Feature Story

A Divine Duo

July 19, 2019 – by Cole Hatcher

With Jon Powers Retiring, Chad Johns to Become OWU’s Interim Chaplain

Jon Powers

For more than three decades, Ohio Wesleyan Chaplain Jon Powers has sent the University’s graduating seniors into the world with the following commencement prayer: “We bid Your blessing on this passage rite, and give You thanks for all that’s yet to be. Shalom. Salaam. Namaste. Shanti. Amen.”

And now it’s time to wish the same bounty of blessings on both Powers, who retires July 31 to begin the next chapter in the good book of his life, and Associate Chaplain Chad Johns, OWU Class of 2002, who will serve as the University’s interim chaplain beginning in August.

Since Powers joined Ohio Wesleyan in 1988, he has spearheaded and supported much positive change, including creation of the Office of Community Service Learning, development of the Columbus Initiative tutoring program, and formation of the spring break mission program.

Since 2005, Johns has overseen those mission teams, now known as Spring Break Interfaith Service Week. He also advises or co-advises student organizations including PRIDE and the Chi Phi fraternity.

Ready to Lead

Chad Johns

As an OWU student, Johns graduated summa cum laude with a major in psychology and minors in physics and astronomy. He earned his Master of Divinity in 2005 from the Boston University School of Theology and his Doctor of Ministry in 2015 from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

As he prepares to step into the University Chaplain’s role, Johns says he is pleased to have time to work with Powers on the transition.

“While I am familiar with most of the workings of our office,” Johns says, “I also know that there’s a lot that Jon has always done behind the scenes that not even his staff always know about. I continue to value his institutional memory and his wisdom as this transition happens. …

“I’m looking forward to continuing the legacies of both Jim Leslie and Jon while also taking chaplaincy at OWU to the next stage of its journey,” Johns says. “I am particularly interested in religious education (including interfaith and ecumenical dialogue), spiritual formation, and vocational/life discernment.”

A Lasting Legacy

Plans are being made now to celebrate Powers’ legacy once classes resume in the fall. And there will be much to celebrate.

In 2002, Powers helped Ohio Wesleyan earn a $2 million grant from the Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment. The funds were used for programs to encourage students to reflect on how their faith related to their career choices and what it means to be called to lives of service.

In addition, he was inducted in April 2018 into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia – the Rev. Dr. King’s alma mater. The Board of Preachers is comprised of faith leaders from a wide array of spiritual traditions who have “exhibited a commitment and promise for using their religious positions of leadership to promote peace, tolerance, interfaith understanding, healing, reconciliation, nonviolence, moral cosmopolitan social progress, agapic justice, and care for the ecosystem.”

Never content to rest on his laurels, Powers in November 2018 contributed a chapter to the book “Displaced Persons: Theological Reflection on Immigration, Refugees, and Marginalization” published by The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Powers was selected to contribute his chapter, “Methodists and Muslims: Better Together,” based upon his work with refugees, immigrants, and marginalized populations, including his decades of interfaith ministry as a Christian chaplain working with Muslims and students of other faith traditions.

Powers earned his Bachelor of Arts in public policy and ethnology from James Madison College at Michigan State University and his Master of Theology in Hebraic studies from the Boston University School of Theology. He completed postgraduate work in higher education administration at the School of Education, University of Michigan; Doctor of Ministry studies in campus ministry at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.; and Christian-Muslim studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

A Grateful Campus

In sharing news of the Chaplain’s Office transition, President Rock Jones said of Johns, “We are fortunate that he is here to lead the spiritual life of our campus in this capacity.”

And of Powers’ long service, the president noted: “Jon has been a mentoring, nurturing, supporting, inspiring, and comforting campus resource for literally thousands of students, faculty, staff, and families. … In many ways, he is synonymous with Ohio Wesleyan and OWU’s all-welcoming, all-embracing nature.”

Congratulations and best wishes to our current and interim chaplain! And to you both: “Shalom. Salaam. Namaste. Shanti. Amen.”