The search for Richmond’s new chaplain, which began in November 2016, is still in its preliminary phase, as the search committee determines which candidates should be considered for the first round of interviews, the co-chair of the chaplain search committee said.

“We all hope that this will be wrapped up and we will have someone hired by the end of the spring semester,” Stephanie Cobb, co-chair of the search committee and chair of the Religious Studies Department, said.

Cobb doesn't see the year-long search process atypical because the Chaplaincy job is a senior position, Cobb said.

Richmond’s previous chaplain, Craig Kocher, left Richmond over the summer in 2016 after seven years working at Richmond. Kocher now works as the Senior Pastor at Oak Ridge United Methodist Church in North Carolina. 

Since his departure, Director of Spiritual Formation Bryn Taylor has been working as the interim chaplain.

The chaplain serves as a spiritual leader for the Richmond community, Taylor said. It is also the chaplain's job to ensure a diverse representation of different faiths, provide leadership for Chaplaincy staff, work on programming and partner with the broader community.

The chaplain also has important influence on religious policies, like those for religious observances, Cobb said.

The search committee is interested in the prospective chaplains' ideas for leading the campus as it relates to inclusivity and tolerance, Cobb said.

“One of the ways I keep thinking about this is bringing the Wilton Center into the Commons,” she said. “How do we begin to move this programming into very mainstream aspects, from the curriculum to extracurricular activities? How do we incorporate this aspiration of religious inclusivity all the way through our campus life?”

Another member of the search committee, Aisha Farooq, WC '17, expressed similar interest in finding someone focused on diversity of faiths.

“I think it’s important you understand interfaith work,” she said. “It’s fine if you come from a different faith background than me, but it’s really important that you understand how to acknowledge those differences.”

The new chaplain would ideally work with all the different faith groups, such as Hillel and Muslim Students' Association, in the same capacity, Farooq said.

The job description for the position was posted online in November and the search closed by late December, Cobb said. In that time, a consulting firm specialized in finding university chaplains, Mersky, Jaffe & Associates, searched for candidates for the position.

The search committee, which is composed of faculty, staff and students, is now searching for candidates to select for preliminary interviews, Cobb said. After those interviews are completed, a round of final interviews is scheduled in March.

While the search for a new chaplain has been going on, the Chaplaincy has continued with its usual programming, Taylor said. Farooq agreed that none of the programs she participates in have been lacking as a result of the transition process.

For Taylor, new leadership in the Chaplaincy will be exciting.

“I think anytime there’s a transition in leadership, there’s always a moment of opportunity for reevaluating existing programs and an opportunity to look at how they can be improved and changed to make us a better community,” she said.

Contact reporter Kay Dervishi at kay.dervishi@richmond.edu