Kip Lynch ’22
The search committee for the next College Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life has begun to examine applications with the intention of hiring on Jul. 1, the start of the College’s fiscal year. While applications are still accepted after the deadline of Apr. 9, they will not receive “full consideration” from the search committee. In line with last week’s coverage, the Tripod examined the role of the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) in the search process, in addition to reaching out to alumni and ordained priests in the Episcopal Church.
In attempting to understand the participation of various faith groups in the search for the next chaplain, the Tripod reached out to Associate Chaplain for Buddhist Life Garret Condon. He described his involvement, along with Trinity Zen Advisor John Elias, in the focus groups that preceded the posting of the job description as well as later discussions with the head of the search committee, Dean of Student Life and Director of The Bantam Network Jody Goodman, and President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney. Condon stated that, given the opportunity provided by the search committee to conduct interviews with candidates, he “felt involved in the search.”
Despite the absence of any ordination requirement in the job description, he stated that the “wording of the current job description may be enough to attract a decent number of Episcopal priests.” Condon remarked that he had good relationships with past chaplains at Trinity over the years and would be happy to have the Episcopal tradition continue. He added that he was confident that the Episcopal Church will retain a central role in the life of the Chapel no matter who is chosen for the job.
The Tripod also reached out to Program Coordinator for Muslim Life Maryam Bitar ’16 for comment on the role of the Muslim faith community in the search process. Bitar described how she was allowed to submit nominations for students, staff, and alumni to the focus groups conducted by the administration but did not submit nominations to the search committee itself. She expressed frustration over the process, stating “we weren’t consulted when they formed the search committee…we did not know that they were forming a search committee, and nobody asked us about any candidates or nominations” for the search committee.
Bitar further described how “whenever we reach out, they listen to us, but the issue is that we are cut off from the process. First, forming the search committee. Second, being involved in the search in any way.” She detailed how the search committee never sought input from members of the OSRL; instead, the impetus was on OSRL to reach out to the administration with its concerns. The opportunity to submit questions to the search committee was entirely at the request of OSRL.
Maryam Bitar revealed her concern over the lack of emphasis on applicants being able to work with many other faith communities, stating “what worries me the most is we don’t know what the next chaplain’s experience or knowledge [of the subject] will be.”
The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston ’71 emphasized the importance of the chaplaincy within the Trinity College community in a comment to the Tripod. A Native American of the Choctaw people, Charleston was born in Oklahoma, studied religion at Trinity, and received a master’s in divinity from Episcopal Divinity School. He later served as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska and Dean of Episcopal Divinity School. He stated in part that “the chaplaincy at Trinity is where the idea of community is constantly tested…Trinity is ahead of the historic curve in recognizing the need for ethical and spiritual values to be central in the formation of any society.” Charleston described how “The chaplaincy is a meeting ground and a laboratory. It tests the limits of our ability to listen, learn, and respect.”