After nine years at OCU, the Rev. Rodney Newman, former director, was appointed the pastor of Bridgeview United Methodist Church in Norman, Okla.
The Rev. Elizabeth Horton-Ware will take over as director of religious life.
“We have a great deal of respect for each other and I have appreciated him being willing to give me lots of tips,” she said. “He was so supportive of me when they named me to this position. The students that love and are invested in him, he gave good words of encouragement that I’m going to be okay.”
Newman is also the chaplain coordinator for the Saint Paul School of Theology, which has chapel on Tuesdays, according to the UMC Oklahoma Conference website.
Newman will be on campus on Tuesdays, Horton-Ware said.
“We’re so different, but totally in good ways and I hope we have a chance to work together at some point,” she said.
One of Horton-Ware’s goals is to hire interns that aren’t religion majors. She hired Monica Hiller, elementary education junior.
“I was really saddened when I heard Rod was leaving, but, after I met Elizabeth, I was quickly excited about the change,” Hiller said.
Horton-Ware served as the Wesley Foundation director at Southwestern Oklahoma State University for the past seven years, but she actually attended OCU.
“This is my alma mater, so I was here from 2000 – ‘04 so it feels like coming home a little bit,” she said. “I’ve been hoping to come back to the campus that helped me form and grow.”
Horton-Ware was a religion major while at OCU and an active Wesley Center student as well as a leader in Bible study and a member of Kappa Phi, which is a Christian women’s group.
“I got to see a lot of growth happen. They started Evensong right before I got here. There were like 10 of us and they did the projector on a bed sheet, not even kidding,” Horton-Ware said. “By the time I left, we were regularly worshipping with 35-40 people, so that’s really awesome to have been a part of that and come back and kind of help reinvigorate it.”
Horton-Ware came to campus in June and began planning for the school year.
“I really would love to help religious life be a broader part of the campus, kind of incorporating it and have it touch point between student organizations and being a resource,” she said. “Thinking about specific places and partnerships to enhance the worship life on campus, to address where you are. I mean chapel is always going to be the same time, but we can be flexible with Evensong.”
Horton-Ware said she’s also thinking about starting a small groups component to religious life, which would meet in places like dorms or empty classrooms and talk about topics that are important to the campus.
“I think Elizabeth is the jumpstart we need in religious life to help bring the campus together,” Hiller said. “She brings a fresh, new energy and she is really excited about all the opportunities we have as the Wesley Center.”
Newman was unavailable for comment at presstime.