Rev. Kurt Nelson

The Rev. Kurt Nelson is Bucknell’s new director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life.

THE REV. KURT NELSON SAYS his greatest challenge as Bucknell’s new director of the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life is bringing everyone together in a culture that fosters isolation.

“A huge part of young folks’ challenge is a lack of belonging and loneliness,” Nelson says. “Many of our traditional ways of coming together have fallen apart. The radical experience of seeing people face-to-face and talking about things that matter makes a big difference in reducing that feeling of isolation and loneliness. The hunger to connect is still there. We just have to figure out new patterns to make it happen.”

A graduate of Yale Divinity School, Nelson comes to Bucknell from Maine’s Colby College, where he was dean of religious & spiritual life for six years.

Nelson was eager to join an established chaplaincy and follow in the footsteps of former Bucknell University chaplains, who shepherded Bucknell’s program through growth that brought greater depth, diversity and integration to religious life on campus.

“What I ran out of at Colby wasn’t energy or money — it was time,” the Greenbelt, Md., native says. “At Bucknell, the staffing is in place, and there’s history and momentum. We have people to care for particular communities and to support the campus as a whole. There’s work to be done here, but the bones are in place. There’s willingness at Bucknell to invest in that work.”

Ordained in the United Church of Christ, Nelson also serves as chaplain for Bucknell’s Protestant community, and he’ll be in Rooke Chapel’s pulpit for ecumenical worship on Sunday mornings.

“I’m excited about that,” Nelson says. “Sunday mornings aren’t always the most vibrant time in a student’s life, so we’re working on making it a vibrant, participatory service in a vibrant space. I have a clear charge to invigorate and explore new things to see where this work is going to go.”

When not in the pulpit, you’ll find Nelson in the garden with his family: his wife, Joanna, a musician and violin teacher; Elliott, 2; Lillian, 6; and their mutt, Grover.