A Single Garment of Destiny

Rev. Dr. Jake Hofmeister“All I’m saying is simply this: that all life is interrelated, that somehow we’re caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commencement address to Oberlin College in June 1965

On January 18 as we were celebrating Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his leadership in the civil rights movement, I came across these words delivered by him at the Oberlin College commencement address, an institution that shares many ties to the founding and first decades of Berea College. Continue reading A Single Garment of Destiny

Exceptional Times…Exceptional Students

Jake Headshot

Rev. Dr. Jake Hofmeister

Since I’ve served as a Berea College Chaplain for a little over two years, one thing has stood out to me that is very different here than at other higher education institutions – how selfless, passionate, hard-working, resilient, and all-around amazing our students are. I’m not hyperbolizing here, our students are exceptional. And thank-goodness we have exceptional students (and of course, the faculty, staff, and administration are great, too), because these are exceptional times.

I enjoy the privilege of working with fourteen Student Chaplains this year, along with Rev. Dr. LeSette Wright, as their labor supervisor (and a shout out to the Dean of the Chapel, Rev. Dr. Loretta Reynolds, for developing this program over the past two decades). These students through this program, which is cutting edge and largely unparalleled throughout the country in the arena of chaplaincy, support the spiritual and religious lives of our students on campus and beyond in a myriad of ways. They are peer counselors, spiritual guides, emotional empathizers, Bible study leaders, grief supporters, selfless servers, worship creators, social justice activists, residence hall staff team members – and they are also college students, exceptional college students.
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The Religion of Love

Rev. Dr. Jake Hofmeister

Rev. John G. Fee, along with his wife, Matilda, founded Berea College out of convictions grounded in a particular understanding of Christian scripture. Fee believed deeply that the words “impartial love” were the most accurate to summarize the Christian gospel found in the New Testament. And so it was this idea, the gospel of impartial love, that informed the identity and values of Berea College, making it the first coeducational, interracial college in the South.

Rev. Fee was educated, trained, and ordained in the Presbyterian Church tradition. He attended the Presbyterian Church’s Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati, which was at the center of the abolitionist movement at the time. There, he became active with the American Missionary Association which was instrumental in founding many of the historically black colleges and universities, including Howard University in Washington, D.C.

While Fee would later come into conflict and eventually sever ties with the Presbyterian Church in Kentucky over his view that the church should refuse fellowship to slaveholders, one may be able to draw a connection between his theological training as applied to the major social issues of the day: gender equality and slavery.

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