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Chaplain saved

Faith may be declining in Canada, but it’s funding that’s been lacking at the King’s chapel. When the chaplain’s job was called into question, the reaction was widespread indignation.

Faith may be declining in Canada, but it’s funding that’s been lacking at the King’s chapel. When the chaplain’s job was called into question, the reaction was widespread indignation. The declining role of religion in universities is a general trend, as Reverend Dr. Gary Thorne knows. Small liberal arts universities that were once affiliated with a religious denomination are shifting toward secularity.
“The Anglican Dioceses of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. is becoming smaller. Its budget is getting smaller,” said Thorne.
But last year when the Dioceses decided they would only pay half of Thorne’s salary in 2012, the issue was brought home. They asked King’s to contribute half of the chaplain’s salary. The Board of Governors Committee was tasked with finding a means of paying this sum. The committee, KSU President Gabe Hoogers, Dr. Neil Robertson and Board of Governors member Mary Martin initially looked to Divinity Funds kept at King’s as a possible solution.
The Divinity Funds are endowments, yearly portions of money distributed based on the interest of previous investments. Some of the funds are for divinity program funding (the Divinity school that was at King’s moved to the Atlantic School of Theology, and so that money goes there), or for the bishop’s “visitor fund”. The Board of Governors, to the surprise of Thorne, decided not to use Divinity Funds.
“In the end—I do not know why, I’ve never been given an explanation—but for some reason the Board of Governors saw fit not to simply top up the money,” said Thorne.
Money allotted to the chapel from the Divinity Funds in the past established a precedent that made Thorne hopeful. The Committee was forced to look to donors to pay the half of Thorne’s salary. Hoogers said that it didn’t take much before “the overwhelming charity of individuals” made the Committee’s job easy. “Eventually, people just stepped up to the plate one by one and pledged donations to the chapel,” said Hoogers.
Adriane Abbott, who is the Advancement Director at King’s, manages donations to the school. She regards information concerning the donors as “privileged,” but she did disclose that between five and twenty-five donors made up the contributions necessary to pay Thorne’s salary for the next five years.
It wasn’t just churchgoers who feared losing the Chaplain. Matthew Benedict is a King’s student who does not describe himself as religious but regards the church community as “one of those intangibles that sets us apart from other universities.”
He went on to point out that Thorne has many important roles in the King’s community. “Through the chaplain, King’s has become involved with charitable programs,” Benedict said. “He also keeps an open door policy so that students can seek help or advice. He’s also a faculty member and a rare wealth of religious knowledge.”
Thorne considers it his job “to support and encourage students in their endeavours and to help them succeed in whatever way they themselves define success—personally, socially, academically, spiritually.”
The issue facing the chaplaincy was a lack of funding, not a lack of appreciation, the logical consequence of which makes it strange that the position was brought under scrutiny.
“If they were to do away with the position, then presumably they would have to hire a student resources person. Students need someone who can give them unqualified, entirely confidential support,” said Thorne.
“Throughout it all,” said Hoogers, “I wasn’t concerned that we were going to lose Father Thorne.”

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

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