Administration Releases Names of Chaplain Search Committee; Multiple Differences in Search Process Compared to Years Past

5 min read

Kip Lynch ’22

Executive Editor

After several requests by the Tripod, the Trinity College administration released the names on Saturday, Apr. 20 of those serving on the search committee for the next College Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life. They are Dean of Student Life and Director of the Bantam Network Jody Goodman, Professor of Music Gail Woldu, Professor of English Christopher Hager, Director of Campus Life Initiatives and Social Houses Kathryn Wojcik, Residential Learning Coordinator and TRINsition Fellow Yasmin Affey ’19, and students Diante Dancy ’21 and Sara Barrett ’21.

In its research of previous chaplain searches, the Tripod received a document detailing the job description used for chaplain searches during the presidencies of Albert C. Jacobs H’68, who served from 1953-1968, and Theodore D. Lockwood ’48, H’81, who served from 1968-1981. The previous job description is bears similarity to the current one. Both descriptions state that the chaplain must “conduct regular services in the Chapel according to the customs of the College and the provisions of the Episcopal Church; preach regularly in the Chapel and provide for visiting preachers; conduct special services, e.g. baptisms, weddings, memorial services for members of the College; provide counseling and instruction for them as appropriate.” Both descriptions state that the Chaplain must coordinate work with and support other groups under the Department of Spiritual and Religious Life, such as the Newman (Catholic) Chaplain and the Hillel (Jewish) Advisor. The Tripod reached out to Goodman, who serves as head of the search committee, for comment. She indicated that the College was aware of the previous description and that it had “served as inspiration for the revised version.”

Among the differences between the two descriptions is that the previous description included a handwritten note which added that the “Chaplain is appointed by the President with the approval of the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut.” Goodman revealed that she was aware of the note; however, she declined to clarify whether the College intends to seek the approval of the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut. Goodman did add that the College is “working closely with the Episcopal Church of Connecticut” and that “we intend to engage them [the Church] in the process as we normally have.”

Historically, former College Organist and Director of Chapel Music John Rose indicated, that normal process involved approval. According to Rose, “once the college decides on a candidate that they want as Chaplain that person then meets with the Bishop in order to be approved to function as a priest and to administer sacraments…Of course, to date that has been mostly a formality because the candidate has always been an Episcopal priest.”

In previous comments to the Tripod, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Smith ’65, a former Bishop of Connecticut, noted that “there has been the question of whether the person must be an Episcopal priest. The consensus seems to be yes. For one, the tradition and the chapel and its regular worship are rooted in the Episcopal Church; somewhere there is a stipulation that worship in the Chapel is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Connecticut.” Peter Knapp, former College archivist, detailed the search for a chaplain in the mid-1950s in Trinity College in the Twentieth Century: A History. Knapp described that “selecting a new chaplain proved to be almost as complicated as choosing a new president. There was little agreement as to what qualities a new director of religious life at Trinity should possess. A consensus existed on only one point: the chaplain would have to be a priest of the Episcopal Church because of the diocesan status of the Chapel.”

Another departure from past chapel searches in the current search process is the timeframe. The job description was posted on Mar. 5, with applications set to be due Apr. 9. Former President of the College and Professor of History, Emeritus Borden W. Painter Jr. told the Tripod that the timeframe “seems rather brief. In addition, this time of year is the busiest for many clergy because of Lent, Holy Week and Easter.” Scott Reynolds ’63, who is leading the fundraising effort to rename the Friendship Chapel in honor of the Class of 1963, noted that the search for the last chaplain, the Rev. Allison Read, took around a year. Reynolds also told the Tripod that it “seemed as if it [the current chaplain search] was too short an amount of time,” and characterized this limited time period as “troubling.” Reynolds separately told the Tripod that the Class of 1963’s goal—to raise $2 million to assist in the structural repairs of the chapel—was “on track to succeed.” As the Tripod previously reported, the College’s overall capital target for the Chapel restoration is $20 million.

Goodman, in response to questions around what had prompted the College to elect to go with a shorter timeframe, admitted that the College is “on a tight timeline—the intended start date is July 1st.” She attributed this decision to the College’s desire to “engage all members of the Trinity community in this process” and “avoid rolling into finals weeks so that we can properly engage students, staff, and faculty in this process.” It was not immediately clear what other opportunities for involvement the College was contemplating. Focus groups with certain constituencies of students, faculty and staff, and alumni had been held in late January prior to the announcement of the position or clarification around the search deadline.

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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