Reflections from North Central College Chaplains
Each of the chaplains was invited to reflect upon the highlights of their time of ministry at North Central. Their responses vary because of the length and context of their chaplaincy as well as the gifts and graces they brought to campus. The chaplaincies of Rev. St. Angelo, Rev. Bouldin and Rev. Beavin are detailed more thoroughly in issues of the NC Chronicle and Spectrum.
Rev. David Durham
North Central Chaplain 1969 – 1972
My mind has been flooding with memories of when June and I were at North Central College. I was employed by the college as Chaplain, reporting directly to the upper echelon of administration. We had had "required chapel" and there was still a push for that, but I encouraged taking a different approach. And through the years we had some fine college assemblies often with presenters we brought in from Chicago. Notably was when a little known Alex Haley spoke about his just being published book, "Roots."
June, I, and our two daughters lived in the brick bungalow next to President Arlo Schilling's presidential home.(Where WONC is now located.) Sadly June died of cancer in 1992 The home was an excellent location near the athletic center where I developed some closeness to athletes. And our home provided a place for warm hospitality by June. Both at home and at office or elsewhere it was important to be a "presence" on the campus and available for conversation or counseling with students or staff. Generally I did not have a Sunday responsibility as we encouraged students to make a local church their home. During our time, the three churches offered a splendid variety for whatever matched a person's religious perspective. Grace Church (with Rev. Graver) was conservative; Community UMC with Rev. Bob Harmon was moderate; Wesley UMC (with Rev. Joe Shive) was very liberal. Some weekends a group of students would go into Chicago to the Ecumenical Institute, with which I worked.
In 1971-72 I team taught philosophy with Mr. Skoglund, a good experience because of our different perspectives. In 1971, a community of about 30 Native Americans led by Mike Chosa occupied nearby Camp Seager. They had been driven out of other places- Grant Park most recently, and now NCC and North Illinois UMC Conference were challenged how to respond. Our college led the way. Students from our Education Department began to tutor the children; other students worked with both the young and adults to face their needs; and our dining facilities offered a 2 p.m. meal to the community. The Native Americans stayed there until the Conference had to prepare for their summer program.
It was an exciting ministry. I was fired twice by President Schilling. In May of 1970 I was told to leave, but Bishop Paul Washburn and others on the board countermanded the order. It made life a bit iffy in the next two years, and finally in December 1972 I was given walking papers again. In either time I was unaware of the reasons for dismissing me - although it was claimed to be for financial reasons. The Chaplaincy positon was not filled again until sometime later (1976).Of course, finances are even tighter now than then. Throughout our nation colleges are thinking religious staff may be the least missed. I am most interested in your endowment idea. I have continued to have a warm place in my heart for NCC.
Rev. Mike Moser ’70
North Central Chaplain 1977 – 1982
My chaplaincy began in January of 1977 as part-time interim chaplain following Rev. Beavin’s departure and in July I was appointed chaplain by President Swing. I continued as a Special Admissions Assistant with responsibilities for connecting with the churches of the Wisconsin Annual Conference and the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church. There was a Religious Life Committee in place but overall a very few students were engaged with the ministry. My time was focused upon reaching out and introducing myself to students, to work with RLC for worship, Bible Study or retreat opportunities. I also was a member of the President’s Cabinet so I developed some larger perspectives on the College. I was out on some weekends with my other position, so most happenings were during the week. In 1979 I dropped the Special Admissions work and became part-time Director of Student Activities which then freed up some weekends for ministry activities.
Being on campus full-time resulted in a blending of responsibilities that allowed for ministry concerns to be integrated into student and campus life. I see this as one of the significant outcomes of my chaplaincy. It moved ministry to a little more consistence presence in activities and cooperative efforts that would be built upon by my successors. The students helped me to see what I didn’t know or understand and they helped to build a more effective campus ministry.
With the arrival of Rev. Carol Findon as a part-time Campus Chaplain in 1981 there were more opportunities for counseling, vocational discernment, support of worship and other activities. Her presence and effectiveness enabled us to set a standard of the equivalent of a full-time chaplain in Ministry.
In 1982 I was appointed dean of students and began a further extension of ministry, not as a chaplain but as an administrator with the Chaplain position coming under the student life area. I tried in those years to bring the values of ministry into the work of student life and into how I sought to be the dean.
Rev. Dr. Carol Findon
North Central Chaplain 1981 – 1983
I discovered an old resume stating that I was at North Central College from September 1981 to June 1983. The first year I was supervised by you as an intern for my G-ETS field education toward my M.DIV. The second year I was the only chaplain on staff, however the Roman Catholic Church had a priest assigned who was also connected with St Peter and Paul Church with whom I had some conversations. But he was not so willing to collaborate. I believe there was also a conservative/fundamentalist person from one of the local 'churches' that was gathering students together but I was little aware of what he or they were doing, perhaps by choice.
I recall that there were Wed or Tues evening worship gatherings in the chapel. Not sure if they were during my time with you or the next year. But they were not attended well, but there were the faithful few. My greatest remembrance was being in connection with two young women and encouraging them to consider going to seminary. I was blessed to recognize their sincere faith in Jesus' ministry of social justice and compassion to those oppressed and marginalized. I helped them to explore their life's calling. These two women, Lisa KrellTelomen ’83 and Annie J Gonzalez ‘84 are now in ministry in the Norther Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Another experiences that were brought to mind immediately as we talked on the phone, was that I assisted Professor Dr. David Frolick who asked me to help with developing a Holocaust Remembrance with displays of his photo collection in the library. I believe but I'm not sure, that there was a lecture in the library as the display was dedicated.
And then there was a young African American woman, Treasa Lynn Smith ‘85 who came to me and wanted to start a Black Gospel choir at the college and eventually have a concert for the college and the community. I encouraged her to pursue this and referred her to various departments and persons to get this started. I talked with her numerous times as she was so diligent in moving this project forward. She did an outstanding ministry for the college expanding the opportunities for African American students at NCC.
After two years at North Central, I spent a few years in the local church but eventually went back to G-ETS for a D.MIN in Pastoral Counseling/Psychotherapy and spent nearly 18 years at Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center (now called Samara Care) in Naperville. After retirement from there I had a private practice for 10 years and Now FULLY retired!!!! My work at NCC talking and listening to students and faculty truly help me to see my true calling
Rev. Dr. Barbara Isaacs
North Central Chaplain 1983 – 1990
Rev. Dr. Barbara Isaacs came to North Central in 1983 from Court Street United Methodist Church in Rockford, Ill. Later, in an interview in the North Central Chronicle, Barbara stated, “I had no special training to be a campus minister. There’s no course entitled Campus Ministry 101. They don’t teach you that. “The primary center (of campus ministry) is to be an example of God’s grace and presence in our lives. It serves as a sign of the church to the students saying ‘we haven’t forgotten you’ and of the school saying, we want to recognize and meet your needs.”
Barbara used her many gifts and graces to witness to the truth of those statements. She started ministry groups such as New Visions, Growing Edge, Friday Night Live, internships for Red Bird Mission, Appalachian Service Project and several other internship opportunities. On campus her leadership of the United Methodist Student Organization, Multi-Cultural Student Association and Fellowship of Christian Athletes was much appreciated by the students and campus community.
In keeping with her commitment to the prophetic dimension of ministry, she was able to bring to the campus a greater awareness of social justice locally, nationally and globally.
In 1985, a proposed Nicaragua trip that Barbara proposed created quite a stir. President Swing had to override the Cabinet veto; it was the first North Central-sponsored international trip since a 1970s religious studies trip to Turkey.
In 1986, a grant from the United Methodist Church was designed to address a multi-layered challenge: the void of multicultural voices among faculty and staff and programming for students). This grant was Barbara’s spring board into participating on the North Central guest lecturer committee. She brought to campus such voices as the interim president of Chicago's Rainbow Coalition after Jesse Jackson left the position. There was an the invitation to Rep. Bobby Rush. Twice she brought the Rev. Colin Jones to campus; he was Dean of St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town, from 1988 to 1995, and assistant to Bishop TuTu.
In 1987, the grant also funded feminist empowerment steps for students & faculty; and in 1988, the Growing Edge team which addressed cross-racial dialogue for both Northern Illinois and Wisconsin Conferences' confirmation classes & youth events. In 1990, a winter conference brought the 1960s Freedom Riders and "Freedom Children" from Mississippi to campus.
Barbara was able to secure exceptional Northern Illinois United Methodist Conference leadership of Rev. Tallulah Fisher Williams’74 to lead Sunday evening groups. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone ’90 of the East Ohio United Methodist Conference and Jessica Porter Houston ’90 who serves on Chicago's Lutheran School of Theology staff were very much involved, as were others.
Some of her most memorable moments involve students who were participating in off-campus ministry activities. “It’s being able to adventure together into the unknown.” Celebrating a student’s 19th birthday on a mountain in Nicaragua or singing Christmas carols outside an Appalachian home with a group of students. “You get a sense of yourself and your ability to respond to the social justice theme of the Gospel.”
Rev. Carol Cory
North Central Chaplain 1990 – 1994
First of all, in thinking of Campus Ministry, I think of the students themselves. These young adults were growing in leadership, values, seeking vocational and matrimonial choices, and delighting in life. The program was varied and exciting. Carol Giagnoni, a talented woman—would direct and accompany small singing groups that led services in churches and camps, sharing their music. Campus Ministry had deputation teams (of 4-5) that would travel to churches and camps (upon request) to provide leadership for Vacation Bible Schools, church youth groups, and week-long summer camps. We held weekly Chapel services, with well-known speakers, such as Al Carius and other faculty members, Tracey Smith Malone, Bishop Sharon Rader, and Dr. Richard Hackman of Harvard U.
There were weekly suppers, bringing faculty /administration members into informal faith discussions with students. Also each week, two or three students would provide a Sunday morning worship and fellowship time at a Naperville retirement home. The Campus Minister worked with the Black Student Association, which involved supporting minority students in a white campus and suburban setting. The Association organized Black Gospel Choirs, lectures, and the annual “Gospel Extravaganza” which brought Chicago Gospel Choirs to campus.
The Campus Minister cooperated with the Leadership, Ethics and Values program of North Central College: presenting class sessions, and helping to locate vocational trial placements for considering values.The Campus Ministry found employment positions for students within church programs, and with national organizations, such as the summertime Appalachian Service Project. There were Campus Ministry events on campus—to stimulate growth in students’ faith/justice understandings, such as—Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfasts--with noteworthy speakers, a demonstration regarding Homelessness, a debate on “Is Capitalism Ethical?”, and a discussion of faith and LBGTQ students.
Campus Ministry took students into the larger world: --Retreats of students examining faith issues and commitments. Some of these were regional and national gatherings.--traveling to Chautauqua, NY., to participate in worship—study opportunities.--tour of the Holy Land—to study the Palestinian/Israel conflict; interacting with Christian leaders there.—trip to El Salvador—living with a faith community and seeking to understand the U.S. policy.--journey to Washington D.C.—studying homelessness, U.S. policy stances, and faith insights.--work teams went to the Appalachian Service Project to repair homes and learn about poverty. With many late-night meetings and an annual “Pizza Taste-off”, the Campus Minister developed an “over-wrought” taste for pizza. I seldom choose to eat pizza these days.101%
Rev. Dr. Lynn Pries ’67
North Central Chaplain 1994 – 2014
I began my chaplaincy at North Central after serving in several local churches in the Northern Illinois United Methodist Conference. My approach was influenced by my experience as a student under the leadership of Rev. George St. Angelo ’41. Focusing upon student needs, the College community and the prophetic dimension of the Gospel my ministry was composed of developing a nurturing environment and opportunities for service, faith development and vocational direction. Some of the highlights for me are the following:
- Appalachian Service Project and spring break mission/work trips (I went on 16 week-long ASP trips and eight week-long spring break trips.)
- Called to Be was a week-long event for high school students whose churches or pastors wanted to encourage youth to consider a call to ministry.
- Direction for Life was a week-long program to recruit UM high school sophomores and juniors that ran for five years.
- Connected students to churches and specifically, UM students to UM churches
- Coordinated Northern Illinois UM Conference high school events that were held by North Central.
- Coordinated scholarship distribution for UM and ministry scholarships. Approximately $65,000/year and approximately 25 students/year = $1.3 million dollars to 250 students.
- Counseled students, faculty, and staff who experienced disappointment and trauma.
- Developed relationships with students, faculty, and staff.
- Evangelical Theological Seminary reunions created UM connections and enabled fundraising for Chapel. I planned three reunion/EUB historical events over a period of nine years.
- Supported Voices of Praise Gospel Choir and Gospel Extravaganza.
- The Martin Luther King Prayer Breakfast, MLK week and speakers for MLK week––I served on the committee, chose many of the MLK breakfast speakers, promoted, and coordinated the Prayer Breakfast. One year, I coordinated the effort to recruit, raise funds, and publicize Cornell West as the MLK keynote speaker for MLK week. Pfeiffer Hall was filled to capacity. In following years, the College’s Development Office found a corporate sponsor for the MLK keynote speakers, so we were able to invite nationally known speakers.
- Welcomed LGBTQ persons into campus ministry, served as an ally to LGBT faculty, staff, and students and helped to defuse hate incidents. I served on the committee for the programs for annual Anti-Hate week.
- Recruited UM students for North Central largely through Direction for Life, Called to Be, New Visions, New Visions Summer Companies, and New Beginnings teams.
- New Beginnings –For 20 years, New Beginnings led eight to 12 VBS programs for UM churches. Each VBS program had 25 to 80 children. Approximately 175 weeks of VBS programs reaching a total of approximately 6,000 children.
- New Visions from 1994 to 2010, New Visions led worship with music and drama an average of 10 times a year. With an average of 100 persons in attendance, New Visions programs reached 16,000 persons.
- New Visions Summer Company and camping programs––20 years of leading week-long UM camps. (20 years with an average of four camps per summer each with an average of 40 campers, reaching about 800 children and youth with week-long camps.)
- Nurtured student leadership for National UM Student Movement and UM Conferences such as Student Forum with approximately 100 students participating.
- Nurtured and recruited students considering a call to ministry––approximately 10 students chose to serve as ordained UM clergy and several others are serving in other ministries or in other denominations. (One is currently a Garrett-ETS student, two North Central alumni that I recruited through a Called to Be events are current G-ETS students, and one is in a Ph.D. program at Boston School of Theology. Two were ordained in the last NI Conference Session.)
- Nurtured the UM Church Relationship by interpreting the College to the church and the church to the College. I worked to resolve conflicts between the Northern Illinois Conference and the College.
- Nurtured the relationship with Grace UMC which supported scholarships for students of color. The church gave an average $4,000 per year for 20 years.
- Officiated at least 100 weddings and conducted pre-marital preparation.
- Officiated at about 20 memorial services of students, staff, and faculty.
- Served as co-chair of the United Methodist Campus Ministry Association (UMCMA) for four years. In 2009, I helped recruit UMCMA members to attend the UM General Conference, helped to raise money for 20 people to stay a portion of the 10 days for the GC, and coordinated the presentations of eight petitions to the GC. All eight were adopted.
Rev. Eric Doolittle
North Central Chaplain 2014 – present
The word chaplain has its roots in a person who maintains sacred space for others. It is a different form of ministry from the pastor leading her flock or the reverend presiding over worship. Over the past six years, the highlights of my ministry have been empowering students to engage their faith to find their identity and passion. It has been about creating space for students to practice their faith in bold an creative ways.
In my first year, a student in the LBGT+ community was facing challenges with his call to ministry both on campus and in the UMC. Some other student leaders were reluctant to accept him as a valid leader in campus faith activities and there was little room for discussion in order to keep the peace with more traditional Christians. Together, he and I decided to step down from formal leadership in protest and instead form a small group of fully-affirming Christians for his final semester. His actions led him to fully embrace his identity as an LBGTQ+ person in ministry as he went on to seminary the next year. The United Methodists on campus were then inspired to formally become a Reconciling Ministry with RMN and change their organization name to United to welcome all Christians who were fully affirming.
Muslim students are a growing population at North Central College. In 2016, with only three international students actively practicing Islam, we formed a Muslim Student Association to start advocating for space to welcome all faiths on campus. Today, the Muslim Student Association has almost thirty members and regularly hosts campus events to educate other students about their faith and culture. We also have an interfaith prayer room so all students can have space to practice their faith.
In 2018, Mynk Richardson-Clerk decided to start taking a knee during the national anthem at her lacrosse games. Mynk made this decision as the captain of the team and cited her faith as a major motivation in her call to action. I joined her in solidarity and gave her a space to explain her decision and the blowback during our Q Commons event in 2019.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiVAgqkLKZ8 Mynk successfully pressured the college to be more vocal in its support of Black students and continues her activism as an alum. https://www.uslaxmagazine.com/college/women/why-college-lacrosse-player-...
I can list a long series of new programs started and events that have grown in my six years, but it is the personal vignettes of students engaging their faith and putting it in action that captures my ministry best.
In the greater Naperville area I am a member of the Naperville Interfaith Leaders Association, One Naperville, Unity Partnership, Naperville Neighbors United and DuPage Higher Education Service Council.
On campus, I helped to start the Middle East and North Africa Studies Program, the 12:5 worship service, the Lux Veritas Speaker Series, the Muslim Students Association, the Interfaith Prayer Room, the annual Advent Devotional, and relaunched the Voices of Praise Gospel Choir. He helps coordinate the annual Seder dinner, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Prayer Breakfast, the Mindful Meditation Series, Gospel Extravaganza, Dia de Los Muertos, Baccalaureate, United as Reconciling Ministry and the Chaplain’s Help Fund.
In my spare time, I am a blacksmith at Naper Settlement and with RAWtools, an organization embodying God’s vision of turning swords to plowshares by decommissioning firearms and transforming them into garden tools.