"We are all indebted to God and ask for God’s blessing for everything we do at this school. I represent that in a visual way.”

"We are all indebted to God and ask for God’s blessing for everything we do at this school. I represent that in a visual way.”

McKENDREE EXPERIENCE: Rev. Dr. Tim Harrison


If a
student’s spiritual journey was a game of kick the can,
the Reverend
Dr. Timothy
Harrison would
be home base.

 

“We want to provide a safe place,” the McKendree chaplain and director of church relations explained. “A place where students can ask questions and explore their faith without the fear or apprehensiveness they may have had as a child.”

Many students inherit their religious beliefs from their parents. As young adults on a college campus, they not only spread their wings but also sometimes question their faith.

“Our faith is a journey that takes turns based on the journey - the people we meet, the things we experience and our relationship with God,” Tim said. “This is a small campus. Students feel safe here so they are more able to take risks to explore their faith.”

After 15 years of campus service, Tim knows what it takes to reach his flock.

“Relationship is key; my relationship with them, their relationship with God. I am United Methodist. But what we try to do is provide an ecumenical ministry and interfaith opportunities. Whatever their traditions, or no tradition at all, I am charged to reach them.”

The entire McKendree family falls under the chaplain’s watchful eye. “We provide counsel for faculty and staff, as well as students. Maybe a staff person had a bad day. Or they just need to vent. Or they just lost a child. We just held a funeral for someone who was here 20-plus years.

“I do weddings. I do counseling for students, faculty and staff. If someone is going through a divorce, they can talk to me. No one thinks, ‘He’s a United Methodist minister and I’m of a different faith so he can’t help me.’ They think, ‘He’s a friend, a colleague.’”

One need not visit Bothwell Chapel to find the chaplain.

“Even if a student, faculty or staff member has chosen not to be devout, just the mere fact I stand up at every graduation, every convocation, every time a building is built–or there’s a blessing over it–is a spoken reminder of what I represent as chaplain here.”

“We are all indebted to God and ask for God’s blessing for everything we do at this school. I represent that in a visual way.”

And a physical way as well. Tim accompanies students on domestic and foreign mission trips, bringing aid to those who need it most. “We helped with Hurricane Katrina relief,” he said. “Over the years, we’ve done construction in elementary schools in Mexico, delivered food to the poor in Brazil, helped with home repair on a Native American reservation in Oklahoma. The students always come back with a different perspective on their lives–how blessed they are, and the importance of serving others.”

On campus, he oversees Global Awareness Week, which includes a series of events organized by the Interfaith Task Force, which he heads.

“President Obama extended a challenge to all the campuses across the country to use service and other activities as the key to bring people of different faith traditions–both religious and non-religious–together.

The goal is to serve together, to talk about faith and to learn in a hands-on way.

“We talk about the word ‘peace,’ we have services about peace, we have people from different traditions talk about what peace means to them.”

At the first Global Awareness Week in Spring 2012, students, faculty and staff dedicated a new “peace pole” on campus and created a “peace quilt” that is displayed in McKendree’s new residence hall.

“They each took a little piece of the quilt and designed it in a way to represent what peace means to them,” the chaplain said. “It is a reminder of what peace means to us individually as part of a larger community.

“It is a reminder of what we can do when we all come together.”