For the first time in nine years, a chaplain soon will grace the campus of Geneva College in Beaver Falls.
On June 1, Rutledge E. Etheridge III will join the faculty as full-time chaplain, a position that provides for the spiritual needs of the Beaver County college community.
In this role, Mr. Etheridge will assist students, faculty and staff in understanding events as they relate to spiritual and emotional well-being, oversee Geneva's chapel program, and collaborate with the college's church relations program and Center for Faith and Practice. He also will teach part time in the Department of Bible, Christian Ministries and Philosophy.
Mr. Etheridge has been an adjunct professor since 2007 at Systematic Theology at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Point Breeze and has served since 2006 as pastor of Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church in Brookline. He formerly was a Bible teacher at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis.
In preparation for his new role, Mr. Etheridge will spend the next few months attending meetings, getting to know personnel and acclimating himself to the campus and its procedures. While he expects the transition to be a smooth one, he said his farewell to the congregation at Providence Reformed Presbyterian Church will be bittersweet.
"I have absolutely loved my time serving this church family," he said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful group of God's people."
His new endeavor has been met with tremendous support and while he said he's given his heart to the whole congregation, his work in the past year has angled more and more toward young adults.
Mr. Etheridge said he first felt this calling on his life while he was attending seminary and that his experiences to date have continued to point him toward and prepare him for ministering to college students.
"When this opportunity came up, it just seemed to be very much uniquely designed and really irresistible," he said.
In addition to being a pastoral presence on campus, Mr. Etheridge said he is looking forward to spending time in the classroom and described it as one of the most attractive aspects of his new role.
"The greatest feeling in the world as a teacher is to see the light bulbs click and, especially if you're teaching Bible, to see some kind of deep connection and someone's heart really come to life," he said.
As chaplain, Mr. Etheridge said his goal is to minister the gospel and to help students see it in all of its fullness and application in every aspect of their lives.
"Ultimately, you want to see people come to know Christ," he said. "If they do know him, to be rooted and strengthened in their identity in him and an understanding of how the gospel is really global and not just a localized thing."
He also holds fast to Geneva's emphasis that Christ is king over all things and said he hopes to furnish and encourage an excitement among the students about who the Lord is and what he's doing.
"It's great to be in a context where it's that much more of a direct application of that principal," he said. "Anything we do in all of life is for the Lord's glory, and yet here we get to touch particularly on his word and really equip students for a very, very challenging world."
Mr. Etheridge speaks regularly to groups and at colleges and conferences, and has been a chapel speaker and guest lecturer at Geneva. He has spoken at the annual Westminster Confession of Faith Into the 21st Century Conference and the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Churches Reformation Day, and has also been interviewed frequently on Bibleburgh, a radio talk show on 101.5 WORD FM.
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published May 2, 2013 8:45 AM