This year’s Episcopal Chaplains’ Gathering took place June 24 -25 at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, in New Haven, Connecticut. Energized by the changes in the Episcopal Church, campus ministry and the world, it was most appropriately themed “The Winds of Change.” Campus chaplains representing all eight domestic provinces met in to ask questions, build relationships, and take action to gain more knowledge and encouragement before returning to their campuses and students.
The first night kicked off with the new chaplains orientation and two outstanding workshops led by the Rev. Shannon Kelly on campus ministry networking and by the Rev. Susan Terry on community college starts-ups. These workshops were followed by Evensong with Eucharist, with Berkeley Divinity School dean, the Very Rev. Joseph Britton officiating Evening Prayer and the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, preaching and presiding. Later that evening at the banquet and awards ceremony, emceed by the Rev. Dr. Glenn M. Libby, interim coordinator for Campus Missions, chaplains were recognized for their service to campus ministry. The Rev. Susan Terry from the Diocese of Kansas was awarded the Distinguished Leadership Award for her commitment to campus ministry advocacy, mentorship, and vision, especially regarding community college work. The Rev. Gregory Bezilla received the Distinguished Service Award for his interim coordination of campus ministry in 2011 and ongoing advocacy in a time of transition. The Rev. Peter M. Antoci was awarded the Sam Portaro Award for Creative Expression and Intellectual Enquiry for his book Reflections on the Spirituality of Campus Ministry: A Play in Four Acts. Jason Sierra, officer for Young Adult Formation and Leadership, was given a standing ovation for guiding the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministries during challenging times.
The gathering continued with workshops and small group discussions on campus ministry programming ideas, budgeting, and goals of our chaplains in serving the church and their campus communities. Mr. Sam McDonald, director of Mission for the Episcopal Church, presented the lively group with a message that prepared the chaplains to get open and candid concerning the budget and future of campus ministry in the church. The conversation was one of passion for the service to young adults and students and how chaplains can be confident and secure in the church’s understanding, recognition, and support of that service. The day was concluded with a workshop and visit to St. Hilda’s young adult internship site and the singing of compline at historic Christ Church New Haven.
Chaplains left the Episcopal gathering charged to continue to do the work they have committed to do in the mist of the “winds of change,” knowing that they had a voice and a network of support. These bonds between the chaplains were strengthened as many of them also took part in the Global Chaplains Conference that was held for the first time in the United States at Yale University, June 25-June 29.
The Global Conference was a week-long experience of learning, openness, and spirituality from different religions, cultures, and backgrounds. With keynote speakers such as Eboo Patel, a member of President Barack Obama's inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based Neighborhood Partnerships, chaplains and spiritual leaders across the world were encouraged to start and/or continue their work in interfaith leadership and programming on college campuses to improve religious tolerance, understanding, and spiritual growth among religious groups.
The Episcopal Chaplains' Gathering proved again to be imperative to the work of the chaplains as it provides a safe space where they can connect and release, and at the same time be filled with hope and a renewed sense of direction for the journey ahead of them.