The University Chaplaincy is hiring for the role of Africana spirituality chaplain. Its goal is to find a staff member who can aid in creating a space for worship and fellowship that is welcoming to students, staff and faculty who identify as members of the African diaspora.
University Chaplain Reverend Elyse Nelson Wingeris leading the search committee for the position. Other members are Lynn Cooper, the Catholic chaplain and associate director of the University Chaplaincy; Anthony Cruz Pantojas, the Humanist chaplain; and Montez Paschall, associate director of the Africana Center.
Cruz Pantojas said they believe that filling this role will enhance the student experience at Tufts.
“As perhaps the first position in the United States, with knowledge about Africana spiritualities and chaplaincy, it is a historical moment for higher education chaplaincy and the visibility of ancient traditions, philosophies, and religious experiences not often represented in academia or chaplaincy,” Pantojas wrote in an email to the Daily.
The University Chaplaincy previously had an Africana spirituality advisor, a 14-hour per week position that had different minimum qualifications regarding chaplaincy experience and advanced degrees. That position became vacant in September 2021.
“When this position opened up, however, we were able to move it to a chaplain position, and the next Africana Spirituality Chaplain will work 21/hours per week like the other chaplains on our team,” Winger wrote in an email to the Daily. “We are excited about this opportunity, which is now posted on the Tufts Careers website.”
Previously, the Africana spirituality advisor led extensive programming.
“Last year, the advisor, Azmera Hammouri-Davis, served on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium committee and facilitated the creative involvement of students in the virtual celebration; co-hosted the inaugural Unlearning Retreat with the Hindu Chaplaincy, centering the diversity of African diasporic traditions and practices; organized a Healing Vigil in response to violence in Africa in collaboration with the African Student Organization; and built relationships with campus partners, the chaplaincy team and students,” Winger wrote.
The new Africana spirituality chaplain will complement the events and activities hosted by the Africana Center.
"The new Africana Spirituality Chaplain will centers the needs of the Tufts students of African descent by … offering collaborative programs with both the University Chaplaincy and the Africana Center; … providing spiritual and pastoral care and leadership in service, social justice, and multifaith initiatives; supporting the administrative needs of the Africana Spirituality Chaplaincy; and connecting the Tufts community with the greater afro-indigenous and afro-diasporic communities of metro Boston,” Winger wrote.
The chaplaincy is beginning the process by seeking input from the student body and the Tufts community via an online survey.
“We’d love for students to complete this survey so that our next Africana Spirituality Chaplain can be responsive to student interests and needs,” Winger wrote.
Pantojas joined the University Chaplaincy team in August 2021. They are working with the search committee to create the job description and a survey to elicit feedback from the community, especially students, regarding their hopes for the new chaplain.
“We are now sharing the posting with our professional networks as well as various graduate programs and national organizations across the country with knowledge about Africana spiritualities and chaplaincy, and will begin reviewing applications later this month,” Pantojas wrote.
Hadiya Giwa, the Africana community senator, said she is glad the University Chaplaincy is prioritizing student needs as it conducts its search.
“It’s really the students that define what they value and think is most crucial in the Africana Spirituality Advisor role," Giwa, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Daily. “As Africana Community Senator, it’s exciting to see that the search committee will be working hard to find someone who best suits the needs of the Tufts community, especially as our population of Black students continues to grow.”
Pantojas offered similar insight, saying that their identity shapes their attitudes and perspectives about the new role.
“As an Afro-Boricua Humanist, I find synergy between Afro-diasporic traditions and freethought,” they wrote. “The Africana Spirituality chaplain would provide additional opportunities to explore this intricate synergy through community building and visionary world-making.”
The search committee is in the process of identifying student representatives and plans to invite two students to join the committee before reviewing applicants and beginning interviews.“
Students interested in learning more about the search should contact me at Elyse.email@example.com,” Winger wrote.