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Incoming Senior Minister at Memorial Church Plans To Encourage Multifaith Dialogue

By Theodore R. Delwiche, Crimson Staff Writer

Lucy A. Forster-Smith officially joined the Harvard community last Sunday as the Sedgwick Chaplain to the University and senior minister to the Memorial Church.

Reverend Jonathan L. Walton, Pusey Minister in Memorial Church and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals, said that Forster-Smith’s new position is the fulfillment of a wish he has had since he replaced Peter J. Gomes in 2012 as Pusey Minister—to hire someone with multi-faith experience at the chaplain level.

“In a community as religiously diverse, and fluid, and dynamic as Harvard…we really needed someone to serve in this chaplaincy,” Walton said.

Walton said that while interviewing potential candidates for the newly created position, it became clear early on that Forster-Smith, who has been a chaplain at Macalester College and authored the book "College and University Chaplaincy in the 21st Century: A Multifaith Look at the Practice of Ministry on Campuses across America," was the perfect fit.

“This is what she does, and she has literally written the book on multi-faith ministry,” Walton said.

Forster-Smith said that she is not coming to Harvard with a specific agenda, but rather decades of experience in the field of ministry and chaplaincy and a willingness to fully immerse herself in the community at Memorial Church and the University at large.

“I really love working on a campus, and I really value relationship,” Forster-Smith said. “[I will] try as much as I can to attend many of the religious and spiritual organizations.”

Having studied music and philosophy in college, she said that she is also excited to be part of a community with many musical talents and intersections between faith and music.

“I think spirituality and music are hand in hand. It’s a transcendent experience when you step into a musical performance and also to perform,” she said. “[I am] literally feeling this deep, deep gratitude to be able to be in a setting where there was beauty in such a way.”

Walton said that Forster-Smith will help members of the Memorial Church and the University “to remain in healthy dialogue with one another as we serve our respective communities.”

He noted that although he does not expect Forster-Smith to perform particular tasks or be concerned with certain matters solely because she is female, it is important to have women represented at all levels of the spiritual life.

“How can we say that we are trying to represent what God's kingdom looks like, yet we privilege only half of that kingdom,” Walton said, adding that gender equality is not only a practical, ethical, and moral problem, but also a theological one.

Forster-Smith is set to move into her office in Memorial Church next week. She will join 12 affiliated ministers, in addition ot Walton.

“I hope she has a long and fruitful term at Harvard,” Walton said.

—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at tdelwiche@college.harvard.edu.

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