Section: News

College chaplain named

College chaplain named

Photo courtesy of Rachel Kessler

The anticipation is over for the congregation members at Harcourt Parish, who have been waiting over a year for a new priest.

Rachel Kessler ’04 will be  the priest-in-charge of Harcourt, the Episcopal parish based at the Church of the Holy Spirit, as well as the College’s Episcopal chaplain. In that role, Kessler will work in the newly formed Office of Spiritual and Religious Life.

When her term begins on Nov. 1, Kessler will be the first official head of the parish since former rector Helen Svoboda-Barber departed in July 2014. Professor of Classics Adam Serfass, head of the search committee, said it is not unusual for a search of this nature to last a year. In the meantime, the vestry governed the church, and “supply priests” from other churches conducted services. 

Kessler is currently associate priest at Grace Church on-the-Hill, a church in Toronto associated with the Anglican Church of Canada. She became an ordained priest in 2012.  After graduating with a degree in English and philosophy, Kessler pursued postgraduate work in medieval studies at the University of Toronto. While finishing her doctorate, Kessler chose to enter the priesthood.

“I started seminary literally the day after I defended my dissertation,” she said.

Brian Pragacz ’17, a parishioner and search committee member, called Kessler “an incredibly bright, witty, charming woman.”

Pragacz said he hopes Kessler’s leadership will help Kenyon students dedicated to social justice realize the Church’s efforts in the same area. Kessler plans to focus on reaching out to those students early in her tenure.

“I would hope, in my first few weeks there, to just meet with as many students and as many student organizations as possible, and find out what issues are close to students’ hearts and passions,” she said.

Given its dualistic nature, Kessler’s position had to be approved by both the Right Rev. Mark Hollingsworth, Jr., Bishop of Ohio and trustee of the College, and President Sean Decatur.

Kessler’s term as priest-in-charge is a renewable five-year term, after which time she may be considered for another five-year term or promotion to rector. The duties of priest-in-charge and rector are largely the same, Serfass said, with the exception that a rector serves indefinitely, contingent on good behavior.


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