Chaplain to Chancellor: Reed family says goodbye

Rod Reed, the Chaplain at John Brown University, as well as his wife, Michelle Reed, who works in Student Development, will leave campus next semester as Rod has accepted the chancellor position at the Marion Residential Campus of Indiana Wesleyan University.

On Nov. 13, John Brown University President Chip Pollard informed JBU students about Reed’s departure via email: “Rod has served JBU with excellence and grace as our University Chaplain for over a decade, and we will be sorry to see him, his wife Michelle and his family leave us. We are, however, very excited about their new opportunity at IWU-Marion, and we know that they will bring their gifts of warmth, intelligence, wisdom and faithfulness to further IWU’s mission and to serve well the faculty, staff and students there.”

Reed has worked on campus as Dean of Christian Formation, University Chaplain and Associate Professor of Theology for eleven years. He is currently in transition to this new stage and admitted that he is excited by this opportunity, but also finds it very difficult to think about leaving JBU. “It’s been hard with each of the different things that I do,” Reed said. “I’m enjoying the last chapels that I have, but it is hard because I know that those are the last chapels that I have. I’ve been trying to make the most of time with my classes, but it is hard because I know that there is not much time left. There have been lots of good meetings with people, which is really good, but it is just hard to think about saying goodbye to the people that I love. It is kind of a mixture of emotions.”

When he was 14 years old, Reed felt that God was calling him to be a pastor and, specifically, to work with students. He began working as a youth pastor the week after he graduated from high school and did that through college, during and after attending seminary. He worked in different churches in South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. By the end of his twenties, Reed said he felt that God was leading him into a new phase.

“I started looking towards Christian universities and to ask what it would be like to be a chaplain at a Christian university,” Reed said. “I applied to every open position in every Christian university around the country and got rejected or ignored in every single one.”

Reed and his family lived in Fresno, California. There, Reed worked as a Dean of Spiritual Formation at Fresno Pacific University. After 11 years, he said that he and his family felt that God was leading them elsewhere. Reed said, “We prayed and researched through every Christian college in the country and made a list of five schools that we thought may be a good fit for us and JBU was on that list. Unfortunately, there were no jobs available.”

Reed and his family had to wait four years after they made that list before they came to JBU. Finally, Reed received a phone call from JBU saying that the chaplain had resigned, and they needed someone. “God was leading us, but it took us a long time to get here,” Reed said.

Reed said that coming to JBU was a difficult transition at the beginning: “I loved JBU right from the start, but it was just different. It took me a while to feel at home.” One of Reed’s favorite transition moments came during J. Alvin’s ping pong tournament. Reed said that President Pollard went the last night to see the championship games and told him, “I want to play with you.” “Everyone was watching the president and the chaplain playing ping pong, everyone was cheering. It was a lot of fun,” Reed said. For Reed, this was a great way of getting to know people and for people to see him in a different way than a just the chaplain.  Today, Reed still proudly displays the first-place trophy in his office, which reads: J Alvin Ping Pong Tournament 2008.

After 11 years working on campus, Reed said that his time at JBU has been an experience filled with growth and learning. “I just love JBU. I love the people, the faculty and staff, Dr. Pollard, my colleagues that I get to work with, and there are so many people here that I care about so much,” Reed said. “God has grown me a lot while I have been here. I had the privilege to be part of the lives of thousands of students and the lives of hundreds of faculty and staff members,” Reed said. “I am a very different person than I was eleven years ago.  JBU has changed me in very good ways.”

With some tears in his eyes, Reed said, “I am really going to miss worshipping with students in chapel. I am really going to miss preaching in chapel, I love preaching to JBU students. I am going to miss teaching classes and being in the learning environment with students, which is so much fun. I am really going to miss the Walton students; they are on my top-ten list of what I am thankful for. I love walking by the table where they sit in the cafeteria and there is Spanish spoken, I just love that. I’m going to miss all the crazy traditions at JBU: the TP game and most of what happens in J.Alvin. I’m going to miss all the conversations with students in the cafeteria, in my office or just walking across campus. There are so many things that I am going to miss.”

Referring to the new position as chancellor at Indiana Wesleyan University, he said, “I am really excited and kind of terrified about the job because it is a big job. So, my job there is kind of Dr. Pollard’s job here on campus. I believe so much in the power of Christian universities to change peoples’ lives. So, I am very excited to be able to lead kind of the whole campus so that the whole campus is working together to change students’ lives.”

Reed clarified that he is not moving because he is unsatisfied with JBU. He explained that three years ago, God started leading him into a new stage of leadership. “This is an opportunity to continue the calling that God put on my life back when I was 14,” Reed said. “The reason I’m going is that I believe God is calling me into the next place, but also a new stage of leadership.” He also recognized that in some ways this new phase is scary because he knows how to be the chaplain here at JBU and his new role will be very different. However, he said he is trusting God in this process. “I believe that just like God led me to JBU and has worked on me and blessed me here, he will use me in the next place too.”

Reed will move by himself to Indiana in January. Michelle and the two youngest children will move to Indiana to join Reed at the end of May. Michelle will continue working at Career Development in the spring semester and their children will finish their school year.

Reed encourages JBU students to always remember that God is faithful to them. “God is faithful in the transitions and in the moments of not knowing what the future holds, and in the moments when they are struggling with hard things in life,” Reed said. “God is with us because he is faithful. God’s faithfulness shows itself in different ways through the people around us, faculty and staff supporting students and students supporting faculty and staff, people caring for each other. God is giving us grace in the midst of hard times. -In the end, in every situation, God is faithful.”