At its creation in 1841, Queen’s College was an explicitly religious affair, and though it secularized itself in 1912, Queen’s University retained a strong religious element. Its professors were to be “of Christian character” and its principals continued to be drawn from the ranks of the Presbyterian clergy until 1930.

In 1920, the university appointed a student chaplain whose task it was to tie together all the Christian elements – YMCA, Student Christian Movement, missionary support – on campus. That chaplaincy did not survive the fiscal constraint of the Depression, but the post-Second World War swelling of enrolment, largely fed by returning war veterans, reawakened the need for some ministering to the spiritual side of student life.

The position of University Chaplain dates from the end of the Second World War. In 1946, Principal Robert Charles Wallace approached the Board of Trustees with the argument that, although Queen’s was now secular, it was nonetheless “advisable” to minister to the spiritual needs of its students, and especially the special needs and difficulties of veterans returning to classes.

In that academic year, 2,353 of Queen’s 2,836 students reported affiliation to a Protestant denomination. University officials hired a special "Advisor to Ex-Service Personnel," the Rev Jack Leng, to provide support and counsel for students.

The position was given a broader mandate and retitled "University Chaplain" in 1947, when Leng was replaced by the Rev Dr. A. Marshall Laverty. At that time, the position was unique among Canadian universities; today it is becoming rare again as other universities dispense with the office.

The Rev Brian Yealland was chaplain from 1983 to 2013. He reshaped and modernized the role. Chaplains now have several main duties: they officiate at ceremonial university occasions such as convocation; assist students and staff on behalf of the university when there is a death or other serious occurrence in the family or on campus; and provide a source of counselling or support on a drop-in basis for all members of the Queen's community.

The position of Chaplain is officially a non-sectarian one.

Learn more about Faith and Spiritual Life at Queen's