Photo by Matthew Claybrook
Music filled Parker Chapel as faculty, students and San Antonio locals proceeded into the building. The chapel was filled with conversation and smiles as members of the community interacted before the service commenced.
Alex Serna-Wallender was officially installed as Trinity University’s chaplain on Sunday, Sept. 22., in Parker Chapel. There were about 100 people in attendance for both the service and the following reception.
The installation service was put on by Trinity University along with Presbyterian organizations Mission Presbytery and the Synod of the Sun. Trinity University was founded as a Presbyterian university in 1869, but in 1969, the university entered an agreement with the church to become a private and independent university. However, Serna-Wallender holds a master’s degree of divinity from the Princeton Theological Seminary and is an ordained Presbyterian minister.
“It’s an interesting blending of honoring Trinity’s history as a historically Presbyterian-affiliated college, while also thinking about how do we sort of look too towards the future and how we are a multi-faith and diverse campus,” Serna-Wallender said. “To have an installation service that tries to do both of those things to both think about and recognize sort of where we come from and think about where we are headed and how those two things can be connected.”
The service included a mix of religious and spiritual perspectives with readings from different students religions such as Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Sikh, Humanist and Christian beliefs.
Arisha Ali, senior and president of the Muslim Student Association, came to support Serna-Wallender in his installation.
“I thought the different readings from the different religious faiths was really nice because it was representative of Trinity students and their backgrounds,” Ali said.
The installation included the presentation of Serna-Wallender as the candidate. He was asked if he would accept the responsibilities of his role as chaplain on Trinity’s campus, which he did. Vice president for student life Sheryl Tynes then posed questions to the community, asking for their opinion of his acceptance, to respect his guidance as chaplain and to support and uphold him in his decisions.
“Will we stand by him in trouble, share in his joys, listen to the word he proclaims, welcome his pastoral care and honor his ministry as he seeks to honor and obey Jesus Christ?” Tynes asked.
The community responded to this and other questions saying, “we will” and “we do.”
Then the service went into an installation prayer. Reverend Peter D. Crouch then officially welcomed him as chaplain. Next, there were charges to the chaplain from university president Danny Anderson and reverend Raymond Judd, a former Trinity chaplain who served from 1956–1999. In their charges, Anderson and Judd encouraged Serna-Wallender and the Trinity community to look back at the traditions allowed Trinity to become the university it is today.
“Hold onto the vision of our past, of what this university could be that built that dream,” Anderson said.
Former Trinity vice president for external relations Sharon Jones Schweitzer then read a prayer for Trinity University, and a hymn was sung. The event ended with Serna-Wallender’s acceptance of his role. He gave a short speech, after which he walked out and led the community to the reception in front of Parker Chapel with refreshments and food.
Sophomore Dana Hatab, member of Spiritual Life Fellows, introduced reverend Lucy Forster-Smith at the ceremony. She was excited that Serna-Wallender, who runs Spiritual Life Fellows at Trinity, was installed as chaplain.
“He’s just really kind, really caring. Even if he’s busy, he’ll take time out of his day to talk to you,” Hatab said.
The role of the chaplain on campus is to oversee religious and spiritual life. The acceptance of this role allows Serna-Wallender to continue doing what he enjoys most.
“I love working with students both in the moments of joy and excitement and being able to be there and cry … being able to do both of those things is just a real gift,” Serna-Wallender said.