News Story

Canada’s First Latter-day Saint Education Chaplain Joins the Faith Conversation on Campus

A few years ago, Greg and Evelyn Stringham did not know anything about education chaplains. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they were surprised when Greg was asked to be Canada’s first Latter-day Saint education chaplain in September 2021.

At the same time, Evelyn was invited to work alongside Greg in support of the chaplaincy. Greg said, “This is a first in many ways, and we’re still learning about what it means.”

Education chaplains serve in various post-secondary school settings, where they participate in interfaith dialogue and ensure that individuals are afforded freedom of religion. They serve people of all faiths and help to accommodate the religious needs of staff, students and faculty.

Breaking New Ground

“When we first started, there wasn’t a handbook nor a predecessor to call on for help,” Greg said. “It was new to us, so we stumbled a few times, ran into a few obstacles, but we also saw many pockets of joy along the path. Those experiences let us know that we were being guided in the right direction.”

Conversations about religion with young adults come naturally to the Stringhams. For a decade, they worked formally with congregations of Latter-day Saint young single adults who were navigating spiritual, social and educational challenges. “Serving with the young single adults provided a great background and understanding of young people, their questions, their desires and their willingness to learn,” Greg said. “We love working with young adults, so the chaplaincy is a great addition to our experiences.”

Throughout the 2023 academic year, the Stringhams have continued in their unique roles representing the Church on three Calgary post-secondary campuses: the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Supporting Religious Belief

A chaplain’s role is to support personal faith, so Greg and Evelyn do not proselytize nor do they replace the role of the student’s religious leaders. Greg noted, “We work with all individuals, regardless of their faith tradition or religious belief. We’re there to help with personal spirituality and to build understanding of Latter-day Saint religious beliefs, if and when asked. While we’re most familiar with those of our faith, [our familiarity] expands the more we interact with people of other faiths on the campuses.”

While they provide pastoral counselling and act as a “mental sounding board,” they also refer students to counselling professionals as needed. In addition, Greg’s professional background in engineering and international and government relations has also opened doors for discussions and mentoring of students. “We’ve helped in counselling some students, both on spirituality and on their education and career options,” Greg said.

Faith in a Secular World

Supporting faith in a secular space also affords the Stringhams the opportunity to establish relationships with other on-campus chaplains and faith leaders. Greg meets with the schools’ faith centres and other chaplains monthly. He said, “[Through interfaith dialogue], we’re starting to build awareness of the Church with the other chaplains and school staff, answer questions about our beliefs and even dispel a few myths in the process.”

Madi Cullen, pluralistic engagement co-ordinator for the University of Calgary Faith and Spirituality Centre, has observed Greg’s enthusiastic support of all things related to community-building. She said, “He offers warmth, wisdom and occasionally guidance at our faith representative meetings and has been more than happy to support the Faith and Spirituality Centre events, working side by side with representatives from different faith traditions.”

No Typical Days

“There isn’t much that’s typical about each day as an education chaplain,” explained Greg, who spends a few hours each week on the campuses to help meet the needs of students. This includes visiting Latter-day Saint Institute buildings, chatting with those who are there, and being present at the faith and spirituality centres of each campus.

The Stringhams also participate with other chaplains and faith leaders to provide service and support with various on-campus social activities, such as the annual chaplains’ Ice Cream Giveaway at the University of Calgary.

Greg says there is joy in “seeing God’s love and His hand in the lives of His children, whether of our faith, other faiths or of no declared faith.”

Elder David C. Stewart, an Area Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, noted that the work being done by education chaplains is valuable. He said, “It allows us to have a presence on campus and to be able to rub shoulders with other people of faith. There is much good that can come from us working together. Helping all people remember that they are not alone, that God does love them, and that there are others of faith can be very empowering.”

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