3 New Chaplains Begin Work at Stetson
Three new Chaplains started work at Stetson University this semester, expanding the diversity of faiths in the Chaplains’ Office to include a Baptist minister, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor and a Buddhist minister.
Lua Hancock, Vice President of Campus Life and Student Success, said Stetson explored the best model for the Chaplains’ Office after beloved Chaplain Michael Fronk retired in November. Stetson administrators learned some colleges have adopted a model of hiring multiple Chaplains of differing faiths, she said.
“It allows for a representational diversity with the goal of being approachable by many of the Stetson community members, most importantly students,” Hancock wrote. “Additionally, this model allows us to work with some Chaplains who would not be able to commit to a full-time position given their other professional responsibilities.”
The three part-time Chaplains will serve for the Spring 2017 term and then a decision will be made about what model works best for the DeLand campus.
The Chaplains are:
- Rev. Christy Correll-Hughes, an ordained Baptist minister who once worked in the Chaplain’s Office at Baylor University. She currently serves as a lay leader at the New Covenant Baptist Church in DeLand, where she worships with her husband, Larry Correll-Hughes, Ph.D., Stetson Assistant Vice President for Campus Life & Student Success, and Executive Director of Housing & Residential Life, and their three children, ages 3, 6 and 9.
- Rev. Willie Barnes, Jr., an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and currently pastor at the Mount Zion A.M.E. Church in Daytona Beach. Rev. Barnes has taught as an adjunct professor of religion at Bethune-Cookman University and is married to wife FranShon Reid-Barnes.
- Sensei Morris Sekiyo Sullivan, an ordained Buddhist minister and the spiritual head of Volusia Buddhist Fellowship in DeLand. He officiates services at White Sands Buddhist Center in Mims, and with Buddhist inmates at Tomoka Correctional Institution. He also teaches tai chi and other group exercise classes at local YMCAs, and has published a book, “Wisdom; Compassion; Serenity: First Steps on the Buddhist Path.” He is married to wife Michelle and has a grown son.
The mission of Stetson University’s Chaplaincy is “to articulate, support, give witness to, and develop the religious and spiritual dimensions of life within the university setting, recognizing the plurality of religious traditions present; and to lead the community and its members to integrate these dimensions more fully in their lives.”
The Chaplains are available to all Stetson students, regardless of the students’ religion or even if they believe in religion at all. The Chaplains can offer spiritual guidance and counseling, including support during a personal crisis, illness or death of a loved one. They have office hours in the Carlton Union Building, room 230.
“My goal as a Chaplain is to create some sacred space for interactions, dialogue and sharing,” said Rev. Correll-Hughes, who has traveled with college students around the world and is a certified Leadership Coach. “There’s room for that in their academic life.”
Rev. Barnes said the three Chaplains have “big shoes” to fill after the departure of Chaplain Fronk, an ordained Baptist minister who pushed for interfaith initiatives and lectures on campus, and embraced people of all faiths.
“I think all three of us are still trying to understand how we’re going to work together to fill some big shoes left by Chaplain Fronk,” he said.
Rev. Barnes applauded the university’s decision to increase diversity in the Chaplains’ Office, saying it demonstrates Stetson’s values and commitment to inclusion.
“It was an intentional and an appropriate decision to bring in three diverse individuals – diverse in ethnicity and diverse in their faiths,” said Barnes, who once served as lead minister at the historic Bethel A.M.E. Church in DeLand.
But Barnes said he hoped students didn’t visit one of the three Chaplains based solely on their religion or ethnicity.
“Because I’m a black Methodist, and Christy is a white Baptist and Sensei Morris is Buddhist, that doesn’t mean we’re only here to talk to people who look like us,” he said. “I am available regardless of what their faith tradition is or what they look like.”
Sensei Sullivan said he was raised Baptist but began studying Zen Buddhism as a college student in the 70s. He said Stetson students sometimes visit the local Buddhist congregation and seek him out as they struggle to find their own spiritual and religious paths, apart from how they may have been raised.
Sullivan even taught Buddhism to retired Chaplain Fronk (’74, Religious Studies) during his health issues that led to his retirement in early November after serving the Stetson community since 2004.
“Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the country, although it’s still not large in terms of the percentage of Americans,” Sullivan said. “But it draws a lot of people who are interested in spiritual practices, more than attending a church.
“One of the things we’ve talked about doing in this department is really helping students who are looking for their own way to find their own way, instead of saying you have to follow us,” he said. “We want to give them the tools to live a good spiritual life.”
By representing differing faiths, the new Chaplains and the Stetson community want to reinforce that the university is “a place for civil dialog across difference and a welcoming space where everyone feels a sense of belonging,” said Stetson’s Hancock.
“I have never found a time in our American and campus history where that is more needed than now,” she said.
To learn more about the three Chaplains, visit the Stetson Chaplains’ Office website or call 386-822-7523. The chaplains also can be reached by email at: Rev. Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org; Rev. Correll-Hughes at email@example.com; and Sensei Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.