To assist in responding to the changing religious needs of the Harvard undergraduate community, the Memorial Church has created a new position, the Epps Fellow and Chaplain to Harvard College. The Rev. Mark D.W. Edington, former seminarian in the Memorial Church and recently ordained a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church, began his term as the first Epps Fellow on July 1.
Named for Archie C. Epps III, senior associate Dean of Harvard College, the fellowship offers a two-year appointment to a recently ordained seminarian for the purpose of serving as a chaplain from the Memorial Church to Harvard’s undergraduate community.
“Throughout his long and distinguished service to Harvard, Archie Epps has always championed the importance of the ministry of the Memorial Church, and its role as a resource for the spiritual development of Harvard’s undergraduates,” said the Rev. Peter Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church. “The establishment of this fellowship in his name will serve as a lasting tribute to his concern for all dimensions of student life at Harvard, and to his staunch friendship to the work of Harvard’s church.”
The fellowship was founded in part by gifts from the many friends of Epps in the Harvard community. Epps retired last year from the position of Dean of Students after 36 years of working at Harvard. “I feel that this fellowship is a direct result of my experience as Dean,” said Epps. “I saw that some unmet needs of students had a religious basis, that students had a potential for religious expression.”
Some of Epps’ happiest moments at Harvard came in the 1950s, when he was a Divinity student. “A local church had a series of spaghetti suppers, where faculty spoke about their faith,” Epps recalled. “It was amazing to me to see another side to these faculty members, to see their faith.”
Born in East Lansing, Mich., the Rev. Edington was raised an Episcopalian by parents with strong Anglican roots. His faith community played a central role in his upbringing. Growing up in a university town, he was aware from an early age of the importance of ministry in an academic environment.
Religion went on to play a role both in higher education and professional life. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Albion College in Michigan, where he majored in philosophy and political science and took the first degree summa cum laude, he went on to graduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he is now completing a dissertation examining American policy-makers’ perceptions of religion abroad and its impact on foreign policy.
“I came into the international field at a point when religion had a sudden renewed salience,” says Edington. “Secularization theory could no longer on its own explain the world.”
Edington was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church in May. “I felt called to ordained ministry, but at the same time drawn to the university setting and the international arena,” he says. He hopes to combine all three as Epps Fellow, encouraging dialogue between undergraduates while representing the “established church” of Harvard.
“The United Ministry at Harvard does an excellent job of ministering to distinct faith traditions, to those who have a clear understanding of their traditions and desire to continue in that faith tradition. I see my responsibility as ministering to those without a faith tradition, those with no experience of church, and those who are trying to make sense of their faith outside the church.”
Edington will be in residence at Adams House where he will join the Senior Common Room and live as a resident scholar.