College welcomes new chaplains

Joining the Williams College community this fall are two new chaplains: the Rev. Richard Evans Spalding and Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran.

Spalding replaces the Rev. Robert Buckwalter, who retired in June, as the chaplain to the College and coordinator of community service. Working alongside him is Coran, who will serve in a part-time capacity as an associate chaplain.

Richard Evans Spalding

Although Spalding is new to Williams, he has a long-standing connection to the College.

“Williams has been on my map of the world since I can remember,” said Spalding. “I had a grandfather on one side and a great-grandfather on the other side who were here, so it has always been a part of my life. I never in a million years imagined that I would get such an honor to be invited to be the chaplain at Williams.”

Spalding comes to Williams from the Church of the Covenant in Boston, where he had been in charge of pastoral care, counseling, and liturgical leadership since 1988.

At the same time, he also served as the Protestant campus minister at Harvard University; he was president of the United Ministry from 1992 to 1993.

He has taught at Harvard Divinity School, Andover Newton Theological School and Virginia Theological Seminary. From 1988 to 1990, he edited Chaplain’s Craft, a journal for school ministers and teachers.

After receiving his B.A. and master of divinity degree from Yale University, Spalding received a master of sacred theology in Christian ethics degree from the Union Theological Seminary in 1986.

In his short time here, Spalding has already had a chance to interact with some Williams students.

“I think he’ll be a great asset to the school because he really cares about people and social justice,” said Emily Martin ’03. “And it’s not just a general ‘I care about everybody’ kind of thing. He really wants to get to know you as an individual.”

Spalding says he already has many ideas on how to further enrich the College community.

“There are a couple of things that I hope I can do,” he said. “One is to convene a multi-faith council, some kind of semi-regular gathering of students from the widest possible variety to teach each other about different faiths, to grow together and to maybe do some programming for the College.”

Additionally, Spalding is working on increasing the use of the religious facilities on campus. At his request, the Thompson Memorial Chapel is now open daily. “It’s part of my job to help Williams figure out what we can do with Thompson Chapel,” he said.

Spalding is also interested in more general issues of spirituality on campus. “A little bit later this fall, I am going to offer a couple of retreats for students of all faiths or no faith as quiet days, probably on a Saturday,” said Spalding. “[It would be] just a time to reflect and rediscover yourself.

“I also want to have things going on [in Thompson Memorial Chapel] late at night that are more about reflection and peace – something not sectarian but nourishing of the spirit.”

However, one of Spalding’s first goals is to get acquainted with the College community and, in particular, the student body. “The biggest part of what I want to be doing now is meeting people,” he said.

“I hope that people will invite me to things,” he added. “I want to come to snacks in entries. I want to go to dinners and lunches with people, bringing the spiritual side with me, and learn as much as I can about the nature of this place and its roots. I hope that they get to meet my big, brown dog, Jack. One of the reasons I moved here was for Jack. Jack is a good teacher of forgiveness.”

Sigma Faye Coran

Coran spent last year living and studying in Jerusalem. From 1994 to 1999, she served as rabbi at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, Mass., and was responsible for all aspects of congregational life.

She received her B.A. from Tufts University in 1988 and her M.A. in Hebrew letters in 1992. Ordained in June 1993, Coran is a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Like Spalding, Coran also has a connection to the College. “My husband, [associate professor of classics] Matthew Kraus, teaches at the College and he was commuting,” said Coran. “So, this was perfect for us to be in one place and raise our family together. I see this as a real positive place for my three children – ages seven, four and one– to grow up and hang out.”

As a co-coordinator for the Williams College Jewish Association, Michael Nazarian ’02 has already had the opportunity to work with Rabbi Coran.

“In the short time that she has spent with us, we have seen that she is a very compassionate and dedicated person,” Nazarian said. “Her presence in the Jewish Association offers much in the way of expanding the outlets for religious expression that are available to students.

“She is a valuable resource for the Williams community and will help to establish stronger relationships with other campus groups,” Nazarian added. “I’m pleased to have such a warm person join the community, and I’m excited about the year ahead.”

“The college years can be years that people leave the Jewish community for a while,” Coran said. “So, I see this as a great challenge and opportunity to connect to the Jewish community and find meaning in life.”

Coran already has ideas for improving the active Jewish community at the College.

“I would like to see the Jewish community embark on some self evaluation of what our purpose on campus should be,” she added. “I’d like to see some serious Jewish study on an informal level. I’d like to see the Jewish community reach out in the form of Tzedakah [social justice] and interact with other campus groups. And I would like to foster a sense of belonging and home.”

“I think that college life can make one go inward,” said Coran. “And I think that the Jewish community life and religion forces people to think outside of themselves and reach out to the greater community.”