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January 2015

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

The new spring semester has been a non-stop, harried and extremely productive time for the OUCRL. Our office, along with the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, and an array of campus partners who comprise our planning committee, begins working in earnest on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Celebration nearly a year before this national holiday arrives. Our theme, “Dismantling Segregation,” explored the historic and ongoing struggle of our society as divided by race, poverty and privilege. The link below will take you through the
many points of engagement by our students, faculty, staff and senior administration that resulted in one of the best attended MLK Days at Vanderbilt ever. And hearing Ambassador Andrew Young’s keynote at Langford to end the day brought great hope from a civil rights legend about the vital role the rising generation we educate are already beginning to play as they live the MLK legacy into the future.

Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council is yet another sign of religious and spiritual vitality on our campus. VIC is the official student organization that serves as a hub around which our many independent religious groups move, collaborate and spark new ideas that lead toward a more inclusive and spiritually engaged campus. VIC has begun to organize monthly gatherings at the Divinity School of students from Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Hindu organizations who meet separately for learning and devotional time appropriate to the traditions that
inform each group. Afterward, an interfaith reception is given where a diversity of food and conversation is shared in common.

A last highlight of early spring planning pertains to two new Project Dialogue cosponsorships scheduled for mid-February. The Wesley Fellowship, Vanderbilt’s United Methodist campus ministry, is working through our office and other partners under the Dean of Students umbrella to present a young author, Matthew Vines, in conversation about his celebrated new book, God and the Gay Christian. This conversation will be on Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Benton Chapel.

On Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Langford Auditorium, Project Dialogue will join forces with Reformed University Fellowship to bring to Vanderbilt the annual Veritas Forum. The word Veritas,
Latin for “truth,” became the purpose of the VF when it was established at Harvard in 1992. These national forums that move across the country into many elite university settings engage the believer’s quest for religious truth that underlies the many discoveries—and intellectual quandaries—within the academic pursuit of knowledge. This year’s forum will be “Encountering Evil: Vanderbilt Faculty Discuss Suffering.”

I look forward to sharing more with you next month. Thanks for your continuing interest and support of Vanderbilt’s OUCRL!

Reverend Mark Forrester

University Worship Starting on Campus

The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life has started a University Worship that will happen monthly throughout the school year on the second Monday of the month. Read more.

2015 MLK Day Commemoration Recap

The 2015 MLK Day Commemoration at Vanderbilt saw larger numbers of students come out than ever before. This year’s theme, “Dismantling Segregation: Race, Poverty, & Privilege,” featured amazing events throughout the day and welcomed Civil Rights icon Ambassador Andrew Young as the evening’s keynote speaker. Read more.

God and the Gay Christian

For many people, the Bible is the biggest obstacle to the full acceptance of LGBT people and the affirmation of same-sex marriage. However, a growing number of scholars and church leaders are rethinking traditional interpretations of scriptural passages commonly used to denounce same-sex relationships as sinful. Read more.

Veritas Forum 2015

Project Dialogue is excited to cosponsor with Vanderbilt Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) in bringing the Veritas Forum back to Vanderbilt for 2015! Because we are fortunate enough to have Paul Lim of our Divinity School as a Veritas speaker, we will get the chance to feature an all-Vanderbilt panel for the 2015 event. Read more.


November 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

The mid-November through mid-December phase of fall semester is riddled with highs and lows as students—and our campus community—enter into that home stretch of final exams, papers and projects. Our Thanksgiving break, offering a quick respite, becomes a time to count our many blessings.

I am thankful for the dedicated student leaders who comprise Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council. Meeting on Thursday evenings, the council is a tapestry of students woven together through diverse threads of religion, race, culture and worldview. While differences are apparent, the quest for what unites and inspires their common search for meaning and purpose always shines through the events they bring to the larger campus. Here’s more on what VIC is and does.

We have just completed our 37th successful Holocaust Lecture Series, the longest-running lecture series in America on the Holocaust. I am especially thankful for the leadership of its committee, chaired by Michael Bess, Chancellor’s Professor of History and professor of European studies, along with student co-chairs Samuel Lazaroff and Lucas Wilson. This year’s theme, “Science, Technology and the Holocaust,” led to some of the best-attended events in recent memory. When Holocaust survivor Eva Kor spoke on Oct. 28, she was greeted by a
standing-room-only crowd. See more about the series.

Highlights of more that’s central to the OUCRL’s mission are given below. I also invite you to visit our affiliate chaplains’ page and explore their ministries, programs and service in detail. I am grateful for them and for all who make up our Vanderbilt community.

And I thank you for your continued interest and support of the OUCRL!

Reverend Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life



October/November Religious Life on Campus

Each month, we will take quick note of the various and wonderful events that our various religious organizations have put on throughout campus. Read more.


‘Re-imagining Gender Within the Church’

Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a national organization devoted to advocacy, education and support for LGBTQ people and issues within the church and beyond, spoke at a lunchtime event on Thursday, Nov. 20, at Vanderbilt Divinity School. Read more.


Vanderbilt Interfaith Spring Break Trip

The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life is partnering with the International Student and Scholar Services, and the Interfaith Council to plan Vanderbilt’s first interfaith spring break trip. The purpose of this trip will be to explore the meaning of faith between several religions through guided visits and explorations of religious sites and personal reflection. Read more.


Food Justice
Project Dialogue co-sponsored two wonderful events in collaboration with the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society, the Cal Turner Program, the Society of St. Cornelius and the Divinity School to bring Norman Wirzba to speak on his work, Food and Faith: a Theology of Eating. Read more.


Chaplains Under Fire

Should the military be hiring clergy? Can the military tell them how to act? How does a Christian chaplain minister to a Buddhist? A Muslim? An atheist? To explore these questions, Lee Lawrence and Terry Nickelson spent three months in Afghanistan and Iraq, where troops let them into their lives. Read more.

October 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

Rev. Mark Forrester

As always, the September-October phase of fall semester is packed with programs, special events and religious holy days that engage a large segment of our campus and city.

Our Jewish community, served by Vanderbilt Hillel and Vanderbilt Chabad, observed Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 25-26), Yom Kippur (Oct. 4), Sukkot (Oct. 9-15), Shemini Atzeret (Oct. 16) and Simchat Torah (Oct. 17).

Our Muslim Student Association and Muslim community at Vanderbilt celebrated Eid al Adha (Oct. 5). The Baha’i community will observe the Birth of Bab (Oct. 20), while our Hindu students and community, led by Vandy Karma, plan to participate in Diwali (Oct. 23).

Highlights of programs central to the OUCRL’s mission are below. Explore numerous events in greater detail at our affiliate chaplains‘ page.

The OUCRL and Vanderbilt Hillel joined with Project Dialogue to celebrate that program’s 25th anniversary with a crowd-pleasing Matisyahu concert
on Sept. 6. Project Dialogue is now launching into a new style of collaboration with campus religious organizations, departments within Student Affairs and Residential Life, academic departments and schools. Its intent is to explore timely, relevant and pressing topics discussed within the context of religious life, spiritual practice and/or ethical discernment. Already Project Dialogue has co-sponsored:

  • a documentary film and discussion on the life of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, with the Episcopal student group CIRCLE;
  • motivational speaker Izzy Ezagul, an American-born squad commander in the Israeli army who lost his left arm to a mortar attack, with our Vanderbilt Orthodox Jewish organization, Chabad; and
  • a movie night/discussion of The Prince of Egypt, in conjunction with Voices of Praise, the Black Student Association and Victory A Capella.

Many other partnerships are coming and I will share them with you next month. Thank you for your continued interest and support of the OUCRL!


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life

Interfaith Council logo

Presidential Invitation

OUCRL led a student delegation to the Fourth Annual President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge in Washington. The national gathering of interfaith campus leaders is an initiative set up by President Obama. Read more.

Interfaith logo

Religious Life on Campus

Learn more about the varied and wonderful events that our various religious organizations have put on throughout campus.

Poster for 37th annual holocaust series

37th Annual Holocaust Lecture Series

The theme for the annual Holocaust Lecture Series is Science, Technology and the Holocaust. The series is in full swing and has more great events to come. Read more.

Barbara Lee lecture poster

Barbara Lee—Sacred Sex

Between sex as sin and sex as sport is an embrace of sexuality as a good gift. How do we make wise decisions about how we will and will not express our sexuality? Author Barbara Lee spoke on sextegrity and more.

Marcelo Gleiser photo

The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

Humans have worked to understand and explain the universe for millennia, but Marcelo Gleiser said we’ll never know it all—and proceeded to explain why. Read more.


September 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

We are now rounding the first two weeks of our new academic year and, as always, it has been an exhilarating beginning full of orientation activities, welcoming new and returning students, and contemplating the great opportunities and challenges inherent in the work of our office.

Even as the bright hope of emerging adults coming to our campus evokes feelings of gratitude and responsibility among so many-faculty, staff and community members-who will guide and protect them, we have also been confronted by the tragic shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, that summons us to a deeper level of soul searching about how other young lives get cut short as cries for justice, reconciliation and hope for a beloved community of sisters and brothers living in peace painfully eludes our grasp. The OUCRL, along with the Dean of Students and
countless other campus partners, will engage this dilemma with compassion, humility and persistent hope. (Links to programs and discussions already in formation are below.)

I am very proud to announce that the OUCRL’s Project Dialogue is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. To kick things off, we will host performance artist Matisyahu, who will offer our campus an acoustic concert on The Ingram Commons lawn. His September 9 concert will blend reggae, hip hop and rap into the social-spiritual dialogue for which he’s known.

Lastly, the Chaplain’s Speakers Series will bring Professor Marcelo Gleiser to Benton Chapel on Thursday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m., as part of the tour for his book, The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning. Gleiser, a professor of natural philosophy and astronomy at Dartmouth, has been called the Carl Sagan of the 21st Century. Together we will probe the horizon where scientific vision and the spiritual quest for meaning coalesce. This event is free and open to the public.

Please see all other postings below for events and new people that promise to make this a great year!


Rev. Mark Forrester


Office of University Chaplain and Religious Life

First events of the year

The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life would like to welcome back all returning students and send a special greeting to our new first-year class! While we have many exciting events throughout the year, here’s a look at some of the first few. Read more.


Project Dialogue 25th Anniversary event

The 25th year for Project Dialogue is 2014-15 and its celebratory theme is Music as Dialogue. We are proud to bring to campus someone who uses music as a means to inspire and create critical dialogue: Matisyahu, on Tuesday, September 9. Read more.

C.J. Thompson

Welcome to our new UKIRK Affiliated Chaplain C.J. Thompson

With a new school year always come new changes and plenty of new faces. OUCRL is very excited to welcome C.J. Thompson to our office as the new UKIRK Affiliated Chaplain for our Presbyterian Ministry (PCUSA).Read more.

Marcelo Gleiser

Marcelo Gleiser on the Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

Humans have worked to understand and explain the universe for millennia, but Gleiser says we’ll never know it all-and proceeds to explain why. Read more.


Ferguson events

Campus dialogues about Ferguson

The recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, have sparked protests and national discussions about racism, racial profiling and policing in the United States. African American and Diaspora Studies and the Vanderbilt NAACP are sponsoring campus dialogues about these issues in the coming months. Read more.


June 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

Soon after I had the honor of becoming university chaplain, Rev. John Feldhacker of West End United Methodist Church called to wish me well and offer an artifact that symbolized the role the Methodist Church had played in the founding of Vanderbilt. I couldn’t believe what I was told and ended our conversation excited to see what he described.

A few weeks later, a flatbed trailer backed into our parking lot carrying a 300-pound gravestone that had originally marked the resting place of Bishop Holland McTyeire. It had been stored at West End Methodist for decades after the creation of a more appropriate tomb adjacent to the Divinity School. As most of us know, it was Bishop McTyeire’s vision and persuasive influence on Cornelius Vanderbilt that resulted in the $1 million investment that gave rise to this remarkable university in 1873. Bishop McTyeire’s gravestone
now rests in the OUCRL, reminding me every day of the religious roots that bless and nourish us with a sacred sense of history.

Vanderbilt these days not only testifies to Methodist and Christian history, but to a robust constellation of many religions, faith traditions and spiritualities.

Quite often our students–be they Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Moslem–arrive their first year on campus with only a nominally stated religious background. Through the wise, patient and compassionate presence of campus groups, students can explore their roots and establish a deep connection to sacred history for life. I am encouraged every spring by reports from two such groups, Vanderbilt Hillel and Vanderbilt Chabad, which take students to Israel for a religious and cultural reinvigoration of their Jewish roots through the Birthright program.

I invite you to follow the links below for more information on these and other OUCRL initiatives.

Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


Students in IsraelBirthright Trips to Israel!

When the school year ended, some undergraduates didn’t head home. Instead, students from Vanderbilt Hillel and Vanderbilt Chabad journeyed to Israel. Read more


Bishop McTyeire tombstoneHeadstone in the office

How did Bishop Holland Nimmons McTyeire’s original headstone come to be installed in the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life? Read more


Green Dot logoOUCRL supports safety on campus

As part of OUCRL’s mission to bring a sense of “home away from home” to students, we’re participating in Vanderbilt’s work to educate, train and keep our campus safe. Read more


May 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:


We are now into that post-commencement period that marks our transition into summer. This is a time to be grateful for our graduates who graced us by their eager lives. A few short years ago, the Class of 2014 arrived on campus with big dreams that would help sustain them on the rigorous path of higher learning.

Those dreams, aspirations and life goals came to fruition, in part, because of the community of peers, professors and organizations that engaged their intellects, expanded their worldviews, and inspired a passion for the possible that would soon unfold beyond the magnolia curtain of Vanderbilt University.

I could recite a long litany of names to illustrate the student leadership and vitality that has energized religious life at Vanderbilt, but one name stands out. Sid Sapru
(College of Arts and Science), of Naperville, Ill., was a core member of the Interfaith Council throughout college. Elected by his peers to be our IFC president for 2013–14, Sid did an outstanding job, partnering with fellow officers to further interfaith dialogue and, as a result, to teach greater interfaith literacy. I am delighted to report that Sid was elected to the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust this spring.

We are also blessed with affiliate chaplains who represent an ever-widening spectrum of religious traditions. Rev. Becca Stevens
, affiliated Episcopal chaplain at Vanderbilt, parish priest at St. Augustine’s Chapel and founder of Magdalene and Thistle Farms, has become a legendary change agent in the lives of women with histories of prostitution, drug addiction and crime. Becca’s commitment as a priest, campus pastor and urban ministry pioneer was recently celebrated by her congregation as it commemorated her 20th anniversary. Our office, in behalf of Vanderbilt University, joins the chorus of so many who give thanks for the unique and powerful work Becca began and promotes across our campus and nation.

Lastly, we are proud of the religious spaces open to students, faculty, staff and the Nashville community. Benton Chapel, part of the Vanderbilt Divinity School quadrangle, is sought out for weddings throughout the year, especially by couples who began their relationships at Vanderbilt. The OUCRL is now inviting more members of Nashville and middle Tennessee community to consider us for their wedding plans.

Summer Blessings,
Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life

Interfaith president named to VU Board of Trust

Even though he’s graduated, our outgoing Interfaith Council President Sid Sapru will be still involved with Vanderbilt for a few more years. Read more

Congratulations, Rev. Becca Stevens

On May 11, Rev. Becca Stevens was honored at a service celebrating her 20 years at St. Augustine’s Chapel. Read more

Campus weddings

One of the most special days in any couple’s life is their wedding day. The location for their wedding ceremony should be just as special. Read more


April 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

As we send you greetings, religious and academic activities are converging in April.

Sunday, April 13, was Palm Sunday. It began Holy Week, the last days of Lent. This is the week Christians commemorate the passion and death of Christ—a week marked with suffering that culminates on Easter, the day of resurrection. Easter is the highest of all holy days observed by Christians around the world.

Passover 2014 began at sundown on Monday, April 14. This Jewish holiday celebrates ancient Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage and captures the quest for freedom, independence and dignity that characterize the histories of many nations and people, past and present.

The articles below highlight how our Jewish and Christian communities of faith honor sacred times of observance while tending to the end-of-semester demands encountered by students, regardless of tradition.

In our office, April also starts the hiatus of programs such as the Holocaust Lecture Series, Project Dialogue, Martin Luther King Weekend of Service and Day of Commemoration, and the Chaplain’s Speakers Series, which will all return in the new academic year.

Before I close, I want to note two recent events that instructed and inspired us.

Project Dialogue’s evening with Dr. Drew Pinsky on March 20 was a rousing success. Pinsky, the host of TV’s Dr. Drew On Call and the nationally syndicated radio show Loveline, spoke on “When Painkillers Become Dangerous.”

On Thursday, April 10, the OUCRL brought religious sociologist Patricia Snell Herzog to campus for a professional development seminar. That evening, she participated in an intimate conversation with first-year students about the spiritual lives of emerging adults. A key researcher in the National Study of Youth and Religion,
Herzog shared longitudinal data on the millennial generation as they transition into religious, academic, social and cultural identities that amaze and challenge us all.

Please read more below and thanks, as always, for your interest!


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


Rabbi Joshua Barton reflects on Passover
The Jewish community at Vanderbilt gathered April 14 and 15 to celebrate the Jewish Feast of Freedom at Vanderbilt Hillel. Read more.

Stations of the Cross at Vanderbilt Divinity School

On Good Friday, April 18, the Society of St. Cornelius and the Worship Team at Vanderbilt Divinity School offered a Stations of the Cross service. It focused on the execution of Jesus and the planned executions of Tennessee inmates currently on death row. Read more and see photos.

Formal cooler giveback

What happens to all those painted coolers used by students during Formal Weekend? This year, students gathered to give those coolers second life. OUCRL collected donated coolers, cleaned, repainted and filled them with food and necessities for the Nashville homeless. Read more and see photos.

Exploring faiths

Nashville’s Atlantic Institute is hosting an exploring event on religion. Rabbi Rami Shapiro will present “Exploring Faiths: Introduction to Judaism.” Read more.


March 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

March has been, and continues to be, a whirlwind month of programming, spring break service and learning within and beyond the traditional classroom.

Prior to spring break, the new dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, delivered our Chaplain’s Speakers Series keynote February 26. Her lecture, “Does Your House Have Lions?: Citizenship and Faith in Today’s World,” was well received by an audience of students, faculty and community members. Watch video of this event.

On March 11, the OUCRL sponsored a lecture by Ralph Wood, professor of theology and literature at Baylor University, entitled, “Fyodor Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, and Christ Pantocrator.” While in Nashville, Professor Wood also spoke on various literary figures such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien at Montgomery Bell Academy, Vanderbilt Medical Center, Aquinas College and St. Cecelia Academy. Watch video of this event.

Our Interfaith Council continues to bless, enlighten and provoke us with amazing programs and events throughout the year. On March 12, the IFC sponsored a panel discussion, “Does Religion Do More Harm Than Good?” Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and atheist representatives fielded timely and enduring questions about the role of religion in society, considering the spiritual significance, theological complexity and moral legacy, positive and negative, that must be reckoned with. I moderated the panel and questions from a packed auditorium of guests made for a lively evening. Read more about this event.

Lastly, our Project Dialogue season concludes Thursday, March 20, with nationally known talk show personality Dr. Drew Pinsky. Drew’s Oprah-style presentation will be “When Painkillers Become Dangerous.” See below for more on this exciting event. I hope you will be able to join us.


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


Project Dialogue Presents Dr. Drew Pinsky “When Painkillers Become Dangerous and the College Drug Culture”

Dr. Drew Pinsky concludes the 2013-14 Project Dialogue Season on Thursday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. in the Student Life Center Ballroom. Read more


February 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

As we approach the midpoint of spring semester, with winter weather still holding strong, there is much on the horizon that warms my heart with excitement and gratitude.

As you may know, we have established the Chaplain’s Speakers Series, which brings a noted scholar, writer and/or religious leader to Benton Chapel once a semester to address the campus, and Nashville community, on timely subjects connecting the religious/spiritual life to a myriad of contemporary issues. We have hosted megachurch pastor Rob Bell while on his What We Talk About When We Talk About God
book tour. This past September, we were enlightened and entertained by the NYU evolutionary psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the NYT best-selling book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Each of these events stimulated campus and community interest beyond our wildest dreams.

I am very happy to announce that our keynoter for the next CSS on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. is our newly installed Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes.
Dean Townes is a formidable theologian, womanist scholar and ethicist whose versatility as a professor and as a preacher is suggested by the title of her address: “Does Your House Have Lions? Citizenship and Faith in Today’s World.” Please join us for what will be an inspired message of challenge, hope and courage to live an authentic life of faith.

Next month’s newsletter will provide a photo montage of places and projects undertaken by our religious affiliates spending their spring break (March 1-8) in the service of others. I’d like to highlight one event in which I will take part as a staff leader. The Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship
will be going to Winston-Salem, N.C., to work with Habitat for Humanity, building homes with persons and families who cannot qualify for conventional home loans. Habitat for Humanity has a national spring break program called Collegiate Challenge, which began 25 years ago at the Winston-Salem affiliate. This year’s 25th anniversary will involve 100 college students from across the nation. Vanderbilt will be represented with a group of 10 as we work on a massive multisite build. Read more.


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


Dean Emilie Townes to speak for the Chaplain’s Speaker Series

On Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. in Vanderbilt University’s Benton Chapel, the Chaplain’s Speaker Series will return with Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, 16th dean of Vanderbilt’s Divinity School. Dean Townes will give a talk entitled, “Does Your House Have Lions? Citizenship and Faith in Today’s World.” The event is free and open to the public. Read more.


Green Dot Awareness Week

Join us at the OUCRL for an open focus group for students to sit and give their opinions and perspective of the Green Dot curriculum as well as its impact on campus culture. Read more.

Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship to Work with Habitat for Humanity for Spring Break

WCF will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., with our University Chaplain Rev. Mark Forrester to work with Habitat for Humanity for a spring break service trip. Read more.

Watch: College Presidents Discuss Women and Minorities in STEM and Higher Ed

Lynn Pasquerella of Mt. Holyoke College and Walter Kimbrough of Dillard University met with Provost Richard McCarthy for a Q&A with the Vanderbilt community. Watch the video.


January 2014

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

I hope that the holidays brought you and yours a time of rest and renewal of spirit, and as we enter into this new academic season, may you find strength and solace of community populated by colleagues, friends and family.

The OUCRL, along with the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, is excited about the litany of events we have planned for MLK Day on Monday, Jan. 20. Also the Office of Active Citizenship and Service, which partners with the MLK committee each year, has organized the MLK Weekend of Service for our students, who will give of their time and effort to support local charities and agencies serving the poor, elderly, handicapped and marginalized within our city.
See the full schedule here.

The theme for our MLK Day of Commemoration is “Do Justice.” Our media-driven imaginations might associate that phrase with the Nike advertisement, but its roots go back to the eighth-century (BCE) prophet Micah, who asked the powers that be “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (6:8 NRSV). Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was America’s Micah, a national prophet whose vision to “do justice” wove the religious, spiritual, cultural and constitutional threads of our
history into a common garment of hope, respect and equal rights under the law. While “do justice” still confronts us as a moral imperative not fully realized, the legacy of Rev. King prods us with words and deeds of courage to not abandon the ideals for which he, and an entire generation, lived and died.

We are excited that actor and activist Danny Glover will be our featured speaker in Langford Auditorium at 7 p.m. He will be interviewed, Charlie Rose-style, by Rev. Dr. Dale Andrews of the Vanderbilt Divinity School. Glover will also take part in a teach-in earlier that afternoon in Sarratt Cinema, examining movie moments from his career that speak to the use of that medium to raise our awareness for a more just world. There are many other events throughout the day, so again go to our
MLK Day link.

I encourage you to read more about other exciting events coming up this spring.

Thanks as always for being faithful readers and supporters of the work of our office as we seek to serve our university and surrounding communities.


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


An actor on screen, stage and television for more than 25 years, Danny Glover has also become known for his community activism and philanthropic work. He will headline Vanderbilt University’s MLK Day celebration Monday, Jan. 20, at “An Evening with Danny Glover.” The theme for Vanderbilt’s commemoration
is “Do Justice.” Read more


Where does morality come from? Isn’t science rapidly approaching a complete explanation of nature? Do you ever have doubts about your worldview? Where can I find meaning and fulfillment? Veritas Forum will host Rosalin Picard of MIT and Vanderbilt’s Dr. Anderson Spickard III to talk on “Are We Merely Machines? An MIT Professor’s Look at Humanity, Theology and God” on Tuesday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. in Langford Auditorium.
Read more


Lynn Pasquerella, president of Mount Holyoke College, and Walter Kimbrough, president of Dillard University, will discuss the history and present situation of STEM (the educational fields of science, technology, engineering and math) and the rapid rise in popularity of these fields as part of Project Dialogue on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Read more


November 2013

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain
and Religious Life,

As holidays add fury to the frenetic energy of final exams, the ending of an academic season also allows us to look back and assess important programs, practices and positive contributions to our community—accomplished through a network of students and colleagues who make our work so satisfying.

First, I am thankful for the immense talent and potential that resides in each and every religious group serving our university. From historic groups long established (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist), to independent/nondenominational groups and student-led organizations, our office supports, encourages and celebrates a bustling “religious and spiritual marketplace” that adds a qualitative value to our culture that cannot be adequately quantified.

I am also thankful for our academic and professional colleagues who lead and inspire a level of student and community engagement that, this semester alone, is staggering. This past Friday we concluded the 36th Annual Holocaust Lecture Series, offering ten separate lectures, films and exhibits between September 23rd and November 15th. We are also ramping up into our Project Dialogue season, an outside-the-classroom series of panels, talks and presentations designed to prompt a kind of dialogue that is grounded in academic and civic learning
combined (more about all of this available on links below).

Please take note of all that is featured in this month’s newsletter, especially key events like David Walker, America’s chief comptroller who served under Presidents Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton and Bush 43, which is coming up on November 19th at the Student Life Center.

As always, thanks for the time that you take to read and share our monthly news!


Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain and Director of Religious Life


No Longer Invisible: Religion in Higher Education

On November 7th, Vanderbilt welcomed Douglas and Rhonda Jacobsen to campus for a rare opportunity to gain a new perspective on the many ways religion and spirituality bolster the mission of the university, especially as it pertains to the students we mutually serve. Read more


David Walker—Comeback America: Turning the Country Around and Restoring Fiscal Responsibility

David Walker is the former controller for the Government Accountability Office. Basically, he was the country’s top accountant. He understands our nation’s finances better than anyone else and is acutely aware of what our nation has to do moving forward to stay prosperous and solvent. Project Dialogue welcomes Walker to Vanderbilt’s Student Life Center Tuesday, Nov. 19th at 7 pm. Read more


36th Annual Holocaust Series Draws to a Close

As the 36th round of the Holocaust Lecture Series draws to a close, we are thoughtful, wiser and pleased to have hosted such wonderful and thought provoking speakers and films. Read more


October 2013

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

October is the month when two of our perennial programs are launched: The Holocaust Lecture Series (now in its 36th year!); and Project Dialogue, a “learning beyond the classroom” interdisciplinary program that is in its 24th year.

I believe that this year’s HLS theme, Neighbors, taken from our first lecturer, Princeton University historian Jan Gross—whose book explores the horror of genocide that happened between neighbors in a small Polish town in July 1941—sets a soul-searching tone for the entire series of lectures, films, art exhibits and discussions yet to come.

The Holocaust Lecture Series remains committed to the memory of the Jewish Holocaust as the touchstone event of history that prods us to explore and contemplate other genocides of history as well, such as the Rwandan genocide of 800,000 people that happened less than two decades ago.
New York Times bestselling writer Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, will speak at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center as part of the series on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 7 p.m. Learn more and see the full schedule.

Project Dialogue kicked off this week with a panel discussion, “Poverty and Activism on a Local Level,” led by Tasha French Lemley, founding executive director of The Contributor; Andrew Kinks, former editor of The Contributor
and VU doctoral student; Clive Mentzel, VU’s director of the Office of Active Citizenship and Service; and Vanderbilt Divinity student Jennifer Bailey, outreach coordinator at Community Food Advocates. Learn more about Project Dialogue and see the full schedule.

We are excited to announce that actor and activist Danny Glover will deliver the university’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day keynote address at Langford Auditorium, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, at 7 p.m. Glover will also lead a teach-in for students earlier that day and speak on films he has made and how they relate to themes and social challenges evoked by this national holiday. There will be a number of other campus and citywide events related to MLK Day
that will be posted in this newsletter, our website and other university media sources over the next few months. Learn more and see the full schedule.

Last, as the OUCRL highlights programs and large events worthy of recognition, it is equally important to lift up the many other ways we strive to positively impact the Vanderbilt student culture. Our office, along with a number of our denominational affiliates, hosted an alternative (alcohol-free) tailgate party prior to our home game on Family Weekend (Sept. 28). We are also taking the lead, through our Program Director Mike Zimmerman, to conduct Green Dot training for students, leaders and departments throughout our campus community. The
Green Dot Initiative at Vanderbilt aims to decrease power-based personal violence on campus by utilizing education, outreach and staff development as mechanisms for increasing awareness and competency around bystander intervention skills.

Thanks for your continued interest as I take the pleasure each month to share a few good words about religious life on our campus!


Rev. Mark Forrester

University Chaplain


September 2013

Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life: 

Every semester I am thankful for the legacy of OUCRL programs that grace our campus, educating, inspiring and prodding us all to higher ideals that serve higher learning. On August 28, our MLK committee put on a noontime service of remembrance to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It was moved along by two members of Voices of Praise offering timely reflections through their spoken word performances, followed by a documentary of the 1963 march and concluded masterfully by Lewis Baldwin, professor of religious studies and MLK scholar, who offered a “then and now” overview of strides toward equality made and yet to be made.

On September 9, our Chaplain’s Speakers Series brought NYU Professor Jonathan Haidt to speak in Benton Chapel on his latest book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. This series strives to bring religious leaders, writers, scholars and public intellectuals to speak in a nonsectarian way to issues and concerns relating to religion and spirituality.

Lastly, the OCURL, along with our Interfaith Council, College Republicans and Divinity School, offered several events on the 12th anniversary of 9/11, including a display of 3,000 flags, an interfaith prayer service and a well-attended discussion of 9/11 as it relates to terrorism and religious extremism and how to promote peace faithfully through religious practices today.

Thank you for your continued interest, and I look forward to sharing more with you in October.


Rev. Mark Forrester

University Chaplain


Why good people are divided by politics and religion 

In a Sept. 9 visit to Benton Chapel, NYU social scholar Jonathan Haidt discussed his theories about how, despite our differences on politics and religion, we still have many opportunities to find common ground.
Read the article and watch the video

Vanderbilt remembers: 9/11 memorial  

Vanderbilt continued to honor the memory of those whose lives were lost on Sept. 11, 2001, with a variety of campus remembrance events. Read the article


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2013 Holocaust Lecture Series 

The 36th annual Holocaust Lecture Series kicks off Sept. 23 and continues through Nov. 13. Vanderbilt is proud to have the longest running lecture series dealing with the holocaust at an American university.
See the schedule


Insights from sole survivor of 1963 bombing  

On Sept 5, we welcomed Rev. Carolyn McKinstry to Benton Chapel. Rev. McKinstry was the sole survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in September 1963. The bombing by Ku Klux Klan members took the lives of four young girls. Rev. McKinstry is the author of While the World Watched, a personal memoir of the event and the legacy of the Civil Rights movement.
Read the article


August 2013


Dear Friends of the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life:

For those who tend to the religious, spiritual and academic rhythms of life, time seems more cyclical than linear. Certainly the return of students in August underscores how our lives are ordered and energized by seasonal cycles, of how fall semester brings both first-year students to campus as well as rising seniors nearing graduation, all nervously anticipating a world of promise for which they are being prepared.

An inspired time of new beginning will be celebrated by OUCRL on Friday, Aug. 23, as we take part in the installation of Emilie Townes as the sixteenth Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School. The Rev. Dr. Townes brings to our university a depth of scholarship and a breadth of passion for ministry that will serve the Divinity School and our campus at large in many critical ways.

A time of historic reflection will also converge at the beginning of this semester as the OUCRL, the Black Cultural Center, the Divinity School, VDS Black Seminarians, the Commons and many other campus partners and leaders formally commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. The commemoration will be Wednesday, Aug. 28 at Benton Chapel, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

I’m also excited about the second speaker in our newly launched Chaplain’s Speakers Series. On Monday, Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., New York University professor and best-selling author Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind) will enlighten and entertain us with a presentation in Benton Chapel on a brand of moral psychology that calls into question the rationalist assumptions of earlier developmental schools of thought. Professor Haidt will also be featured at an interfaith breakfast co-hosted by Vanderbilt Hillel and the Family of Abraham at the Ben Schulman Center on Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Lastly, I invite all of you to hurry out this coming Thursday, Aug. 22, for the OUCRL Open House from 4 to 6 p.m. at 401 24th Ave. South. This beautiful home which once served, generations ago, as the chancellor’s mansion, has been refurbished and renewed for many more years and seasons to come. We are pleased to be in this new location more central to our main campus and hope that all of you will see it as a home that is open to all.

Thankfully yours,

Reverend Mark Forrester

University Chaplain

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964, photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

50 Years Since the “I Have a Dream” Speech 

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that changed the world. The Civil Rights movement saw turbulent times in 1963 that gave ways to shocking events that no one will ever forget. To commemorate the anniversary, Vanderbilt University will hold special events on campus.
Read the article.

OUCRL building
Open House and Cookout! 

OUCRL will hold an Open House and Cookout here at our new facility on Thursday, Aug. 22 from 4 to 6 p.m. We will have plenty of food as we cook out on our new patio and everyone will be on hand to welcome all to a new year with OUCRL. Read the article.


The Righteous Mind with Jonathan Haidt 

On Sept. 9, we welcome Jonathan Haidt to Vanderbilt as the second speaker in the new Chaplain’s Speaker Series. Haidt (pronounced “Height”) is a social psychologist at the NYU-Stern School of Business. Haidt’s research examines the intuitive foundations of morality and how morality varies across cultures. In recent years, he has examined the moral cultures of liberals, conservatives and libertarians. Read the article.

Welcome new Divinity School Dean Emilie Townes! 

OUCRL welcomes the 16th Dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School, Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes. As we enter the next phase of religious education and vocational training at our renowned Divinity School, we look forward to all that Dean Townes has to bring to Vanderbilt from her extensive background and experience. Read the article.


July 2013

Dear Vanderbilt Community and Friends, 

Our last newsletter highlighted the excitement of our recent move to 401 24th Avenue. It feels so good to be in residence as the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life at this beautiful location, a true home that will lend itself to the kind of hospitality that is at the heart of our mission.

This month we feature our newest affiliated chaplain, Rev. Heath Bradley. Heath is the United Methodist campus minister directing the Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship at St. Augustine’s Chapel in the middle of Greek Row. Without a doubt, it is the quality and tireless commitment of our religious partners who make all the difference in the lives of our students, faculty and staff, and I’m enthusiastic about Heath’s arrival to our campus and the potential he brings to us all.

Enjoy these updates as we anticipate the very full fall semester that begins in less than one month!

God’s Peace,

Rev. Mark Forrester

University Chaplain


Meeting Our Affiliated Chaplains – Rev. Heath Bradley 

This summer, the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life welcomes our new affiliated Methodist chaplain to campus, Rev. Heath Bradley. Rev. Bradley comes to us from Little Rock, Ark., where he was the pastor of preaching and Christian education at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church. Read the interview


FB page

New Facebook Page!

With so many changes for our office this summer, we have created a place where you can stay current on all the happenings and interact with others who are involved with religious life at Vanderbilt. Read the article

OUCRL building
Open House and Cookout 

In order to let all campus know where we are, and to give new and returning students an idea of all that OUCRL has to offer, we will hold an open house and cookout here at our new facility on Thursday, August 22 from 4-6 p.m. We will have plenty of food as we cook out on our new patio and everyone will be on hand to welcome all to a new year with OUCRL. Read the article


June 2013

Dear Vanderbilt students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae and friends: 

It has only been a month since we celebrated Commencement and yet the steady pace of new activity has disallowed any semblance of summer doldrums setting in! This June edition celebrates both change and tradition in the life of our university, which is quite appropriate for this time of the year: As one academic season recedes and a new one looms on the near horizon, we assess our programs, budgets and all the rest that bring about organizational closure. This summer has also ushered in a time of renewal for the University Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life. We have moved from our Tarpley Building office at 25th and West End Avenues to the former Community Partnership House in the
center of campus.

I invite you to read the articles we link to in this publication: the showcasing of the wonderful new space our office now inhabits; the sights and sounds of weddings in Benton Chapel—emblematic of new lives shared in the bond of fidelity and hope; and the legacy of Harvie Branscomb, fourth chancellor of our university, whose cremains are interred in Benton Chapel.

Thanks for your continuing interest. Be looking for our July edition, in which we will expand on the themes of change and tradition and how they comprise a balanced life with deep roots giving rise to new shoots reaching into the future!


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New Name, New Building 

Our office has moved and has a new name as well. We’re now the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life. With our increased focus on ministry and commitment to the spiritual life of the university, OUCRL has moved to a larger and better space more centrally located on campus. Our office is now in the historic building that formerly served as the Chancellor’s Mansion and recently, as the Community Partnership House. Read the full article.

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Chancellor’s Ashes at Benton 

One of the lesser-known but touching memorials on Vanderbilt’s campus can be seen when one walks down the side aisle of Benton Chapel. Near the front, on the sidewall to the left of the main altar, are two simple plaques that pay homage to a man and his wife who gave so much to Vanderbilt. Read the full article.

Wedding Season at Benton Chapel 

The Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life is always honored to be part of a couple’s special day. The university opens up Benton Chapel, our largest chapel on campus, to couples on Saturdays for weddings. With Vanderbilt holding a special place for many, and the historic feel and look calling to even those not affiliated with the university, the campus is a wonderful place for weddings of any size. Just as with any location, the height of Benton Chapel’s wedding season is early summer. This year is no exception. Almost every weekend is filled with different couples beginning their lives together in our beloved chapel.
Read the full article.


May 2013




Dear Vanderbilt Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni/ae and Friends:

This month’s newsletter, coming on the heels of Commencement, gives me a
chance to pause and catch my breath and, more importantly, to be
thankful for the many high points that have characterized religious life
on our campus this academic year.
This month’s edition features
one of our academic leaders, which to me is an important and
appropriate way to associate the work of the chaplain’s office with the
wider web of talent and scholars that consists of our university.
Working closely with the Divinity School, our future ministers,
colleagues, and leaders are molded today.
Also, we regularly
report on a vital student constituency, Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council,
comprised of leaders from each of our many religious
organizations–Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist–who meet
weekly to learn, serve and celebrate the traditional and non-traditional
wisdom that lends depth and purpose to their undergraduate experiences.

There is much more for which to be thankful, but I will leave
that to you to read and experience for yourself. Oh yes ( I almost
forgot!), I thank YOU for being a faithful reader and supporter of the
work and community in this monthly e-letter.

Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain





Divinity’s James Hudnut-Beumler Reflects on 13 Years as Dean

When James Hudnut-Beumler greets students walking the halls of Vanderbilt Divinity School,
he sees a significantly larger, more diverse student population with
much improved financial support than he did when he arrived on campus 13
years ago. “We have done exceptionally well in terms of growing while other
theological schools across the nation have had difficulty maintaining
enrollments,” said Hudnut-Beumler,
who will step down as dean June 30. He will remain the Anne Potter
Wilson Distinguished Professor of American Religious History, returning
to teaching after a year’s sabbatical. Read the full story.


Benton Chapel – A Vanderbilt Tradition

Benton Chapel stands conjoined to the Divinity School as a mark of where Vanderbilt has come from and still takes center stage in the special moments for students and alumni alike. One can always find someone in the chapel at most hours either in quiet prayer, reflective reading, or quiet solace. Click the link to read the history of the chapel and how it adds to the significance of events that continue to take place in the chapel today. Read the full story.

Interfaith Vigil to Honor Victims in Boston and Texas

The Office of Religious Life held a Interfaith Memorial Vigil for the victims of the Boston and Texas explosions, as well as the earthquake in Asia, on Monday, April 22nd outside of Benton Chapel. The service featured readings and reflection from various faith traditions.
Read the recap of the event.

Aladine Elsamadicy Wants to Bridge Cultural Divides

Aladine Elsamadicy says he didn’t feel singled out for his Egyptian heritage or Muslim faith while growing up in Alabama – not until Sept. 11, 2001, that is. He was in the fifth grade at the time. Elsamadicy and his siblings were suddenly more conspicuous at their public schools in Huntsville. He said they felt confronted with a choice: maintain a low profile, or stand out by embracing leadership roles to show their fellow students they were just like them.  Read the interview.


April 2013

Dear Friends,


This newsletter comes on the heels of events that highlight the important role of our religiously vibrant community. The terrible tragedies in Boston and Texas that beset our nation the week of April 15 urged us to seek consolation. Our office and Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council held an Interfaith Remembrance April 22 at Benton Chapel to honor the victims through prayer and fellowship. As we struggle to come to terms with these events, we take comfort both in our faith and in our faith community, which has time and again come together in fellowship and support when the unspeakable occurs.

It is my hope that you will read about our featured chaplains, student organizations and university programs and explore in greater detail the amazing stories of persons and events that comprise a narrative of many faiths coexisting with grace and good will on our campus.



Rev. Mark Forrester

University Chaplain


Get to know: Rabbi Joshua Barton

In this installment of our Get to Know our Campus Chaplains series, we talk with Rabbi Joshua Barton, new affiliated chaplain for Hillel. Read the interview.

Choral Prayer with Symphonic Choir sings traditional African songs 

Student musicians from the Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir led a beautiful sung service of prayer on Monday, March 25, in Benton Chapel. The service provided an opportunity for prayer and reflection through music. A choir from Elk Grove High School in Chicago was a guest of Vanderbilt and showcased some of their vocal talents. Read the recap of the event.


Get to know: Interfaith Council President Aladine Elsamadicy

As the year comes to a close, we sat down with outgoing Vanderbilt Interfaith Council President Aladine Elsamadicy to talk about religious life and the role of Interfaith Council on campus. Aladine has been the president of Interfaith Council for the past two years and has overseen the council as it has grown and brought some exciting events to Vanderbilt. Read the interview.


Tennessee Day of Holocaust Remembrance

On April 8, the annual Tennessee Holocaust Day of Remembrance, was commemorated at Legislative Plaza. Hosted by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, a packed room of guests listened to readings and remembrance, as well as recognition of Tennessee teachers who strive to make the Holocaust a part of their curriculum for students. Read more.


March 2013



Dear Friends,

It has been a busy and exciting month for religious life at Vanderbilt. Pastor Rob Bell joined us March 14 for the first event of the new Chaplain’s Speakers Series to speak on his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, in Benton Chapel to an over-capacity crowd. Read more and watch video of the event.

Our goal for this series is to offer a keynote event each semester featuring an eclectic array of religious leaders, speakers, writers and academics. We will also seek to create smaller venues with these speakers to extend the good will of this office to the university and community at large. Pastor Bell, for example, addressed a large group of clergy and religious professionals at West End United Methodist in partnership with the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership in the Professions. On Sept. 9, Prof. Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, will engage us from his field of moral psychology.

This is a very busy time of year with Passover and Easter approaching so I invite you to read more below about the people and events that bless our campus with religious leadership, worship, service and the building of a vibrant spiritual community at Vanderbilt!

Rev. Mark Forrester
University Chaplain, Director of Religious Life




Get to know: Rev. Alan Bancroft

In the next installment of our Get to Know our Campus Chaplains series, we talk with Rev. Alan Bancroft, new affiliated chaplain for Presbyterian Student Fellowship. Read the interview.

Choral Prayer with Symphonic Choir

The Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir will gather in Benton Chapel for the third installment of the monthly Choral Prayer March 25 at 12:15 p.m. Taking a break from the outside world, students, faculty and staff can take part in a free mid-day reflection and service. Read more.

Record turnout for Interfaith Panel
Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council held its annual Interfaith Panel titled “Sex and the Sects: Gender Roles in Religion,” Feb. 26 featuring panelists representing Atheism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism, Paganism and Protestantism. It was the best turnout for an Interfaith Panel to date. Read more and watch video.

Remembering Trayvon Martin
Vanderbilt students symbolically wearing hooded sweatshirts gathered in Benton Chapel to hold a memorial service for Trayvon Martin Feb. 26, the anniversary of his death. Read more and view images from the event.


February 2013

Proclamation Panel Explores Document’s Meaning Today

Emancipation Panel

Vanderbilt Chaplain Mark Forrester moderated a lively panel discussion in War Memorial Auditorium Feb. 12 about the Emancipation Proclamation’s meaning and legacy as the actual document went on view at the Tennessee’s State Museum nearby. More


Meet our Affiliated Chaplains – Rev. Stacey Croft

The Office of Religious Life works with a staff of affiliated chaplains representing a variety of faiths and beliefs. With this issue, we’ll start introducing them, beginning with Rev. Stacey Croft, who works with Reformed University Fellowship (RUF). We began by asking him to tell us about RUF.


RUF is a ministry started by the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) and the mission of it is to place on each campus an ordained teaching Elder. The distinctive feature about RUF is to really connect the campus with the church. Instead of trying to form a church on campus, were trying to draw students to the church. More


Rev. Stacey Croft

Choral Prayer at Noon


Student musicians from the Blair School of Music lead a sung service of prayer at noon on Monday, Feb. 25, in Benton Chapel. More


Rob Bell Gives First Chaplain’s Lecture March 14

Rob Bell, author of Love Wins, Velvet Elvis and Sex God, speaks at Benton Chapel at 7 p.m. March 14 for the first event of the new Chaplain’s Lecture Series. Bell, founding pastor and pastor emeritus of Mars Hill Bible Church, discusses his new book,
What We Talk About When We Talk About God. More

Rob Bell

MLK Day Celebrated with


Nicholas S. Zeppos
and Coach James Franklin joined Vanderbilt students and others
from the community at the annual Nashville Freedom March Jan. 21. The
march was among the events planned for Vanderbilt’s annual commemoration of the life and legacy of
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Other activities included a student Weekend of
Service, lunchtime roundtable discussions on issues relevant to King’s legacy,
a bus tour of significant sites in the civil rights movement in Nashville,
teach-ins conducted by Vanderbilt faculty and staff, and art exhibitions on
campus. More


“Is Peace Possible?” David Makovsky & Ghaith Al-Omari Discuss

Vanderbilt Hillel will host a discussion on the states of Israel and Palestine and whether peace can exist in the current climate. Moderated by Frank Wcislo, dean of the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons,
the panelists will include David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy Project on the Middle East Peace Process, and Ghaith Al-Omari, the executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP). The discussion will take place Sunday, Feb. 17 at 3 p.m. in 103 Wilson Hall. Free tickets are available at Sarratt Box Office and will also be available at the door. More




Interfaith Panel to Offer “Sex and the Sects”


Vanderbilt’s Interfaith Council will host its annual Interfaith Panel on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in the Student Life Center Ballroom. This year’s panel discussion featuring representatives from a variety of faith traditions is
“Sex and the Sects.” Representatives of 10 different world religions discuss the topic and the audience is invited to hear their perspectives. Last year’s Interfaith Panel hosted speakers on behalf of Atheism, Baha’i, Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Paganism and Protestantism.

A Q&A section follows the main event. More




Feb. 20: God: Fact or Fiction? – John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford



January 2013

MLK Day of Celebration and Service

MLK Newsletter2
The Vanderbilt community celebrates MLK Day 2013
as a day of celebration and service. Classes will be canceled and students will participate in a number of service activities over the weekend leading into the Monday commemoration activities.  These activities will include participating in the Nashville’s citywide march and retracing the steps of the city’s civil rights activists. More

Remembering Sandy Hook Elementary Victims

The Office of Religious Life invited the Vanderbilt community to observe a minute of silence after the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School. In memory of the victims, Vanderbilt community members also had the opportunity, at any time during the day, to light an electric tea light in the Benton Chapel sanctuary and share written condolences and notes of sympathy in a remembrance book at Benton Chapel. This book will eventually be sent to Newtown, Conn. More
Sandy Hook memorial

Emancipation Proclamation in Nashville

University Chaplain Rev. Mark Forrester will moderate a panel discussing the meaning and legacy of the Emancipation Proclamation when the actual historical document will be in Nashville at Tennessee’s State Museum on Feb. 12 - President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The document rarely leaves the National Archives in Washington, D.C., but will travel as part of the National Archives’ multimedia exhibit, Discovering the Civil War. The exhibit will open on Feb. 12 (Lincoln’s birthday) and continue through September 2013. More

Choral Prayer at Noon

Student musicians from the Blair School of Music will lead a sung service of prayer at noon on Monday, Jan. 28, in Benton Chapel. More

Rob Bell – What We Talk About When We Talk About God

Rob Bell
Rob Bell, the founding pastor and pastor emeritus of Mars Hill Bible Church and author of Love Wins, Velvet Elvis and Sex God will come to Benton Chapel to speak for the first event of the new Chaplain’s Lecture Series. Bell will speak on his new book What We Talk About When We Talk About God. More

Upcoming Events

Jan. 21 MLK Day Commemoration 2013:
Events around campus with keynote speaker Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow.

Jan. 28, Feb. 25 and March 25: Choral music, prayer, reading and reflection at noon in Benton Chapel. Music students from Blair will be leaders in these beautiful services.

Feb. 12: The Emancipation Proclamation Panel Discussion, War Memorial Auditorium (time TBA).

March 14:
VU Chaplain’s Lecture Series kicks off with nationally known pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell.


December 2012

Dear Friends,

As university chaplain and director of religious life at
Vanderbilt, I am excited about this first newsletter that is launched during
such a rich holiday season!  As people of
faith anticipate Christmas, commemorate Hanukkah and celebrate Kwanzaa, and as
students from these and other traditions experience community while giving
themselves to the task of higher learning, it seems fitting to give you a
glimpse of some of the highlights that mark the end of fall semester.

It is my hope, as we release these newsletters throughout
the year, that students, faculty, staff, alumni and other Vanderbilt friends
will come to a deeper appreciation of the ministries, programs, service and
learning opportunities that grace this campus, and the greater Nashville area,
with faithful and vibrant students seeking to make a difference as tomorrow’s
leaders today!

Reverend Mark Forrester

more about our new university chaplain, Mark Forrester

Celebrating Christmas with Carols and
Candlelight at Benton

Benton ChristmasMore
than 125 students from seven different Christian student groups joined the
Office of Religious Life in celebrating the Advent season in Benton Chapel Dec.
6 with carols, scripture readings, reflection and a candlelight service in
celebration of the Christmas Season. Read more

Havdallah and Hanukkah Party

Hillel ChanukahThe Hillel community came
together Dec. 8, for a great finals study break as they celebrated the first
night of Hanukkah. Read more

Christmas at the Commons

Commons ChristmasAs
part of the larger Holiday of Lights festival, students gathered for carols,
readings and a lighting of the Christmas tree with Ingram Commons Dean Frank
Wcislo before studying for finals began. Read more

Hanukkah at the Commons

Chanukah CommonsThe
Ingram Commons partnered with Vanderbilt Chabad and Vanderbilt Hillel Dec. 9 to
celebrate the second of eight nights of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of
Lights. The Commons Center Atrium filled with students, faculty and staff as
Dean Wcislo, along with a few student leaders, lit the menorah as a celebration
of religious freedom. Read more

Civil Rights Leader Kwame Lillard leads
Pre-Kwanzaa Celebration

gathered at the Bishop
Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
in fellowship Dec. 5 to
celebrate the coming holidays and the African tradition of Kwanzaa.  There
was great food, music and a presentation on the history and significance of
Kwanzaa by Civil Rights leader and activist Kwame Lillard. Read more

Faith In Art

In Art is an annual event put on by the Interfaith Council to allow religious
groups, as well as individuals, to showcase their faith through a form of art.
This year’s event had eight performances including Christian, Hindu and Muslim
student performers. Read more

Upcoming Events

Jan. 28, Feb. 25 and March 25: Choral music, prayer, reading
and reflection at noon in Benton Chapel. Music students from Blair will be
leaders in these beautiful services.

Feb. 12: The Emancipation Proclamation Panel Discussion, War
Memorial Auditorium, (time TBA).

March 14: VU Chaplain’s Speakers Series kicks off with nationally
known pastor and best-selling author Rob Bell.

Events Calendar

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