I noticed this story in the NYT last week. Smith College may be an obscure place, but the issues involved in the story, namely how to quantify the value that chaplains can bring to an institution, are of note and are equally relevant in the contxt of military chaplaincy. Likewise the story’s comments on how difficult it can be to offer meaningful yet generic Protestant worship would be well understood by CF protestant chaplains. MP+
June 18, 2010
A College Fires Its Chaplains to Save Money, and Students Move On
By MARK OPPENHEIMER
When a chaplaincy dies, there is nobody to preside over the funeral. But if there were a funeral, would anyone show up?
In May 2009, Jennifer Walters, dean of religious life at Smith College, closed a budget gap by laying off her only three practicing chaplains, representatives of the American trinity of religious tradition: Protestant, Catholic and Jew.
The Rev. Leon T. Burrows, a Baptist minister; Elizabeth Carr, a Catholic laywoman; and Rabbi Bruce Bromberg Seltzer were allowed a final year, but by June 30, all will have vacated their Smith offices, spiritual and physical. Rabbi Seltzer and Dr. Carr will continue as chaplains at nearby Amherst College, which paid a third of the three chaplains’ salaries. But for the first time since 1935, there will be no chaplains at Smith.
According to Dr. Walters, the end of the chaplaincy was not just a matter of money.
On a weekly basis, “less than 100 students were actually participating in regular religious services provided by the college,” Dr. Walters said. “Maybe close to 50 total, to be honest.”
It is hard to tell who cares, or how much.
Read the whole story here.