It’s a question I’m often asked when I tell people that I’m a college chaplain. I don’t really have “typical” days. Like most pastors, chaplains do a little of everything. We put together programs, organize and lead worship (weddings and memorials included) and counsel students.
In his book Reaching Out Henri Nouwen recounts a story of walking the campus at Notre Dame with an experienced professor who, as they strolled along, said to him, “My whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” If ever there was an apt description of ministry in higher education, that is it: a ministry of interruptions.
About a year ago, some students approached me about having a Bible study. It was a pretty unusual request, given the number of active student groups on our small campus. We were joined by Christians of all kinds and by students who might not identify as Christian but were interested in how we might talk about the Bible. We met weekly during Lent and read Lamentations together. Most of them (even the churched ones) weren’t even aware it existed. In a world of distraction and disruption, sometimes we need interruptions like this in our hectic lives, and sometimes we ask for it without even knowing why we need it.
While the heart of the church may be the congregation, I see the Holy Spirit at work in amazing ways through people who never enter a church building. Working beyond church walls also means I never quite know what is coming my way and can’t really plan for it, because when I plan too much, I miss the best opportunities.
And some days I do my best work in the dining hall.
Rev. Kate Colussy-Estes, Julia Thompson Smith Chaplain, Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia
Let us pray
“On this day, we offer prayers for the young adults that are preparing to begin or return to the various colleges and universities around our country. We thank you that the young people in our denomination have the opportunity to learn and grow as they prepare for their future vocations. We ask that you not only bless them in those efforts, but that you also guide their footsteps. We ask that you send mentors to walk alongside them and with whom they might find spiritual friendship. We pray a prayer of protection over them and that through your Spirit they might continually know that you are with them and that they are loved.”