With No New Chaplain, What Lies Ahead?

Many students were excited for the new chaplain at John Brown University but were surprised when the Office of Christian Formation released a statement regarding its newly hired chaplain, Mark Irving. This decision confused the JBU community because Irving was hired last spring as the new JBU chaplain. This decision, along with the stress of the students and community moving to remote learning, appeared to happen without much of a reason. However, according to Tracy Balzer, the Interim Chaplain, that was not the case.

“During the time of COVID-19, many were focused on way bigger things such as, ‘Are we coming back to school in the fall?’ or even ‘How will school be safe if we do?’” Balzer said. “So because of this, I believe it seemed like the chaplaincy position falling through was not seen by many, and that was why it was more of a surprise for students as we neared returning in the fall.”

Balzer stated, “Job openings are made publicly known. If the formal search resumes in the spring, students will know about it.” She added, “Student input is important when choosing a chaplain and because of that, we do allow students to come to some interviews with the perspective chaplain.”

JBU has not formally continued the search for a new chaplain yet plans to do so in the spring if the coronavirus begins to clear up. For more information on this topic, students can contact Steve Beers at

This unfortunate situation left students worried for the future of chapel services and in a daze about the newly organized chapel groups for this fall semester. Johnathan Cleghorn, senior communications major, said, “I was pretty shocked when I heard we would have no chaplain this year. It was a pretty big bummer because I loved how Rod Reed ministered to us.”

Cleghorn said he really enjoys the new chapel groups because of their intimacy in setting and discussions for the students, but  he is unsure if a new chaplain hire would positively or negatively affect the current system.

Balzer assumed the role as interim chaplain and actively engages in chapel groups and faith-centered activities that JBU will host over the semester. “Right now, I am working specifically with SMLT. This means that I get to work with The Gathering and figuring out how to safely and successfully put on worship nights for the students to feel safe while also enjoying their in-person freedoms,” she said.

Balzer added that she is working with Growth Groups and Breakaway to accommodate with the COVID-19 guidelines and leading two chapel groups this semester.

Balzer made it clear that she wanted to clear the haze of confusion for students about the continual search for a new chaplain is working at the moment. Moreover, she hopes this article will provide an understanding during a time of confusion for new or returning students. She wants students to feel free to reach out to her at if there are further questions involving chaplaincy.

Clearing this situation will ease tension for many students and bring them toward the Lord. Instead of focusing on the downfalls of the pandemic, this revelation can aid them to see things are still running as normal as they can be. This semblance of normalcy seems to be working for the students, and hopefully it will continue this way for the rest of the year.

Photo: Catherine Nolte, The Threefold Advocate