Located on the 4th floor of the Alvarez College Union in 2011, the Chaplain’s Office exists to address a broad range of spiritual needs. The Office began in 1951as a place to nurture the faith of Christian students, but it has since broadened its mission and now aims to serve students from all spiritual and religious backgrounds. As stated on Davidson’s website, the Chaplain’s Office is available to “people from any faith tradition, or none at all, for pastoral counseling, spiritual direction, and program planning.”
In addition to enriching the spiritual lives of Davidson students, the Chaplain’s Office sponsors faith-based groups involved with service. The Office also organizes the Stapleton-Davidson Internship, an opportunity for students to explore Christian faith through urban service, and funds Spiritual Exploration/Staley Grants. Additionally, the Chaplain’s Office hosts the Alternative Gift Market, a Christmas gift fair where shoppers donate to organizations for global needs, and coordinates Journey to Nicaragua, a reverse mission experience. In an interview, Chaplain Rob Spach said that the Office “is the place that is most intentional about integrating spirituality or religion or faith and community service.”
The Chaplain’s Office grew out of the college’s YMCA program. The YMCA was a student organization that served a variety of functions, such as running freshman orientation activities and assisting local Boy Scout Troops. The Y’s secretary was given the title of Chaplain when the Office began in 1951, and over the years the title alternated between “Chaplain” and “Minister to Students.” In 1980, the YMCA became the YSSC, Young Student Service Corps. This title change marked the first intentional separation of the role of the Chaplain and community service; the Chaplain became less service-focused, and service through the college became less faith-based.
Alan Gripe, the YMCA secretary and inaugural Chaplain, used his role to establish a bridge between campus religious activities and church ministries. Between 1955 and 1992, five men and one woman held the position of Chaplain. Reverend Charles Summers, who was Chaplain in the early ‘80s, won the John W. Kuykendall award for community service as a result of his focus “on involving students in community service and teaching them how working with and for others related to their faith.” Rob Spach, the longest running Chaplain to date, followed Summers with the same goal in 1992. During his time at Davidson, the college has become much more religiously diverse. By the 2008-2009 academic year, adjunct Catholic and Jewish Chaplains had joined the Office. The Chaplains continue to work collaboratively to encourage all manner of religious expression and inquiry at Davidson College.
Authors: Ginny Evans, Allison Jones, Ashley Lax
Date: April 2011
“Chaplain’s Office.” Religious Life. Davidson College, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.
“John W. Kuykendall Award for Community Service.” Alumni. Davidson College, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2011.