To the Editor:
As co-chairs of the Search Committee for the new University Chaplain, we couldn’t agree more with the title of Rabbi Ponet’s commentary piece in Wednesday’s News: “It’s time to rethink role of campus chaplain.” In fact that is precisely what has been happening. In late 2004, an outside committee of distinguished religious leaders, convened by President Levin, issued its recommendations about the chaplaincy of the future. The committee had interviewed students, faculty and faith leaders to suggest a pathway for an expanded chaplaincy that would be responsive to the increasing religious diversity of our community. The appointment last summer of the first Associate University Chaplain who is a Muslim is the most recent indication of the greater ambitions for the chaplaincy.
Last fall, members of the Chaplain Search Committee held conversations across campus. We benefited from discussions with students, with faculty from the Divinity School and beyond, and also with the faith leaders who are members of Yale Religious Ministries. All underscored the opportunity for the next chaplain to build on the excellent work of Chaplain Streets to serve a campus that is increasingly diverse in its religious traditions.
Since last September, the search committee has been looking for a University Chaplain who can provide creative religious leadership for our diverse religious community. We also want someone who will take delight in working with students and be available as a “pastor” to students and others. Those aspirations for leadership were captured in the Goals statement for the next Chaplain that appeared last fall at www.yale.edu/chaplainsearch.
We also recognize the importance of supporting a vital religious ministry at Battell. What that ministry will look like will depend on the character of the appointment of the University Chaplain. The search envisions the possibility of several possible relationships between the University Chaplain and the leadership of the Battell community.
Of course, we cannot disclose the particularities of the candidates for the position, but we are very pleased that the 10 individuals we have interviewed include those of several faiths, both lay and ordained leaders, those who were born in the Middle East and in the heartland of America, those who come from a social service background and those who have been primarily in the Academy.
We aspire to appoint a new University Chaplain who will play a leading role in stimulating and guiding the kinds of interfaith conversation that Rabbi Ponet encourages. Such conversations will be essential to the vitality of Yale in the 21st century and to the cohesion of the world that Yale ultimately serves.
Harold W. Attridge
Dean of the Divinity School
Linda Koch Lorimer
The writers are co-chairs of the Chaplain Search Committee.