Our 50th Anniversary

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

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.  Continue reading Our 50th Anniversary

Doubt, Questions, and Hope

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

During this past year, I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between questions, doubt, and hope.   It has certainly been a year full of questions and uncertainty but I at the most unexpected times, I have also been surprised by hope.  I think these three are partners in our growth process.

Sometimes we hear it taught and preached that we should not doubt, and we should not question; we should simply trust and believe.  Honestly, I find many problems with that approach to faith.  Usually when someone takes this approach, they are asking me to trust and believe, not in God, but in their understanding or concept of God.  When I run into people who possess an absolute certainty about who God is and how God works, I find it wise to approach with a healthy skepticism.  Claiming to have all the answers about faith seems to be the opposite of trusting in a God of Mystery.  In Isaiah 55:8-9, God says to the prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways are not your ways….As high as the heavens are above the earth, so my ways are beyond your ways, and my thoughts are beyond your thoughts.”  It is easy to create God in our own image, but in this verse humility is encouraged before the mystery of God. Continue reading Doubt, Questions, and Hope

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

Grief Speaks

LeSette headshot

Rev. Dr. LeSette Wright

December 25, 2020 marks seven months since
George Floyd, Jr. was killed in police custody.

What will Christmas be like for his 6-year old daughter Gianna and the rest of their family? Will the voice of grief speak louder than the hope proclaimed by Christmas?

The truth is, everyday grief speaks; some days louder than others.  The holidays have a way of increasing the volume of griefs voice.  With this in mind, let’s create spaces in our lives for conversations and constructive outlets for our grief.  Let’s make it safe to grieve individually and communally.  Let’s nurture an atmosphere where the grieving process is normative and we choose to engage that process in a life giving, life sustaining way.

Gianna Floyd; from Gianna Floyd’s Instagram

This Christmas, how do we grieve alongside the families of George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and the countless other families feeling the traumatically blaring absence of loved ones?

This Christmas, let’s commit to turning our pain and anger into power and action both individually and communally.  Let’s help one another by pledging and acting to develop lifestyles of anti-racism, love, justice, forgiveness, courage and hope.  Let’s proclaim, “I see you and you matter” through every thought nurtured, word spoken, message sent, action taken.

This holiday season, lets reach out to grieving individuals and families with a welcome to weep, a note of hope, a thoughtful donation, a gift of love, a prayer for peace, an invitation to reflect.

God, as we reflect on the birth of Christ, I pray that our humanity will be cultivated.  Teach us to love as we were born to love.  Be with Gianna Floyd as this is her first Christmas without her Daddy.  Comfort the Floyd family and all of us that feel the pain of grief during the holidays.  Help us to support one another and nurture a nation where love abounds and despair does not win, In Jesus Name, AMEN.

The Story of the Student Chaplain Program Continues…

(If you haven’t read Part 1 click here before continuing on.)

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

Acquiring 17 primary labor positions was somewhat of a miracle so we knew we had to make the very best of the gifts we had been given.  In the fall of 1998, I was hired to work as a bridge between the Campus Christian Center and the Collegium (Residence Life professionals) and assumed the position of Student Chaplain supervisor upon Rev. Lee’s retirement.  Graciously, Rev. Lee shared the materials he had used for training.  I am so thankful I didn’t have to start from scratch!  The new primary job position was supported by the Campus Christian Center budget and while I was designated as the labor supervisor, the Student Chaplains also worked as Residence Assistants (RAs).   This meant they received training from the CCC and Residence Life, alternated between the 2 departments for labor meetings, and also reported to their Collegium member.  We had to figure out how this shared position would work so we started with 9 Student Chaplain/RAs the first year.  Through trial and error, patience, and shared effort, within 3 years we worked up to the full 17-member team, with a Student Chaplain in every residence hall! Continue reading The Story of the Student Chaplain Program Continues…

The Student Chaplain Program: In the Beginning…

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

I am proud of the work of the Campus Christian Center on so many levels.  But, among the best things we do is the Student Chaplain Program.  These dedicated students work all over campus providing spiritual programs, pastoral care, peer counseling, interfaith education and conversation.  They plan and participate in weekly chapel services and contribute to College ceremonies.  Often the services they provide are in the background as they quietly attend to student needs and build bridges for students to access the professional assistance they may need to succeed in college.  The work they, and their supervisors, do may go unnoticed so I want to take this opportunity to tell a story about this pretty amazing program.  As I began to do research for this blog, I found that the conception of this program goes much farther back than I knew.  So, let’s start at the very beginning…

Continue reading The Student Chaplain Program: In the Beginning…

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.
Continue reading Exceptional Times…Exceptional Students

Celebrating Ida B. Wells-Barnett

Hey Family,

LeSette headshot

Rev. Dr. LeSette Wright

I hope this message finds you well!  It is July 2020!  We have officially entered the second half of the year.  I love July because it’s my birthday month.  I happen to share a birthday with one of the most phenomenal women to ever walk the earth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett.  We were both born on July 16th, which I think is really special.

So this month’s blog is dedicated to Ida B. Wells, a Proverbs 31 woman extraordinaire!  Ida was a business owner, journalist, activist, teacher, sister, friend, wife and mother.  All of these roles and many more reflected her humanity, womanhood and multifaceted brilliance.

Continue reading Celebrating Ida B. Wells-Barnett

The Berea College Labyrinth

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

Rev. Loretta Reynolds

The last 5 weeks have been…strange.  Classes, meetings, grading, conferences, and worship services are virtual—reaching out to connect with others from our kitchen tables, basements, and bedroom make-shift offices.  In the last few weeks, we have experienced the grief of unfulfilled dreams of graduation celebrations, being geographically separated from friends, losing the personal interaction of the classroom, and many have had to grieve the loss of a loved one without the usual comforting rituals.  As unusual as things have been in the past few weeks, life has a way of also continuing to remind us of beauty—babies have been born, couples have gotten married, spring flowers have graced us with a riot of color, and lessons have been learned.  Doing things differently has encouraged us to learn new skills, has reminded us to appreciate simple freedoms like buying groceries and sitting down in a restaurant, and we are being given the opportunity to apply Jesus’ instruction to love our neighbor by going the second mile (or in this case, by staying at home!).

These weeks of doing things differently gives us an opportunity to discern how our spiritual practices can help us learn and grow while we are living and working in this strange land.  Regardless of your religion or if you have no religious tradition, one spiritual tool that is available to all is the labyrinth. Continue reading The Berea College Labyrinth

Hurricane Dorian Bahamian Relief Effort

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God’s purpose prevails.   
Proverbs 19:21 (MSG)LeSette headshot

In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas becoming the worst natural disaster the nation has ever experienced.  In November, I traveled to Nassau to provide spiritual care with survivors in the aftermath of Dorian.  In the midst of vivid recollections of horrific circumstances, there dwelled a prevailing sense of purpose.  ‘God has a purpose for my life” exclaimed a survivor as we connected in Spirit and lifted our voices in song.

Proverbs 19:21 reminds us that in our humanity we value the importance of planning. Yet, it humbles us with the understanding that Divine purpose supersedes our plans.  Do you believe this?  Do you believe God has a purpose for your life?  I do!

During Spring Break 2020, I returned to Nassau with a team of six Bereans purposed to serve in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.  Wilkensley Thervil, Kyle Seghers, Ana Chavez, Christella Philippe, Stephanie Itumba and I are forever changed by this experience.  We made many plans in preparation for our trip. However, when we arrived in Nassau, we quickly internalized the importance of flexibility and openness to our plans changing.   There was clearly a purpose for us being in the Bahamas that was bigger than what we knew.  This message resounded as we encountered our first assignment at the Distribution Center in Nassau.

Continue reading Hurricane Dorian Bahamian Relief Effort

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