Barry McNamara  |  Published August 03, 2021

Interim Chaplain Named

Monmouth graduate Brandon Ouellette ’14 to fill role vacated by one of his mentors.

BRANDON OUELLETTE: 2014 Monmouth graduate has been pastor at nearby Faith United Presbyterian Chu... BRANDON OUELLETTE: 2014 Monmouth graduate has been pastor at nearby Faith United Presbyterian Church for three years.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College did not have to look far to find the right person to serve as interim chaplain for the 2021-22 academic year.

The Rev. Brandon Ouellette, pastor of Faith United Presbyterian Church, just one block south of campus, will fill the role at his alma mater. The 2014 Monmouth graduate is married to his College classmate Tiffany Adams Ouellette, who is a librarian at the nearby West Central school district.

Ouellette will fill the position vacated when the Rev. Teri Ott left Monmouth at the end of the spring semester to become the editor of Presbyterian Outlook, a national publication headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.

Ouellette says he owes a lot to Ott and to her husband, Dan Ott, who remains a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Monmouth. Together, they helped him find a new area of interest when he decided to add to his music major.

“You realize your way is not the only way of believing. I began to explore more and more, and through a mentorship with Dan and Teri Ott, I came to just fall in love with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” Brandon Ouellette ’14

“I was always interested in philosophy and religious studies,” said Ouellette. “I ended up taking a ‘World Religions’ course that completely opened my world to different religions, different world beliefs. That set the hook in studying religion. I took some more classes – classes on the Bible, classes on religion. I really just fell in love with studying religion, particularly my tradition, Christianity.”

Ouellette, who came to Monmouth as a student from nearby Galesburg, had been exposed to the Pentecostal denomination as a child.

“But like I think many college students have, I had an expansion of my religious (outlook) at Monmouth,” he said. “You realize your way is not the only way of believing. I began to explore more and more, and through a mentorship with Dan and Teri Ott, I came to just fall in love with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – its theology, its tradition, its foundation – and decided then to become a member of the PCUSA.”

Choosing a denomination was one thing. What to do next, said Ouellette, was “a whole other thing.”

“That was conversations with Professor Ott, a lot of spiritual discernment,” he said. “I decided to take the dive into seminary.”

Ouellette attended the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary for three years, toward the end of which he began wondering where he’d be headed next. He called his return to Monmouth a case of “amazing” timing.

“Just as I was graduating seminary, I was looking out for jobs, hoping that we could come back to this community,” he said. “The job for Faith was posted, and I got a call from the committee that was looking for a pastor, asking if I’d be interested. I did an interview, and whatever you want to call it – if it’s divine intervention or the stars aligned – it was kind of amazing how it all worked out.”

On Aug. 1, Ouellette celebrated his three-year anniversary at Faith.

“I can’t say anything but good things about the work that Teri has done. … So taking that legacy and that momentum and taking it forward – not letting it fizzle out – is going to be extremely important in this interim year.” Brandon Ouellette ’14

Looking ahead to the upcoming academic year, Ouellette envisions keeping many of the programs Ott put in place while at the same time taking the spiritual pulse of the current study body to see what else might be needed.

“I can’t say anything but good things about the work that Teri has done,” he said. “I think she really transformed this program into something that has helped connect the College back to its Presbyterian roots, and the good that comes out of that tradition. The PCUSA – we really believe in inclusion, we believe in social justice and we believe in education. These are all qualities that I think are extremely important in the college realm.

“So taking that legacy and that momentum and taking it forward – not letting it fizzle out – is going to be extremely important in this interim year. Keeping these good programs going but also maybe thinking of some ways to further expand the religious experiences for students.”

Ouellette acknowledged that data shows a growing disassociation in “religious folks” with traditional religious beliefs and institutions.

“But people are still spiritual in a way,” he said. “They still connect with something bigger than themselves. So addressing them on that level where they’re at, how they’re experiencing their spirituality, is key to connecting with students.”

Ouellette said ecumenism – the aim of promoting unity among the world’s Christian churches – is “a huge part of my passion.”

“I think it’s important to take a lot of different aspects out of a lot of different religious traditions,” he said. “When you get right down to it, I think a lot of Christian denominations end up disagreeing about one small thing, and then they end up making another denomination.”

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