The recontextualizing of the campus chaplaincy – both as a non-denominational spirituality and as a form of mental health care – can be a problem even as it has helped to renew attention to the office.
In the Fall of 1999, after serving 14 years as a United Church minister, Reverend Tom Sherwood figured it was time for a change. He left his suburban Ottawa congregation for Carleton University to become campus chaplain. “At the time, I was the school’s only full-time religious professional working with 20,000 students,” he says. “But I was prepared for it.”
While the ethos of providing counselling and spiritual guidance proved to be similar to his work in his previous congregation, a number of things were specific to the student population. “Everything’s hard to do the first time, and lot of those firsts happen in university. Your first grandparent dies, your first friend dies, you attend your first funeral. People very successful in high school may for the first time experience failure or perhaps not being the smartest in the class.” Drawing on his experiences as a pastor and a former graduate school residential fellow, Dr. Sherwood settled into campus life.