Rev. Mark Schaefer appointed interim University chaplain

Schaefer replaces Rev. Joe Eldridge, who will retire by the end of this month

Rev. Mark Schaefer appointed interim University chaplain

Source: American University

The University’s own Rev. Mark Schaefer will replace Rev. Joe Eldridge as interim University Chaplain.

Eldridge is set to retire at the end of this month from his position. Schaefer’s new interim position will be effective June 1.

“I really am excited about the ways that we can continue to bridge the academic world and the religious so they’re not seen as polar opposites,” Schaefer said. 

Schaefer is an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church, as well as an elder and full member of the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He has been working at the University for more than 14 years.

He graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with degrees in Russian language and literature. After attending the George Washington University Law School,

Schaefer practiced as an attorney and volunteer lawyer for public interest groups, such as the Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters.

After practicing law for five years, Schaefer attended Wesley Theological Seminary. It was here, while obtaining his Master of Divinity degree, that Schaefer began his long-standing relationship with AU. He worked for two years as a pastoral intern with the Kay Spiritual Life Center.

Schaefer said he was first drawn to AU by students’ genuine interest in serving something larger than themselves.

“Students were being trained not so much just to get a job and make money but to make a difference in the world,” Schaefer said.

Upon graduating from Wesley, the United Methodist Church appointed Schaefer as AU’s full time United Methodist chaplain. Although AU’s affiliation with the United Methodist Church dates back to its founding, the position did not exist before Schaefer’s arrival. In fact, he helped establish the University’s full-time Methodist chapel, present today.

The minister has been at the front of continuing the conversations that drew him to AU years ago. Schaefer has conducted worship services, Bible studies, discussion groups and supported student-run programs involved with social justice and education, to name a few. He has been an advisor to numerous campus groups, including the United Methodist Student Association, AU Solidarity, Community Action and Social Justice Coalition and the Interfaith Council of the Kay Spiritual Life Center.

“Rev. Schaefer has a teachable spirit and is a true academic. He is a gifted speaker, writer, and facilitator—especially when it comes to difficult or sensitive topics that people may shy away from for fear or saying ‘the wrong thing,’” Jennifer Knowles, assistant director of Kay Spiritual Life Center, said in an email.

Schaefer is also an active member of the University’s academic community. He is an adjunct professor in the department of philosophy and religion and tutors students in Russian, Biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek.

“He is very, very into what he teaches. He presented interesting material and talked about it in an engaging way,” said Alexandria Abdalla, a third-year CAS student who took Schaefer’s Religious Heritage of the West course.

Schaefer says he hopes the position will become permanent in September, but he said he is excited about the opportunity he currently has.

“I am happy to serve in whatever way they can have me,” Schaefer said.

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