Chaplain Jon Powers: A prayer for Ohio Wesleyan

OWU Magazine asked recently retired Chaplain Jon Powers to send us his thoughts—and perhaps a prayer—upon his retirement. We happily publish his words below:

One of my fondest memories of my beloved life mentor and dear friend, Rev. James Leslie, who was Ohio Wesleyan University’s chaplain from 1960 to 1988, is that he would send me, periodically, his witty and winsome prayers offered at monthly faculty meetings.

Jim always said that monthly prayer was among the most difficult things he ever had to do as a university chaplain, because it caused him to pause each month and seriously, prayerfully consider the full weight of Ohio Wesleyan’s commitment to our 1842 Charter: “…the University is forever to be conducted on the most liberal principles, accessible to all religious denominations, and designed for the benefit of our citizens in general.”

In 1988 I assumed that prayerful responsibility of Chaplain Leslie with full acceptance of that academic covenant. I immediately discovered the full burden of that monthly responsibility to pray for the WHOLE Ohio Wesleyan University by way of my monthly prayer for the faculty.

For 31 years, I also found this to be the most difficult demand of me as a university chaplain. It was a bit like doing my weekly children’s sermon at nearby Asbury United Methodist Church: One must be mindful of the diverse developmental levels of the various children (faculty, staff, student reporters) who are present, even as one must be reconciled to the reality that only one particular level of developmental awareness can be adequately addressed for any given lesson/ faculty prayer.

It is with such sensitivity and angst that I approached every monthly faculty meeting. There is no one prayer over the past 31 years that totally reflects my love, care, and devotion for you all, but here is one such example that may well remind each of you of a moment in your own life at our beloved OWU.

Oh, wait! An even more important prayer from me was that which I offered each Baccalaureate, which I now offer to every one of you who are OWU:

I love you! I honor you! I thank God for you!

– Chaplain Jon Powers

Retention, budgets, course curricula,
Faculty allotments sought and fought,
Sabbaticals approved but ne’er quite done,
Daily lectures mined from minds distraught
With trivial distractions overwrought
By trustees, donors, parents – press against
The very genius of our common cause,
And so we pause to ponder why we’re here:

The mere audacity of what we saw
When formed our goals in 1842
To be a light of learning on this hill
Until our children of the church, and far beyond
In other faiths, and far off lands abroad,
Would center here under our tutelage
To shape their minds, their lives, indeed their world!

O Holy God of liberal learning’s hope,
We cope with all the hassles of our day
In order to be faithful to the way
Of long-term visions formed before we came,
And long-projected hopes for days to come:
Give us the grace to be a faculty
Firm and fruitful in this sacred trust
Shalom. Salaam. Namaste. Amen.

Chaplain Jon Powers

Return to the Spring 2020 OWU Magazine