50th Anniversary Chapel Talk
Rev. Dr. Loretta Reynolds
September 14, 2021
Thank you for helping us celebrate our 50th anniversary! With much gratitude, we recognize that we stand on the shoulders of many saints. We are here today to honor their lives and the work they did here. The Campus Christian Center is planted on a firm foundation due to the foresight, commitment, and hard work of those who came before us. In the early 1980s, Lee Morris conducted oral interviews with people connected with the religious life of the campus. Thank you, Lee, for having the foresight to do that; and thank you Harry Rice for letting me know that these conversations existed! In preparation for this day, I read through all those transcripts and decided that the best way to share bits of our history is to use their words.
Gordan Ross was a religion professor in the 1930s. In his 1983 conversation with Lee he said: “there was a sentiment on the part of the administration against the idea of a chaplain or campus minister or counselor, which I thought was a mistake….the idea of a counselor was supposedly taken care of by the notion, which seemed to me naïve, that every teacher on this campus ought to be a counselor.” That sentiment continued with President Francis Hutchins. He said: “I had the idea that I did not want a chaplain. But I did have to have some help…so I hatched out an idea…of a Coordinator of Religious Activities.”
Thankfully, with President Weatherford, the idea that every professor should provide ministry and counseling changed – I’m guessing many professors were happy about that! He said: “In regard to the structure of worship, I felt … that the idea of a Coordinator of Religious Activities was really insufficient. I felt the college should … have a campus minister named by the college, paid by the college to be more active in working among students and faculty….we ought to be challenging our students to have a wider Christian experience. …they’ve got to have their religious ideas challenged just like they have other ideas challenged. But if we challenge those ideas, we’ve got to support them emotionally as well as intellectually.”
Randy Osborne arrived in 1965 and in 1968, was asked to take on the responsibility of Coordinator of Religious Activities, continuing the task of making arrangements for weekly Sunday night chapel services – which were required and presided over by the president. Randy also taught as many as 4 sections of Old Testament each semester!
In an interview, Randy said: “One of the first things I noticed in the fall of ’68 as I looked over everything that was available for me to look over, was that there was no budget, and there was no money to do any program except Sunday night chapels. So, I went to the president and explained to him the dilemma, and he said, then construct a budget that is based on things that you see important to do, which I did and submitted it to him…the money for the budget was granted without any serious question.” One major result of having a budget for programming was the creation of People Who Care, which was the first service organization on campus. It started in the spring of 1969, and it still exists today.
President Weatherford and Randy Osborne had a vision – a dream – and they worked to see it come to life. Randy conducted surveys of the religious programming needs on campus and in 1971 wrote a proposal for a grant. Randy would tell the story of President Weatherford taking the proposal to Mr. Eli Lilly who took notes on the back of a #10 envelope; after about an hour, he called his wife in and about 30 minutes later, they agreed that the proposal was an exciting idea and that they would support it! And the Campus Christian Center (then called Campus Ministry) was born!!
The proposed budget would support 2 Campus Ministers, an Administrative Assistant, and a visiting Lilly Scholar. The first 2 Campus Ministers were Randy Osborne and Henry Parker, an Episcopal priest and the first African American Campus Minister. Henry worked tirelessly with students, faculty, and staff to improve race relations and promote equality on campus as well as in the local community. In a sermon, Henry gave this advice to students: “You are here to be agents of change; you are in training to leave this place and help solve some of the problems that beset this community and this nation…move into the community and across this nation and make this land one of unity and one where all mankind is committed to loving each other.”
Lee Morris joined the Center in 1979. During his service Lee worked with Residence Life leaders to create a position where students would provide voluntary service of support and encouragement in the residence halls. Through his commitment and expertise in pastoral care, the Dorm Chaplain program developed and soon became a secondary labor position, under his supervision. Shortly after he retired, Lee wrote a comprehensive book about this beautiful chapel. Lee, we are delighted to have you with us today!
Nancy Holloway joined the team in 1986. Nancy currently lives in Lexington. She sends her greetings and a few memories of her time here. She says “Berea College had no woman in their Campus Ministry program, I decided to apply to be their first. I approached John Stephenson, the president of the college at that time. He approved me for a 1/3-time position to determine whether this would work. After his approval, I became the first woman campus minister.” Nancy initiated providing a meal after noon chapel service – thank you, Nancy!
I don’t know what it was about hiring female chaplains, but I was also hired on a 9-month, part-time contract as an experiment! There was no job description – just the verbal mandate to build bridges with Student Life and bring the college’s Christian Commitment into the residence halls. Twenty-three years later, it seems the experiment worked!
Edwin Broadhead came to Berea in 1996 as the visiting Lilly Scholar and then served as Director of the Center for several years. He shared a poignant memory from his time at the CCC. “I remember the first commissioning service we held for student chaplains. The service almost did not happen. We learned mid-morning that a plane had struck one of the World Trade Towers, then the other, then we watched as the buildings collapsed. The world had changed. We thought about canceling the commissioning service, but we did not. The service began with some reflection and prayers about the ongoing crisis, then each Student Chaplain was introduced, and each told about their area of service. They were given a blessing through the laying on of hands, and each was given a towel – a symbol of the way in which Jesus served his followers and called them to serve each other. Then we sent them to their work.
This was our response in an hour of violence and hatred and in the face of the coming days of crisis. We set aside a representative group of our brightest and best to care, to listen, and to serve in the name of Jesus. On a day when so much was lost, we planted the seeds of hope and added another brick to the building of the Beloved Community. What a blessing to see the unbroken line of students who have followed, and what a joy to see the good work they have done – and will continue to do. Each year when we remember the losses of 911, we also remember the goodness and the hope that was born that day.”
Jeff Pool was Director through the difficult years of the economic down-turn. To keep the CCC and the college alive, our jobs were divided and shared with other areas around campus – in addition to his duties as director, Jeff was also taught half time; Katie Basham was our Coordinator of Interfaith programs, and also worked in CELTS; Gloria Johnson taught and had her plate full providing pastoral care; and I worked with Student Life, served as on-call Chaplain, was the Student Chaplain supervisor, and taught half time in General Studies.
In 2012, the college got a new President and a new Director of the CCC. Gail Bowman was the first female and the first African American Director of the Center. Gail brought many new ideas as well as a Chaplain’s heart that drew people to her. Marsha Elliott joined us in 2015 and LeSette Wright and Jake Hofmeister arrived in 2018.
What a joy it is to be a part of this team, which includes our Student Chaplains and student office assistant! I am grateful for them and for the excellent work they do. I also deeply appreciate the supportive relationship with President Roelofs during his years as president. Thank you!
We stand on the shoulders of many saints and we are deeply grateful. For 50 years, this community has trusted us to walk with you through difficult challenges, great joys, and in times of deep sorrow. We are grateful for your trust, and look forward to walking with you into the future. Happy 50th Anniversary!