As part of a pilot project in its second year, the Christian Reformed Church has placed its first chaplain on the campus of Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) as part of a multifaith chaplaincy ministry.
Rick Mast, youth pastor at West End CRC in Edmonton, spends a few hours a week on the campus of 25,000 students.
The hours Mast spends each week at NAIT is a “ministry of presence.” Although a student can book an appointment, Mast usually just walks around campus meeting students. He stands out. “Although as of yet we do not have an office, while on campus I wear one of two NAIT polo shirts that has the word CHAPLAIN on the back, like the name on the back of a hockey or football jersey."
Representatives of NAIT’s Student and Campus Life office realized that while there were provisions for students with disabilities and those in psychological distress, there were also students, staff, and faculty with spiritual needs that were not being met. They initially contacted Rick Van Manen, CRC campus pastor at the University of Alberta (U of A), to discuss the possibility of offering chaplaincy services at NAIT. Instead, the school was encouraged to consider recruiting its own chaplains with the help of the Interfaith Chaplains’ Association at the U of A.
The project of placing Mast on the NAIT campus is funded in a partnership between West End CRC and Classis Alberta North (the regional group of churches). Today, chaplains at NAIT represent 11 different denominations and faith traditions.
At a recent meeting of classis, Mast said, “As a chaplain on your behalf, I engage and get engaged with amazing regularity. And there is more work to be done—much, much more.” The harvest fields are full and ripe, said Mast, but workers are few.