In the wake of recent visits from candidates for the Dean of Christian Formation position, as well as the visit from former Northwestern chaplain Reverend Dr. Trygve Johnson, another former NW chaplain has also made an appearance.
Today in Christ Chapel at 10:05 a.m., Dr. Jerry Sittser spoke about “Remembering Backwards,” which refers to the Emmaus passage in Luke 24. Sittser served as NW’s chaplain from 1979 to 1985 and is currently on the Board of Trustees for NW. Sittser is also a professor of theology at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash,. and is a best-selling author.
After graduating from Hope College, Sittser went on to earn a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary and a doctoral degree in the history of Christianity from the University of Chicago. When he arrived at NW in 1979 to serve as chaplain, Sittser was one of the younger members of leadership, which apparently taught him a great deal.
“I served at just the right time,” Sittser said. “Call it providence or good fortune. We had a new group of young, vibrant, talented faculty, a strong administration. I was the young guy. And the president and board and others simply cut me loose and then encouraged me when I made rookie mistakes. And I did make some rookie mistakes.”
According to Sittser, serving as NW’s chaplain for six years left a lasting impression on his life and his ministry.
“I made an investment in NW back then,” Sittser said. “Now I feel such deep affection and gratitude for it, and what it can do in the lives of students. I feel pride in it and loyalty to it. I want to see it flourish. So now I serve as a trustee.”
Like to his time as the chaplain here, Sittser’s role as a trustee places him in a group that is passionate about the success of NW. Unlike during his previous experience at NW, however, Sittser is one of the older members of the board.
“Ironically, a number of trustees on the board were students when I served as chaplain,” Sittser said. “So it is pure joy to join them again in partnership, this time as peers.”
Besides his work as a professor and a trustee, Sittser also writes and attends various speaking engagements around the country. He has written eight books, including “A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss” and “The Will of God as a Way of Life,” both best-sellers. Sittser won a 2005 Gold Medallion Award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association for “When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayer.” In 2013, Sittser received an Award of Merit from Christianity Today for his most recent title, “A Grace Revealed: How God Redeems the Story of Your Life.”
In his work at Whitworth, Sittser specializes in the history of Christianity, Christian spirituality and religion in American public life. His current position combines teaching with serving as a senior fellow and researcher in the university’s church engagement office.