Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities

By Murray, Stephen Butler | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2012 | Go to article overview

Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities


Murray, Stephen Butler, Anglican and Episcopal History


Keeping Faith at Princeton: A Brief History of Religious Pluralism at Princeton and Other Universities. By Frederick Honk Borsch. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, Pp. i, 241. $35.00.)

Frederick Honk Borsch is the only person who conld have written this book, primarily on the history of the University Chapel and religions life at Princeton University, along with a secondary stab at analyzing the history of spiritual expression at other prominent American universities. In many respects, the volume's expansive virtues and provincial flaws reflect Borsch's background. A graduate of Princeton himself and former dean of the chapel at Princeton University from 1981 to 1988, he was far from a career university chaplain, as are many of our ilk, but a former New Testament scholar turned seminary president at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, who moved on from Princeton to become bishop of the diocese of Los Angeles, and later occupant of the chair in Anglican studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. This book, published by Princeton University Press, reads at the start as a history lesson about Princeton and Presbyterianism, then waxes into a memoir of Borsch's time as a Princeton student during secular upheaval upending religious traditions, and returns Borsch for two tenures as dean of the chapel and then later as acting dean of religious life and the chapel during which Borsch provides an elegant description of the waves of religious pluralism that washed up against Old Nassau. Borsch reflects on how the history of religious life has played out at some other universities, but the chosen companions to this Princetonian centerpiece are rooted unnecessarily and narrowly in privilege: Columbia, Penn, Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Stanford, and USC. Borsch has travelled in chaplaincy circles sufficiently to offer the tantalizingly sparse observation that Penn State has the largest center for chaplaincies and religious life of any university in the United States, but then drops the possibilities ofthat gem in favor of the Ivies and its Midwest and West Coast peers. It is an unfortunate omission that we do not follow a similar tour of Penn State, UVA, UNC-Chapel Hill, Michigan, Texas, and Berkeley to discover how students who attend outstanding public universities explore and discern their spiritual paths as well.

This book appeals to three main audiences and to each of those audiences in remarkably different ways. The first audience is that of Princeton alumni, who may revel in a truly interesting, carefully crafted meditation on how religion has played a role in where that great university has been and fascinating insights regarding religious influences upon contemporary, pluralistic expressions of faith and community. …

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