Walker Bristol may have only recently joined the Tufts’ Chaplaincy as the first Humanist-in-Residence, but he’s certainly no stranger to the interfaith community. Bristol, who graduated Tufts last year with a degree in religion, took an active role through Tufts Freethought Society to help create a position for a Humanist chaplain, who would be focused on providing guidance to members of Tufts who identify as non-religious. And this August, his work as an undergraduate came into fruition.
“My job as the Humanist-in-Residence is to offer caregiving and individual support to [non-religious or questioning] students from the chaplaincy itself,” Bristol said. “The unique thing about my chaplaincy, even in comparison to other humanist chaplaincies in the country, is that it’s a part of the Tufts Chaplaincy.”
Tufts is the first university in the country to hire a Humanist to its official chaplaincy, unlike other schools that rely on outside organizations to support their non-religious population—demonstrating an exciting expansion to Tufts interfaith community.
“I’ve been really impressed with how forward-thinking and progressive Tufts is on a lot of dimensions of religious [life],” Bristol discussed. “Tufts is really thinking critically about what being religious and spirituality means in 2014.”
Bristol, now a Master of Divinity candidate at Harvard, described his religious background as the combination of exposures to both Quakerism and the Evangelical and Baptist church.
“Humanism didn’t really resonate with me until I got to college,” Bristol, a native of North Carolina, expressed. Now, his position is primarily focused on care, providing support and confidentiality to students seeking guidance on any type of issue. And while Bristol’s position remains in the trial phase, he has high hopes for the future.
“Thus far everyone in the chaplaincy has been highly supportive of my position and the work that I want to do,” he said. “I would love to see the position become as institutionalized as the other positions are.”