The University Chaplain's Office

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Mission and Information


The University Chaplain:

The University Chaplain provides a ministry of service and hospitality to the religiously diverse community at Lehigh University. The Chaplain responds to a variety of needs that arise in the university, working with students, faculty and staff to build up a positive sense of community. The Chaplain provides a community resource for raising values issues and addressing moral concerns in a variety of forums, both on and off campus; and the Chaplain's Office provides a focal point for religious activities on campus. The University Chaplain supports the mission of the modern university and endorses a model of ministry that emphasizes teaching and learning, that encourages respectful engagement between religious traditions, that seeks to help persons in the university extend hospitality to the stranger, and that urges people to develop critical social awareness as a way to express spiritual concern. The University Chaplain participates in both the academic and co-curricular life of the University, being responsible for worship, programming, as well as out-of-classroom learning experiences and regular teaching. By encouraging and promoting an atmosphere where moral and spiritual issues can be acknowledged as central to a meaningful, balanced, and well-rounded education, the University Chaplain seeks to enhance the educational experience of those working and studying at Lehigh. The mission of the Chaplain's Office is organized around four distinct functions:

1. Organization

The Chaplain's Office seeks to support activities and initiate programs that provide occasions for reflecting on personal and community values while challenging individuals to grow and mature as moral and spiritual persons. To that end, the Office seeks through its support of religious groups to make opportunities for meaningful religious community available to students on campus. In addition, the Chaplain's Office assists persons seeking access to opportunities for involvement in community service, while supporting programs that are designed to broaden students' cultural horizons. Among programs and activities sponsored by the Chaplain's Office are the following:

Religious Groups: Representatives of the religious groups on campus meet with the chaplain, in some academic years on a regular basis. Religious organizations are asked to identify themselves to the Chaplain's Office and send a representative to the meetings. The Chaplain's Office helps arrange for those religious groups wanting contact with Lehigh students to do so. The Chaplain's Office should be consulted for more information about student religious groups and activity schedules:

  • The Dialogue Center:  The Chaplain's Office is housed in the University's Center for Dialogue, Ethics and Spirutality.  Established in 2008, in the immediate aftermath of the Dalai Lama's seven day visit to Lehigh, the Dialogue Center sponsors programs that seek to enhance respectful community while advancing both intellectual enrichment and social engagement.  The Prison Project is a Chaplain's Office service opportunity that permits students and faculty to tutor inmates at the Northampton County Prison in Easton.  About 30 volunteers participate every semester.  

  • Chaplain's Forum: The Chaplain's Office sponsors discussions of moral and spiritual issues, and will organize programs by co-sponsoring speakers and events with other academic department and with the University's Visiting Lecturers Committee. Among the highlights of past years were talks by theologian John Cobb; Princeton ethicist Peter Singer; Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Maraniss; a science and religion disucussion concerning Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box; Jonathan Kozol; David Blankenhorn; and former United States Senator, George McGovern. Speakers have included Arun Gandhi and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sr. Helen Prejean. In 2007-08 the Chaplain's Forum was dedicated to bringing speakers to campus in a campus wide program anticipating the visit to Lehigh of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in July of 2008.

  • The Community Service Desk: The first University Community Service Desk was established in the Chaplain's Office in 1991 to coordinate student volunteer efforts with needs in the Bethlehem area community. In 1996, a full-time community service coordinator position was created because of the increasing work-load, and community service functions are now directed through the Community Service Coordinator in Student Affairs, with whom the Chaplain's Office works. The Chaplain's Office organized and funded the first Lehigh Alternative Spring Break trips to inner cities (Chicago and Cleveland) and continues to sponsor specific community volunteer efforts, announced throughout the year. The Office, through the Religion Studies Department, offered Lehigh's first officially designated "service learning" course, designed to connect academic analyzes of social/ethical issues with practical experience in the community. The four credit course entitled "Practical Justice: From Social Systems to Responsible Community" enrolled forty-eight students in the Spring of 1998 and thirty five in 2009. Each student is required to complete 30 hours of community service.  The course provided the initial impetus to establish the Lehigh Prison Project. 

  • Liaison: The University Chaplain is the University's liaison with the greater Bethlehem area religious community. One of the community efforts involving the Chaplain's Office in a leadership capacity was the program, "Common Ground," which brought outside resource speakers together in citizen-based forums to discuss controversial issues like criminal justice, abortion, and homosexuality, the emphasis being on modeling civil and respectful disagreement.

2. Celebration

University Chapel Services. Chapel services conducted by the University Chaplain are broadly-based ecumenical Christian services open to the entire University Community. The Chaplain leads or participates in from 20 to 30 worship services a year, including special services of University interest, memorial services, weddings, Christmas Vespers, and Baccalaureate. Special services are organized around particular issues (e.g., AIDS vigil, "Take Back the Night;" 9-11 Memorial services); and the Chaplain participates in ecumenical, interreligious and community worship throughout the academic year. Religious groups on campus occasionally hold worship services in Packer Memorial Church with assistance from the Chaplain's Office. All services held in Packer Memorial Church are advertised in various electronic and print communication resources, many in The Brown and White. The Chaplain's Office may be contacted for information about worship services in the area and possible rides from campus. The Office also has information about religious organizations on campus students might be interested in joining, and persons to contact.

3. Nurture

  • Ecumenical Charities. The Chaplain's Office supervises a small fund to help students with emergency financial needs. This charity is supported by voluntary contributions. For more information, contact the Chaplain's Office.

  • University Chaplain is available to students--and others in the University community--for conversation and personal counseling, or to help make a referral for counseling. All counseling is confidential.

4.  Education

The history of Lehigh's Chaplaincy has been marked by an institutional commitment to fostering a visible and active invovlement of the Chaplain in teaching. Rev. Dr. Lloyd Steffen has maintained this distinctive emphasis working with academic departments and other student service offices to create teaching and learning opportunities on campus in a variety of forums.

At Lehigh the formal academic study of religion may be undertaken through courses and events in a wide variety of departments and programs, including Religion Studies, Philosophy, History, The Berman Center for Jewish Studies, Asian Studies, The Global Islamic Center, and others.  Separate from his Chaplain's responsibilities, Steffen holds a tenured faculty appointment as a Professor in the Religious Studies Department, where he teaches two course a year and pursues an active scholarly career, particularly in the area of ethics. He is the author and editor of ten books, including Life/Choice: The Theory of Just Abortion, published in 1994; Abortion: A Reader, published in 1996; the award winning Executing Justice: The Moral Meaning of the Death Penalty, published in 1999, and the 2003 publication, The Demonic Turn: The Power of Religion to Inspire and Restrain Violence. His most recent books are Holy War, Just War: Exploring the Moral Meaning of Religous Violence and Ethics and Experience: Moral Theory from Just War to Abortion.   He has recently completed writing a book with philosopher Dennis Cooley, The Ethics of Death, published in 2014.  Dr. Steffen is a frequent visitor to classes on campus, and is often invited to speak in academic, public and church settings; he wrote a "Spiritual Journeys" column for the Express-Times for many years and is currently a "Faith and Values" columnist for the Morning Call.

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