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.
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.
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. (more…)
We humans keep brainstorming options and plans,
but God’s purpose prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (MSG)
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.
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.
Rev. Loretta Reynolds
Dear Berea College Community,
At the beginning of this New Year and new decade (ok, I know there is some debate about that!), the staff at the Campus Christian Center would like to try something new. We are starting a monthly blog! Each month, one of our College Chaplains will share what we are thinking. We hope you will find it helpful, perhaps even inspirational. And, we would like your feedback.
I have to admit, this is my first foray into blogging so I enter with both excitement and trepidation! But here are a few things I have been thinking about as we enter 2020.
I’m worried….about climate change, mass incarceration, the threat of war, the treatment of immigrants and what that says about the condition of the soul of our county. I am concerned about the instability of our political situation, the destruction of our coral reefs and sea animals, what will happen in the election no matter who wins, and I’m worried about all of us who find it easy to fall into despair at the enormity of it all. I find myself looking around for a prophet. Someone who will come up with a clear plan and tell me what to do.
Traditional, stereotypical prophets, usually do have a clear plan but often it is a plan that most of us do not want to follow. I don’t think John and Matilda Fee and the other founders of Berea College saw themselves as prophets. Well, maybe they did, but I think they were just determined to act on what they believed, to their very core, to be right. And yet, it was in the very living out of the call to promote justice and equality that they became what we recognize now as prophets.