One hundred and fifty years ago, local Congregationalists launched a new college in Northfield, dedicated to the growth of its students’ intellectual, moral, and spiritual lives.   One hundred years ago this fall, the College showed its commitment to this vision by building the beautiful Skinner Memorial Chapel.  Seventy years ago, the College hired its first chaplain to help the campus explore the integral relationship between faith and learning. 

The past 150 years of religious life at Carleton is a fascinating look at society’s changing spiritual landscape.  The Reverend Shari Prestemon of the Minnesota Conference of the United Church of Christ reminded us of the profound commitment by the early Congregational founders in her talk, “The Marriage of Faith and Knowledge.”  You are encouraged to seek out the booklet “A Brief History of Religious and Spiritual Life at Carleton” and a book This Noble Edifice: A History of Religious and Spiritual Life at Carleton College, 1866-2016.  The Religious Life photos and video page also captures some of the many religious services and events at Carleton.  

While these milestone anniversaries give us reason to look back, we also turn to look at the role of religion and spirituality now and in the future.  We were very pleased to have Dr. Emilie Townes, Dean and Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School, at Carleton to present a public lecture titled “Organic Faith” and Friday, September 30 to give the convocation address “The Future of Religion is Ascendant-But It is Not the Religion of the Past.”  Dr. Townes helped us explore the role of faith communities in the many social justice issues of our time, as well as to look at the future state of religion and spirituality in our world. 

On Saturday, October 15, as part of Carleton’s sesquicentennial celebration, there was be a panel discussion “Religious and Spiritual Life at Carleton: Past, Present, and Future.”  Carleton Chaplain Carolyn Fure-Slocum ’82 P12, Associate Chaplain Ailya Vajid, Chapel historian Bruce Colwell, and student Chaplains’ Associates presented a brief history and description of religious life at Carleton. From the founding of the College by the Congregationalists, the building of Skinner Memorial Chapel in 1916, the hiring of Carleton’s first Chaplain, the end of mandatory Chapel, and the founding of the Druids, to what the Chaplain’s office does today and observations about the state of religious and interfaith life on campus, this presentation captured 150 years of spiritual life at Carleton–and beyond!

As the “Future of the Chaplaincy Committee” wrote in 1986, “Beyond their differences, all persons are united in having to wrestle with issues of conscience, self-respect, social responsibility, and the meaning of their life.”  Please join us this fall as we continue to seek to connect the work of the mind with the heart and soul. 

“Organic Faith” — Chapel Centennial Celebration Lecture

Lecture by Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Dean and Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt Divinity School