Andy De Jong explains allMay 6, 2009
For two years, between the retirement of former Calvin chaplain Dale Cooper and the hiring of Mary Hulst as the new Calvin chaplain in March 2009, Andy De Jong has served as the interim chaplain of Calvin College. Before coming to Calvin, De Jong planted Covenant Life Church in Grand Haven and pastored Christian Reformed churches in Boulder, Co. and South Bend, Ind. De Jong, whose term in the chaplain’s office is completed at the end of June, reflected on his time at Calvin, the evolution of the chaplaincy and matters of sanitation.
How did you come to serve Calvin as interim chaplain? Dale retired in the spring of ’07, and Calvin determined that rather than fill that position immediately, they would take a cue from churches that are in the practice of bringing in interim pastors—typically for a year. I didn’t even know the position was available. I got a call from (someone) saying, ‘How come you haven’t applied?
What appealed to you about the interim position? Interim positions are usually created to maintain the current calendar and programs of a church … What attracted me to this position was, yes, doing that, but also to help Calvin re-imagine what the position of the chaplain could be … and what the office of Christian formation could become for the next generation of Calvin students. And that part excited me because I’m by nature creative—a risk taker. There was a lot about that second piece that appealed to my creative wiring. So, for two years, I got to play out “What if?” scenarios. I think part of the appeal was to return to Calvin as an employee 40 years after I arrived as a freshman and to sort of give back to Calvin.
What kinds of changes did you help to implement? What we essentially did is we assessed every staff position in office of Christian formation—so, chaplain, LOFT, Barnabas, mentoring. I tried to bring fresh eyes and ears to conversations around both those programs and the staff. We did expand the staff of the office of Christian formation. We assessed chapels and LOFT and we began to change up the calendar and the rhythm of chapel and began to experiment with different chapel motifs. We tried to make chapel more sensory driven … We did a lot of stuff with visuals, drama, dance and a lot more with the arts.
What did you learn? I think that Calvin really takes students seriously. The staff of student life loves students as though they were their own sons and daughters. And I think that Calvin is a hefty place in which to engage the world in critical discussion on a myriad of things that matter to God. I’ve learned in the last third of my life to hold things lightly. That said, I’m finding it hard to leave Calvin.
What are you going to miss? I’m going to miss the energy and the altruism, the capacity for visioning and idealism on the part of the students. For me, it just comes down to the students … I’m going to miss those sanitizing hand dispensers on the campus. I love walking up to those things and getting a little shot of virus protection.
What aren’t you going to miss? Reports. I hate ’em
Do you have any advice for the new chaplain? I think that Mary is the person who is needed next at Calvin College … for the next generation of Calvin students. What I would say to Mary is: ‘You’re not here to fill anyone’s shoes but your own. Walk graciously.’
~by Myrna Anderson, communications and marketing