Elon community, faith leaders officially welcome Rev. Kirstin Boswell as fourth university chaplain, dean of multifaith engagement

The welcome service, held in the Numen Lumen Pavilion Sacred Space on Thursday, saw Elon community members and faith leader welcome Boswell into her new role with Elon.

In a world that seems to grow more chaotic with each day, Rev. Kirstin Boswell looks to serve as a beacon for the community, a bridge to gap those who may not feel a part of the many faith traditions and worldviews celebrated on campus.

“I think it’s crucial to understand the landscape because we are also shifting understanding of ourselves as religious and spiritual beings,” Boswell said during her welcoming service on Thursday, Sept 30.

“Increasingly students and colleagues are coming to Elon who do not identify with organized religious traditions,” she told those gathered. “Some may have felt harmed by organized religion, some may feel it belonged to a different time in their lives. I feel that wherever you are, wherever each of us is, it doesn’t really matter. But it’s OK because it doesn’t change the work that must be done.”

Inside the Numen Lumen Pavilion Sacred Space, Boswell was officially welcomed to Elon as the fourth University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement. Her two immediate predecessors, Rev. Jan Fuller and Rev. Richard McBride spoke during her blessing her tenure as the university’s multifaith leader.

Fuller said that it has been both “daunting and a joy” to see the progress that has already been made in the Truitt Center since her departure earlier this year.

“Here we are now celebrating your arrival. You are the answer to our prayer, my prayer, no pressure. It was certainly a much happier and easier departure for me knowing that you would lead the work,” Fuller said.

In having Boswell take over as the spiritual leader for Elon, McBride said it makes “his heart glad.” He is excited about the unique talents and insights Boswell will bring to the university.

“From its inception, Elon has been nurtured by faithful people in faith communities,” McBride said. “If I may offer a charge to you, let it be that your gifts flourish here as a blessing for our community. Jan and I pledge our complete support, we will not intrude but invite you to call on us in any way we can assist.”

The gathering of various Elon faith leaders and community members embraced Elon’s motto, “Numen Lumen,” meaning “spiritual light and intellectual light” and signals the highest purpose of education at the university, according to President Connie Ledoux Book at the welcoming ceremony.

“The space we’re in today is an embodiment of that vision, a place for prayer, meditation and reflection appropriately in the heart of our university’s campus,” Book said. “Each week in this space, members of our community gather to share and reflect. So, this space tonight is the destination point for us to come together to have a joyful celebration as we welcome Rev. Boswell.”

Speaking of the bravery of Elon’s founder that stood underneath a grove of oak trees and envisioned a “college for the world.”

“And from those early days of our founding, I absolutely have experienced the growth of Elon as a diversity and inclusive community with great respect for human differences and a consistent yearning to build upon our commonality,” Book said.

Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, the university chaplain for Brown University and Boswell’s mentor, said she is proud of what Boswell has achieved, excited for her future and how proud she and all of Brown are to now have a connection with Elon.

“I want to tell you what you already know,” Nelson said to those in attendance at the Sacred Space. “You’ve invited to Elon a remarkable woman who’s been making a lot of difference in a lot of places for a long time. And I think you are extremely wise.”

Boswell said she came to Elon because it felt like a place where “religious and spiritual understanding” was a central value and championed by those at the top of the institution.

Working within a framework that places such importance on student development and engagement as well as religious, spiritual and ethical life as valuable parts of how the institution is run means that she and the rest of the Truitt Center will have “a lot to do,” but is ready to take all of it on.

“The operating environment for the notion that religious, spiritual and ethical components of our inner lives are key parts of the whole that comprises our identities, and are actively engaged in dialogue across campus, means that I have been more meetings, more conversations, more spaces and around more tables,” Boswell said.

“I love that about Elon,” she said. “I love the fact that we’re having important conversations about the diverse and multifaceted nature of human identity because it matters.”

Boswell thanked her family for their support on her journey to Elon, President Book along with others in leadership positions, her predecessors McBride, Fuller and Bill Sharpe, her mentor Rev. Nelson, her colleagues at the Truitt Center, the Elon community and the “amazing students.”

“I can say that I truly feel welcomed,” she said.