After tears and long goodbyes for the departure of former chaplain Corey MacPherson last summer, there has remained a pervasive question in the air around ENC: Who is going to be our next chaplain?
In many respects, the relationship between college and chaplain is a serious one. The dynamic between the student body and MacPherson was cemented around a connection to its former chaplain, and when he accepted a job at another undergraduate institution, many were left feeling the pain of a breakup.
The ENC community has been waiting for eight months for a new chaplain. We didn’t just hire the closest, most-available applicant, and our leaders haven’t been rash when it comes to the hiring decision. Instead, they have been patient.
However, there is a pervading attitude on campus that it’s time we fill the role. Yes, we have been patient. Yes, we have been going about this process in a deliberate manner.
Beginning in May 2015, a search committee of students, faculty, and administrative officials has attempted to participate in the complex process of filling the role of a chaplain. As this process unfolded, applicants were interviewed and narrowed down to three final candidates.
During the fall 2015, candidates spoke in chapel, although their status as candidates was not explicitly stated in the chapel services, and were interviewed afterwards. This was all done with consideration for the candidates’ current job positions and the congregations or college communities to which they belonged.
After this process, the committee singled out one candidate to which they offered the position of chaplain. The candidate took a month and a half to pray and seriously consider the offer, only to ultimately decline the position.
Jeff Kirksey, Vice President of Student Development and Retention, says that the primary concern of the committee is to find a “chaplain who can connect to students on campus.”
He also says that the chaplain search has provided an opportunity for the Spiritual Development Office and the Student Development Office to become more connected and integrated, which he says is a relationship that they wish to continue even after a new chaplain is found. Another opportunity afforded by the chaplain search was the chance to reevaluate the expectations associated with the position of chaplain.
ENC is missing its primary spiritual leader. We have been waiting for months for a new chaplain, but it’s also important to remember that we are not alone: we have each other. This is our time of waiting on God to provide the right person for this office.
We will find the right chaplain, but not on our time; on God’s. Until then, it is our job as a campus community to evolve and assume responsibility for functions that used to fall to someone else, someone higher. This process, when viewed in the positive light of an opportunity, becomes something that we can handle, something for which we can be patient.