Emily Sierra Poernter
Last spring, Rev. Paul Henrickson retired after 30 years at Roanoke College. Over the summer, Rev. Chris Bowen was announced as our new Chaplin.
His life leading up to Roanoke was filled with a lot of changing goals and changing cities. Rev. Bowen wasn’t always on the clerical path. He graduated from Lenoir-Rhyne College in North Carolina with a degree in biology. Being the son of two teachers, these studies are exactly what he saw himself doing in life. He then went on to graduate school to pursue a PhD in genetics. Two years into graduate school, he realized, while he was successful, it wasn’t what he felt like he should be doing.
When he decided to go to seminary school, the only person surprised by his decision was his PhD advisor. Growing up, Rev. Bowen was very involved in the youth group at his church and many people told him he’d be a pastor. After completing seminary school, he lived in a small village in northwest Wisconsin. After some time there, he and his wife made the move to Virginia Beach, Virginia. He was a pastor at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church for nine years.
It was after those nine years where Rev. Bowen started to think over whether he should stay with St. Michael’s or move on to someplace new. He was then nominated for the opening in the Chaplin’s office here at Roanoke College. In one of his later interviews, he described what he felt as a “sense of coming home” despite never having lived in the area. He decided then, if he were selected, he would not hesitate to come to Roanoke College, because this was the place he needed to be. When President Maxey met with him to offer him the position, Rev. Bowen said, “[Getting the job] felt like I had won the Masters.”
One of the things Rev. Bowen wants to focus on is while he is here is vocation. He wants to help students find the ability to answer the questions: who they are, what they want to do, and what they want to see in the world. Part of this stems from his own decisions over choosing his vocation and wanting to help the students here focus on making sure they’re doing what they want to be doing. He’s also looking forward to working with Interfaith and guiding the campus ministries.
Since being here, he’s received an incredible welcome and has taken to getting to know the faculty and students. He really believes in becoming a part of the community by living within it. Rev. Bowen is a long-time Green Bay Packers fan and will proudly wear his cheesehead around campus. He also enjoys playing golf. He is joined in Salem with his wife, two daughters, Carolina and Courtney, as well as his son, Croix.