An email to the student body sent by President Kathleen Harring on Oct. 13 announced the departure of Muhlenberg’s College Chaplain Kristen Glass Perez.
“At Northwestern University, I will serve as University Chaplain and Executive Director of Religious and Spiritual Life,” said Glass Perez. “In this role, I will oversee staff and programming for engagement across a wide variety of religious, spiritual and ethical traditions. Even though I am very sad to leave Muhlenberg, this role is a fit for me because it combines my previous administrative experience and also includes a deeply interfaith setting. It is also closer to my family, which is important to me.”
“The role of the chaplain is to accompany people through their life journeys in college,” said Glass Perez. “In the case of Muhlenberg, the chaplain is a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. A part of my job is to lead protestant worship in Egner Chapel… which is a very specific role for a specific community. Most of the job, though, is to oversee the implementation of religious and spiritual life programs for everyone. This includes interfaith engagement; pastoral care for students, faculty, and staff; campus worship services across a variety of religious and secular traditions; life event celebrations and remembrances; and deeply collaborative work with students and student affairs colleagues on a wide range of initiatives for student wellness, wellbeing and success.”
“I am enormously grateful for the time I have spent at Muhlenberg and will miss everyone deeply.”
Glass Perez explained to The Weekly why Muhlenberg has a chaplain. “Muhlenberg has a chaplain because the college was founded in a particular religious tradition. Muhlenberg is related to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)-which is a large protestant Christian Denomination in the United States. What we say is that Muhlenberg is ‘rooted’ in this tradition, and “open” to the way multiple traditions are expressed in the 21st Century. In 2020, chaplaincy is a lot broader than leading religious services for a particular group.”
Many students from a variety of religious backgrounds are saddened by Glass Perez’s departure. Anne Cannon ‘21, President of the Hillel Executive Board said, “Pastor Kristen has been such a wonderful gift to the Muhlenberg Community. Her kindness, warmth, empathy, and devotion to all of the students of Muhlenberg College, regardless of their faith, has impacted the experiences of so many students. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Pastor Kristen throughout my time at Muhlenberg.”
Aya Kanan ‘23, President of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), echoed Cannon’s sentiments. “I was originally saddened to hear that Pastor Kristen is leaving Muhlenberg, but I wish her all the best at Northwestern and they are an extremely lucky university to have her.”
In regards to how Glass Perez’ departure might affect the MSA, Kanan said, “Pastor Kristen was integral in restarting the MSA at Muhlenberg, and [I’ve been] very thankful for her presence here. I hope that her departure won’t affect the MSA negatively, and I have faith that Muhlenberg will find an interim chaplain who will be just as involved with us as Pastor Kristen was.”
Cannon also spoke of Glass Perez’ impacts on The Leffell Center, saying, “Pastor Kristen has had a significant impact on The Leffell Center for Jewish Student Life and Muhlenberg College Hillel. She has been a strong advocate for Jewish students’ religious needs, served as a chaplain for many Jewish students in times of uncertainty, been the driving force behind multiple Hillel staff search processes, and has been a friend and mentor to the students at the Leffell Center for Jewish Student Life. She will be missed dearly by the Jewish community on campus, but both her friendship and her impact on the Leffell Center will endure for many years to come.”
Although Muhlenberg is home to students of a variety of different faiths, the chaplain serves as the point person for all of religious life. Glass Perez explained, “What I usually say is that the College Chaplain is ‘Chaplain to everyone, pastor to some.’ What I mean is that the role of the chaplain is to provide time and space for religious observance or non-religious observance (we don’t force anyone to practice a religious tradition). The chaplain is also available to talk to anyone in the Muhlenberg community as a confidential resource. In the same way that there are chaplains in hospitals, the college has a chaplain.”
“Muhlenberg is rooted in a tradition but open to all other forms of expression including academic exploration through religious and spiritual and secular traditions.”
She added, “Muhlenberg is rooted in a tradition but open to all other forms of expression including academic exploration through religious and spiritual and secular traditions. The chaplain, along with others, helps to steward this exploration at the college.”
Glass Perez spoke highly of her time at Muhlenberg and how it has impacted her. “My time at Muhlenberg has been filled with deeply rewarding work and relationships,” emphasized Glass Perez. “I am especially grateful for the students, faculty and staff who have helped me to hold generative space for religious and spiritual exploration. I am also very proud of the work of student leaders who have held space for meeting one another in and throughout different religious and cultural identities.”
She added, “Some of my favorite experiences at Muhlenberg have been working with Dr. Christopher Jackson and the Muhlenberg Choirs as we worked to broaden the ritual traditions within Candlelight Carols and Baccalaureate and with the Office of Multicultural Life as we collaborated on programs to serve our students. I am also very proud and honored to have worked with all of the staff in Religious Life at Muhlenberg who go above and beyond each day to meet the needs of our students. During the pandemic, they have tirelessly served the college and it is one of the reasons that Muhlenberg is so special. I am also especially proud of the work of the M.U.L.E. cabinet–which serves the needs of our students in new ways.”
The Muhlenberg Useful Living Essentials (M.U.L.E.) cabinet, was one of Glass Perez’s many contributions to Muhlenberg. It is a resource intended to provide useful products to any Muhlenberg student who should need them and to combat food insecurity on campus. It is located in the basement of Seegers Union.
Glass Perez concluded, “I am enormously grateful for the time I have spent at Muhlenberg and will miss everyone deeply. I am thankful to President Harring and the Senior Leadership for being such good colleagues and deep supporters of Religious and Spiritual life at Muhlenberg.”