Campus welcomes new chaplain as Strawn departs for California

New campus pastor, Dr. Blair Spindle, delivers the message at the NSI dedication service on August 19, 2012. (Photo by Kyle Pierce)

By Ronna Fisher

Amidst all the changes that are taking place at SNU this fall, the one that will mostly likely  affect the students directly is arrival of the new chaplain/campus pastor, Blaire Spindle.

Former chaplain Brad Strawn left his position as SNU’s chaplain and took a position at the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. His official title is the Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of Integration of Psychology and Theology.

“This position combines my two great passions, theology and psychology and is a great honor!” Strawn said. “I will be teaching, advising doctoral students, training psychotherapists, writing, researching and bringing leadership to the school’s integrative efforts. I will also be able to continue some of my pastoral leanings, as I did at SNU, by creating programs that enhance students’ spiritual formation.”

For most students, the transition has seemed sudden; some may not even know the change had taken place. The final decision for Strawn to leave SNU did not take place until July. “This was in part because of the pace at which Fuller moved and then I was in a long process of prayer and discernment. There are so many things that go into a decision like this,” Strawn said.

Although it is sad to see Strawn go, many students are very excited to hear that Spindle will be the new chaplain; even Strawn is excited for Spindle’s future at SNU.

“I believe he will be a great fit!” Strawn said. “He has an excellent reputation in the community, cares about students, is a great speaker and has the heart of a pastor. He will not miss a beat coming into the SNU community, in part, because he knows it so well.”

Jason Hubbert, associate in the office of Spiritual Development said, “He seems very pastoral to me, I think that’s his passion. He likes people, he likes talking to people and he seems to go out of his way to see where a person’s at.”

Jordan Leibold, a sophomore who interned with Spindle at Trinity Nazarene her freshman year, agreed with Hubbert, “I think he’s very relational so he’ll be able to get on the level of students more than we’ve experienced in the past.”

SNU President, Loren Gresham, was the head of the search process for the new chaplain. He had three criteria in mind; “Somebody who had current local church experience, somebody with an earned doctorate and somebody who was a Nazarene elder and thoroughly committed to the church.”

Dr. Gresham added that he was also looking for somebody who had a great track record with youth and young adults. He did not post the new position for a national search, but instead began by interviewing 10 or 12 candidates. Four had met the qualifications he was looking for. Gresham selected two candidates he thought were outstanding, and then involved the other members of his team in the interview process. In order to protect the candidates’ current jobs, the interviewers did not know who the candidates were ahead of time. Dr. Gresham has already received a lot of positive feedback that Spindle will be a great fit.

The chaplain’s responsibilities will also change somewhat. The position will no longer be the Vice President of Spiritual Development but will focus more on the campus pastoral role. According to Gresham and Hubbert, this change should free up quite a bit of time for the campus pastor.

“Cabinet meetings did take a lot of time, like budget issues which did not directly affect Spiritual Development,” Hubbert said. “The chaplain will also be free of any negative aspects of personnel decisions that may have a negative impact on the campus.”

According to Dr. Gresham, “[This will allow him to] focus on ministry without having to keep [his] hand on all of these committees. Let that person be a minister, let that person be a pastor to the campus. That’s why the change was made. We will still be involving Dr. Spindle in many, many other things with the administrators. I do not look at this as somehow a demotion of the office, but really a freeing up to being a who and what that person should be.”

Although the school is still in a time of transition, Hubbert said that chapel is already scheduled for the fall semester with multiple guest speakers lined up. The theme will be “Divine Mosaic.”

Strawn has one last message for the students of SNU; “I have loved my time being the SNU chaplain and it was the students who were responsible for this! Leaving them was the hardest part of my decision. I am so sorry that I couldn’t say goodbye in person. I love SNU and the student body, and I will continue to pray for them and hope they will pray for me. We continue to be in the same business – participating with God to bring the Kingdom of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven.’”

This article is part of a series covering changes in personnel during the summer of 2012. Read about Chris Peterson’s transition from Career Services and Student Employment to Human Resources.