A new chaplain for a new era
Queen's has a new Chaplain, and for the first time in the long history of the position, a woman is providing spiritual guidance to the campus community.
Kate Johnson, MDiv’06, the University’s new Chaplain, is the first woman to serve in this capacity. But her gender is not the only distinction Johnson brings to the job of providing spiritual guidance to students, staff, and faculty. She also brings a new sensibility and understanding of spirituality in an increasingly complex and diverse university population.
“My background has always been in a multi-faith environment,” she says. “I’ve worked in the prison system, at Kingston General Hospital, and at the Canadian Hearing Society. In each case, I was serving quite diverse populations.”
Each of these diverse positions emphasized working closely with people who feel marginalized. This was just as true at the Canadian Hearing Society as it was in the five years she just spent at Pittsburgh minimum security institution, just north of Kingston. During her time there, Johnson worked with many crime victims as well as perpetrators. She found this to be a particularly privileged part of her duties. Her undergrad education in social work has dovetailed beautifully with her Masters of Divinity in restorative justice. Both degrees and her varied background will inform her ministry at Queen’s.
Johnson, who is a Quaker, says her personal faith will inform her work as Chaplain. Quaker faith comes from a deeply held belief that personal experience guides the individual’s spiritual life.
Johnson will strive to reach out to the entire Queen’s community and as her predecessors have done, she plans to fulfill the ceremonial duties, which include Remembrance Day, memorials, and convocation. And she will keep an open door for anyone who wants or needs to talk to her about his or her spirituality, noting that “it’s not my journey, it’s theirs.”
Johnson admits the third element in the quest for a healthy “mind, body, and spirit” often is either dismissed or integrated into other dimensions of campus life. Yet, she sees the pursuit of a healthy spirit being no less important, and one dimension of a holistic approach to healthy living.
“When you abuse your body and don’t stay fit or when you don’t exercise the mind, your whole person suffers. Likewise, if you fail to recognize the spirit or keep pushing it away as unimportant, you’re doing yourself a disservice, which can affect the body and the mind,” she says.
Ultimately, Johnson sees her job as Chaplain as a way to acknowledge the “fullness of humanity.” She explains, “I want to help students become fully engaged citizens. I also want to support faculty and staff in their ongoing engagement with students and the institution.”
To contact the Chaplain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit www.queensu.ca/chaplain.