St. Andrews Sewannee School announced Drew Bunting as the school’s new chaplain beginning July 1. Drew was kind enough to speak with us about why he returned to minister and teach at his alma mater.
Why return to teach and minister to your alma mater? What’s the draw? Is it something that you’ve always thought about doing?
Since I was in seminary, I’ve said that my dream job is to be chaplain of St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School (SAS). So yes, it’s something I’ve always thought about doing. In part, that’s because I feel that my gifts and passions are well-aligned with school ministry, and my experience at SAS makes it an especially good fit for me.
But I’m also motivated by a desire to give back. I received so much from the school: financial aid, academic rigor, a supportive community, self-confidence, and opportunities for artistic expression, to name a few. I would not be the person I am without it, and I want to be part of sharing those same benefits with today’s students.
What’s the first thought that you want a student to have of you when he/she thinks of you as the school chaplain?
“This is a person who cares about me and believes that I matter.”
What kinds of opportunities and challenges do you see in today’s students? Have the demands, or complexities, of students’ lives changed since your time on campus?
I think there’s an increasing pressure on young people to get as much done as possible. They’re expected to play a sport, get good grades, do community service, participate in student groups, and find time for a social life.
I think those things are all wonderful.
But, there’s a temptation to get so tied up in doing things that we short-circuit the learning process. In order for facts to become real knowledge, or experience to become understanding, you need to stop sometimes and reflect on what you’re learning.
St. Andrew’s-Sewanee understands this, and one of the things I love about chaplaincy is that my job is to make room for reflection. Whether it’s in worship, religion class, or one-on-one conversations with students, I help students reflect on their experiences, and how they’re shaping their lives and their beliefs.
I’m always impressed by how willing young people are to do that when you give them the chance and take them seriously.
Quickly take us through your role in the lives of students?
I believe chaplaincy is first and foremost about presence: being around and involved in the life of the community. The chaplain should be a familiar face during meals, in class, and at games. That’s how you build relationships and learn about students’ joys and concerns.
I also teach the senior religion course and oversee the religion curriculum. There are two emphases in the course: teaching the Christian tradition through the lens of Anglicanism, and teaching religion as a global phenomenon. We live in a pluralistic world, and religious literacy is an essential skill for future leaders.
I also have oversight of the school’s worship life. As an Episcopal school, prayer in the Anglican tradition is at the heart of who we are. But we’re also a diverse school, and we welcome students of all traditions, or no tradition. We recognize their beliefs, and give them voice in chapel in appropriate ways.
Finally, there’s pastoral care: being available to students and other members of the community in challenging times. Again, I believe the most important thing we can offer a person is our presence. If they ask for prayer or advice, I’m always happy to offer it. And if all they need is someone to sit next to them and listen, that’s fine too.