The Collegian
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Sermon invites dialogue on peace at Kairos

University of Richmond's Office of the Chaplaincy welcomed the Rev. Dr. John Philip Newell as a guest preacher in Tuesday night's weekly service led by the Kairos Leadership Team.

Newell is a Scottish poet, preacher and scholar. Formerly Warden of Iona Abbey in the Western Isles of Scotland, Newell is now companion/theologian for the American Spirituality Center of Casa del Sol at Ghost Ranch in the high desert of New Mexico.

Newell preached on the theme of "Peace: How do we make peace?" Tuesday night. His brief homily referenced Mahatma Gandhi and talked of spirituality, nonviolence and peace in today's world. He closed the service with a short Scottish blessing.

"I thought it was a really powerful message in helping us to think through how we can work from a place deep within us to understand how we make peace with others and reconcile differences with others," Bryn Bagby Taylor, director of spiritual formation, said.

Newell splits his time between Edinburgh, Scotland with his family where he does most of his writing and the U.S. where he preaches and teaches around the country. Newell has also published several books on Celtic spirituality.

"John Philip Newell is one of the greatest theologians working in the world today," Craig Kocher, the university chaplain, said.

The Kairos Leadership Team is a collection of students from all walks of life at Richmond that organizes the Kairos Contemplative Service each week, Evan Williams, senior team member, said.

"Our aim is to create a contemplative atmosphere once a week on campus that allows students to take pause from their busy schedules and address tough questions related to campus and Christian life," Williams said.

The leadership team is responsible for choosing topics, managing the weekly Kairos service and creating the desired atmosphere to get students involved and thinking.

The team sets up for every service, chooses readers, greeters and prayer leaders, selects worship music and works to help all members of the Kairos community embrace one another in Christian kinship, Williams said.

Kairos services are open to the entire Richmond community. Students, faculty and staff and community members were present Tuesday night.

"Dr. Newell is very interested in young adults and their spirituality, mainly the particular challenges young adults are facing in the world today," Kocher said.

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Newell had lunch with the Kairos Leadership team Tuesday afternoon before delivering his homily at Cannon Memorial Chapel.

"For our leadership team it's about the community that gathers week to week," Taylor said. "To have such a special guest come and provide expert insight into how we can be peacemakers in the world."

The university was just one stop on Newell's itinerary in Richmond. He is scheduled to preach at chapels and churches in Richmond through Sunday evening.

Contact reporter Oliver Murphy at

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