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Hellos and goodbyes in the chaplain’s office

Now that the search for a permanent chaplain is over, the chaplain’s office is transitioning. Since Chaplain Kellough’s re­tirement in 2014, the Wheaton community has been faithfully led by interim chaplain David McDowell. McDowell was step­ping down from his church in West Chicago when Kellough announced his retirement. He was informed by President Philip Ryken that the position as in­terim chaplain could last only a semester or as long as an entire academic year, and McDowell said he is glad it was the latter. McDowell said, “As a com­munity we have faced some sig­nificant challenges (this year), and I am thankful to have been here to provide support and pas­toral guidance to … the student body as well as staff and fac­ulty. I have grown to love you all and will miss you greatly.” McDowell will continue to serve as interim chaplain un­til the end of the semester. He plans to continue working for the church as an interim pastor to help churches in transition and to mentor younger pastors. The chaplain search process began in 2014 when a commit­tee composed of faculty, students and staff worked with Ryken to review applications and con­duct interviews throughout the fall semester. Finally, at the be­ginning of this spring semes­ter, Ryken introduced Whea­ton to its new spiritual leader, Reverend Timothy Blackmon. Blackmon hails from the Neth­erlands, where he is senior pastor and head of staff at the American Protestant Church of The Hague. Blackmon stumbled across the job opening last summer and “sensed an irresistible call to ex­plore it further.” His history with Wheaton goes back to his college years in France, where many of his mentors and professors were Wheaton graduates. Incidentally, Blackmon also met Chaplain Kellough when he worshipped at Blackmon’s church during a year­long sabbatical in the Netherlands. At first, Blackmon felt that his application would not go very far. However, the Chaplain Search Committee invited him for a Sky­pe interview in August 2014 and requested to review his sermons and other writings. As the fall se­mester progressed, Blackmon was busy with several additional inter­views and the mutual discernment process. Finally, he visited campus in January and was officially of­fered the position as chaplain. Because Blackmon is out of the country, much of the transition in the Chaplain’s Office is hard to detect. The change is set to happen in July to ensure a smooth transi­tion into the fall 2015 semester. Marilynn Brenner, the ministry associate for care and adminis­tration, and Clayton Keenon, the ministry associate for disciple­ship and graduate chapel who is also moving on from Whea­ton, both agreed that not much change can happen until Black­mon arrives on campus in July. This summer will be a time of significant transition for both the Wheaton community and Black­mon’s family. Blackmon said he has moved between countries several times previously, but each time it seems to become more complex. Blackmon and his wife are preparing for the move by house-hunting and looking into new schools in the Wheaton area for their four children. Blackmon said that it will be especially hard to leave his church in the Nether­lands, at which his father served as music director for 45 years and his mother and brother still attend. While it will be hard to say good­bye to the family and city that he loves, Blackmon said that he and his family “are convinced of God’s leading and are all very excited.” Blackmon and his family will officially join the Wheaton community in July 2015. Black­mon holds deep respect for the ministry of Kellough and McDowell, and said he is “ea­ger to build on their legacy and find ways of kneading the yeast of the gospel through every­thing that happens on campus.”

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