Transitions: Kristen Leslie and Siobhán Garrigan

By Gustav Spohn, Director of Communications and Publications

April 27 was a day to celebrate the gifts and graces of two popular Yale Divinity School faculty members in transition, as students, faculty and staff honored the service of Kristen Leslie and Siobhán Garrigan.

Leslie, associate professor of pastoral care and counseling, has accepted a tenured position at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.  And Garrigan, associate professor of liturgical studies and associate dean for chapel, is relinquishing her chapel duties but will remain a member of the YDS and Institute of Sacred Music faculties.  Both have frequently worked with students beyond the confines of the classroom and have developed relationships as trusted mentors.

LeslieLeslie was recognized for her years of service at the April 27 Spring faculty dinner, and, earlier in the day, Garrigan was feted at the coffee hour following the end-of-the-year worship service in Marquand Chapel, where she delivered the sermon.

Leslie, who will be one of the celebrants at this year’s commencement communion service, made national headlines several years ago for her critique of religious life at the U.S. Air Force Academy and is a sought-after speaker at symposiums on pastoral care around the country.  During her tenure as associate dean for chapel, Garrigan has focused on opening up worship services to make them more diverse, inclusive, hospitable, ecumenical and participatory.

At the spring faculty dinner, retired professor David Bartlett called Leslie “a wise counselor, a wise pastor” lauding “the honesty she brought to our faculty deliberations” and “the clear eye with which she sees our students and sees us and helps us act more faithfully because we can see more wisely.”

Bartlett, the J. Edward Lantz & Ruth Cox Lantz Professor Emeritus of Christian Communication, made his remarks prior to presentation of a painting of Sterling Divinity Quadrangle to Leslie, who last year learned that she had been denied tenure at YDS.  At Eden, a United Church of Christ seminary, Leslie will serve as professor of pastoral theology and care.  Her husband, Michael Boddy, has been appointed director of the Luhr Reading and Reference Library at the seminary.  Bartlett predicted that Eden will be “richly blessed” by Leslie’s presence.

During her time as dean for chapel, Garrigan has encouraged openness to wide-ranging forms of worship that empower a broad representation of the Sterling Divinity Quadrangle community

Garrigan “Worship in Marquand Chapel is a time set apart every morning when the community gathers to pray and give praise to God,” say the worship guidelines crafted under her guidance.  “No one denomination or worship style dominates worship in Marquand.  The chapel is here for all who wish to worship ecumenically, and it is therefore important that a wide range of people offer to plan and lead services.  Only then can our ecumenical worship reflect the diversity of our school and city.”

In keeping with the emphasis on openness, Garrigan has encouraged attention to careful use of language—for example, to balance male language for God and humankind with descriptions that are feminine or non-gendered, or to avoid metaphors that “elide blackness with evil or convey the impression that disability is sinful.”

During a time set aside in the April 27 worship service to offer thanks to Garrigan, student chapel ministers representing every year of Garrigan’s tenure used their own words to describe her influence:

“Thank you for pushing my boundaries and helping me to grow.” “Without doubt, without question, you have turned me into the pastor I became.” “Your hospitality to people at the edges and making everyone welcome in the center . . . infusing our worship with creativity and honesty.” “Compassion, courage, wisdom, hospitality, and love.” “Countless are the lives, churches, and communities you have touched.” “May you always be welcomed with the radical embrace you have extended here.” “Thank you for paving the way for me to be a rogue church lady.”

During the after-service coffee hour in the Common Room, students, faculty and staff again thanked Garrigan for her leadership as dean of chapel, sharing a cake that bore an image, in icing, of Sterling Divinity Quadrangle.