. We have been celebrating the 50th year of Christ Chapel this year. What a gift it is and continues to be—the unique giftedness in terms of intertwining the intellectual with the spiritual on campus,”Larson said.
What I’m looking for in a chaplain colleague is someone committed to theological integrity and intellectual curiosity and competency, someone interested in the life of the mind,” Larson said.