Sizemore named new chaplain

Leah Ulatowski

Chaplain Robert Sizemore

Leah Ulatowski, Staff Reporter

Pastor Robert Sizemore was named Lakeland’s new chaplain a mere few months ago, and while his new office is a bit disorganized as he waits for new shelves to be put in,  it is clear the chaplain’s thoughts lie elsewhere as he gazes out the windows of the room and observes, as well as prays for, the busy lives that bustle by.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Sizemore says. “I have an incredible love for Lakeland, its students, faculty, and staff. Lakeland’s mission motivates and inspires me.”

Despite having been an adjunct professor in Lakeland’s religious department since 2007, it seems Sizemore is still a new name to most on campus. He has, however, unknowingly ignited curiosity concerning his denomination. Lakeland is affiliated with the United Church of Christ (UCC), and Sizemore is a pastor affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church (CRC).

In any case, Sizemore has many friends who are UCC pastors, and Sizemore says they have expressed their excitement for both him and the college in his appointment as Chaplain. While his roots lie in the CRC, he affirms his love for the UCC and shares that he would eventually like to seek ordination into the latter or dual standing. This, however, is not a critical matter.

“Denominational connection is not at all crucial to me,” said Sizemore. “I view myself as more multidenominational; I don’t prefer a specific ‘flavor’ of Christianity. But I realize it is an issue of concern for people, so I want to resolve it as quickly and as best I can.”

Sizemore’s personal beliefs as a multidenominational Christian are that Jesus Christ died and rose from the grave to save humanity, as well as that the Christian Bible is true and provides instruction for one’s life. Specific doctrinal intricacies are nonessential to him.

While a significant part of his mission is to enhance ties with the UCC church, he celebrates the campus’ spiritual diversity.

His desire is not to evangelize for a specific denomination, nor to boost any specific doctrines, but rather serve as a spiritual reminder, presence, and—ultimately—counsel.

He believes the spiritual aspect of Lakeland is as important as the activities in the classroom or on the sports field.

“If we are made up of mind, spirit, and body, then to neglect one third of our being puts us at a point of weakness that we don’t have to accept,” Sizemore says.

He is glad to guide students with inquiries regarding any expression of faith. He will eagerly seek out persons and literary resources that will aid the student on his personal path to spirituality. He believes no faith should be neglected and stresses the importance that all must grow.

He also desires to advance the Spiritual Life Council on campus. He hopes the group will live by the idea that it is normal to speak of spirituality and that it is abnormal to isolate oneself or be closed toward others because of it.

Thus, two significant aspects of his job are to work with students to advance such groups and also to serve as a spiritual counsel on campus.

Sizemore should have no difficulty relating to students—he was once a confused college freshman doing poorly in all his first semester courses. He was at the time nominally Catholic, but generally not very interested in faith. His life was forever changed when tragedy struck.

He was friends with a very kind campus cook named Diane. She was a spiritual lady and proved to be a wonderful mentor to him.

He was intensely grieved when she died suddenly of a medical complication despite being only about fifty years old. Because of her kindness to him and the suddenness of her passing, he questioned how something of this nature could happen and grappled with the tragedy of it all.

He had many questions about life, death and the afterlife. Since Diane was a religious woman, he also became curious about God and wondered if a spiritual source could answer his questions.

Fortunately, his campus had spiritual resources quite similar to Lakeland’s, and the kind people there were more than willing to help him explore his inquiries and learn more about spirituality.

With their aid, he made sense of his questions and ultimately regained a passion for faith, one so strong that he would eventually give up his intended major to instead pursue ministry. Sizemore believes his story exemplifies the extreme usefulness of spiritual campus resources.

“I had heard stories about God and Jesus,” said Sizemore. “But it wasn’t real until then. I realized that faith is a real thing, and it shapes how we look at the world in even our worst moments. Somehow we can derive incredible strength when we recognize the presence of God around us.”

Sizemore sympathizes with students, their problems, and questions.

“Humanity is humanity; our specific interactions, sufferings, meanings, and struggles change from generation to generation, but the questions we ask are the same,” Sizemore said.


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