Kip Lynch ’22
The Rev. Marcus G. Halley has been appointed the College’s Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, according to an email from President of the College Joanne Berger-Sweeney and Dean of Student Life and Director of the Bantam Network Jody T. Goodman reviewed by the Tripod and subsequently released to the community Friday afternoon.
The decision, which was announced in an email Friday morning, indicates that Halley will begin his “new role on August 4.” Halley comes to Trinity from the “Episcopal Church in Connecticut, where he has served since 2019 as the dean of formation.”
Halley, who was selected from three finalist candidates that were interviewed late last month, was the only Episcopalian candidate chosen after the College conducted a one-month search in March 2021. Goodman told the Tripod in May that the College received 40 applications for the position. Halley succeeds the Rev. Allison Read, who left Trinity last June for the Groton School in Massachusetts after serving for nearly a decade.
In his previous role, according to the email, Halley was responsible for supporting the “formation of all baptized Episcopalians in Connecticut, as well as the formation of new clergy.” He has previously worked with the Commission on Ministry to support the creation of new programs. Halley also presently serves as the “priest-in-charge for the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit, where he provides missional pastoral leadership for members of the congregation.”
Halley’s past appointments have included Missioner for Evangelism in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Lake of the Isles in Minneapolis, and Associate Priest for Young Adults and Families at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri.
Berger-Sweeney and Goodman’s email indicates that they, “along with the search committee, were impressed by Marcus’s passion for lifelong learning and his ability to maintain strong collaborative relationships with diverse populations.” It was not immediately clear whether the Search Committee or Berger-Sweeney alone had made the final decision regarding the appointed candidate.
As College Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, Halley will oversee what Berger-Sweeney described as “a diverse team in Spiritual and Religious Life representing Buddhism, Judaism, Protestant Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and interfaith communities.”
In March, Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut Ian Douglas told the Tripod that “the Episcopal Church serves in a consultancy and support capacity to the search process for the next Chaplain at Trinity College.” and was “committed to helping generate applications from the best candidates possible in The Episcopal Church.”
Douglas announced Halley’s departure in an announcement from the Episcopal Church of Connecticut Friday afternoon, adding that he is “delighted for Marcus and Trinity College as he begins his new ministry as College Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life” and believes “his call to Trinity is an inspired choice for an historically identified Episcopal college looking to the future.”
The appointment comes after a search process which drew considerable ire from the community around the limitations of the search, including a one month open application period and representation on the search committee. The College, since the inception of the Chaplain position, has always had an Episcopalian serve given the Chapel’s status as a consecrated Episcopal worship space. Previous searches for the role, such as Read’s in 2008, had taken nearly a year.
A Tripod investigation in March found that documents from the College archives indicated that any candidate selected by the President of the College “had to be approved by the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut.” At the time, Interim Co-Director of Spiritual and Religious Life John Rose told the Tripod that because the Trinity College Chapel is a consecrated Episcopal chapel, in previous searches “any Chaplain candidate proposed by the college has had to be approved by the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut.” Rose also indicated that “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.”
Former President and Professor of History, Emeritus Borden W. Painter, Jr. told the Tripod in March that “All searches up to now have specified that the person be ordained in the Episcopal Church.” In response, Goodman acknowledged “the important history and relationship the College has with the Episcopalian tradition” and added that the “process will be inclusive of all voices of our Trinity community, which includes students, staff, faculty, alumni, and affiliates of the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life.”
In interviews with the Tripod, numerous Episcopal alumni and alumnae had expressed concerns about the process and its inclusivity, and in recent weeks well-documented conversations about alumni via social media channels and via email had urged the College to consider its historic connections to the Episcopal Church in making a final determination.
Trinity, founded in 1823 by Episcopalians under the direction of the Rt. Rev. Thomas Church Brownell, who served as both Bishop of Connecticut and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church from 1852-1865, was for much of its early history governed by leadership of the Episcopal Church. During its infancy and after, the College also received considerable financial support from the Episcopal Church. The College’s Chapel, consecrated in the Episcopal tradition, has offered weekly Anglican Sunday services since its inception.
The current Interim Chaplain, Baptist Y. Trevor Beauford, was among the finalists under consideration by the College. Beauford had served in an interim capacity since Read’s departure and was previously the Baptist Chaplain Associate. A Tripod report in May noted a potential conflict of interest in the process, namely that a member of the search committee was also a member of Beauford’s congregation. The College did not directly respond to those concerns at the time, and Goodman told the Tripod at that time that the “search process for the next Trinity College Chaplain and Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life is ongoing. We will communicate with the Trinity community once a decision is made.”
News of the search was first reported to “Trinity College Community Members” in a separate email and appeared in the Facebook group “Alumni for a Better Trinity.” Berger-Sweeney subsequently announced the decision in an email to undergraduate students Friday afternoon.