Hamline University’s Wesley Center houses a unique mixture of spiritual, service, and social justice programs and services. Its director, Hamline chaplain Nancy Victorin-Vangerud sees her job as a mix of several roles.
As chaplain, Victorin-Vangerud is responsible for the spiritual health of the Hamline community. In keeping with Hamline’s traditional connection to the United Methodist Church, she is an ordained Methodist clergywoman.
“What I really like about Hamline is its religious diversity,” Victorin-Vangerud said. “We want Hamline to be welcoming for everyone. I think of Wesley Center as both Methodist and multi-faith.”
Victorin-Vangerud highlights her close work with the associate chaplain of Jewish life, Rabbi Esther Adler, and Megan Dimond, the coordinator of religious and spiritual life. Collectively they provide the variety of spiritual offerings at Hamline, such as the various Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and multi-faith student groups.
As the Wesley Center’s mission statement, “To connect the pursuit of the common good with growth of the whole person, through compassionate action and courageous reflection,” suggests, service and social justice are equally important to the center. The Wesley Center’s programs are positioned to directly address several of the core values in its mission statement.
“We want to avoid classifying programs as only spiritual, service, or social justice,” said Victorin-Vangerud. “For example, the spring break service trips to New Orleans also engage students to think about the role of diverse religious communities and need of social justice.”
This concept of connecting all three aspects of the Wesley Center together runs through other facets of their work, as well. Though staff have varying responsibilities and come from different backgrounds, they often work closely together on larger projects.
A renewed area of interest for the Wesley Center is civic engagement. With the addition of Jane Turk, coordinator of civic engagement and service learning, the center has been able to better incorporate programs aimed at responsible citizenship into their overall mission.
“Jane brings a strong background in academic and civic engagement,” Victorin-Vangerud said. “We hope to examine ‘what does it mean to be part of democracy and how do we have these conversations across party lines?’”
The Wesley Center will connect social justice and spirituality in a significant way with the annual “Mahle Lecture in Progressive Christian Thought.” The 2012 speaker, Dr. George Tinker, a theologian and American-Indian scholar, will spend five days at Hamline leading dialogues.
“Dr. Tinker’s visit coincides with the 150th anniversary of the U.S.-Dakota War,” Victorin-Vangerud said.
That war ended with the expulsion of the Dakota from Minnesota, who were then forced to live on reservations in Nebraska and South Dakota.
“Dr. Tinker examined how non-Indian religious traditions may live justly with first nations people,” Victorin-Vangerud said.
Learn more about how to get involved with programs and events offered through the Wesley Center.