Rev. Lisa Garvin Making An Impact As SMU Chaplain

Lisa Garvin

'I do the work that I do where I do it especially because I’m really interested in building multi-religious community.'

On October 19, 2020, Rev. Lisa Garvin stepped onto the campus of Southern Methodist University as the new chaplain and minister to the university. She soon found herself inspired by the richness of faith expressions among the students, staff and faculty.

“I've been doing this work for 15 years and what drew me to university chaplaincy is the integration of heart and mind,” Rev. Garvin said. “I do the work that I do where I do it especially because I’m really interested in building multi-religious community.”

Lisa GarvinAn ordained deacon from the Mississippi Annual Conference, Rev. Garvin previously served as associate dean of the chapel and religious life at Emory University (Atlanta) and as college chaplain at Millsaps College (Jackson, Miss.). She also held two appointments on the staff of the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

She noted that university campuses are religiously diverse and college students are in a place of exploration and value discernment.

“I'm drawn to higher education because the period falls into a person’s life of coming to understand who they are, what their gifts are and coming to discover what they’re passionate about and then how they're going to offer their gifts to the world in a way that reveals their passions and contributes to the world,” Rev. Garvin said. “This is the time of life when you can talk about those things.”

While staying attuned to research being done with young adults in Gen Z, Rev. Garvin has found that her current students are committed to a life of faith and very interested in religion. “The ways in which they engage are very different than I did at that age and that the church is set up for,” she said. “Every generation of people want their values and their actions to match, but I think these students bring a different seriousness to trying to hit that target. They want what they do to have meaning in a larger landscape than just what’s beneficial to them.”

Lisa GarvinAs chaplain, she leads religious and spiritual life on campus and serves on the Student Affairs Vice-President Leadership Team. With the staff of the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life, and the Center for Faith and Learning, she provides ethical leadership to the SMU community, cultivates multi-religious community and mentors students in integrating faith and learning.

The chaplain has been able to apply her passion for intentionally bringing people together across differences to learn from one another. “I think we each can be strengthened in our faith commitments by learning about other traditions because being exposed to and learning about other ways of being religious gives me a glimpse of the fullness of who God is and how God acts in the world," Rev. Garvin said. "It reminds me that God is without limits and there are many ways of accessing God and being in a relationship with God, and many ways in which God reveals God's self to us in the world.”

Garvin explained that the diversity of religious expressions at SMU are welcomed not in spite of its Methodist identity, but because of it. “Because we're a Methodist university, we are open to everyone and want to learn with them and from them," she said. "The work that I do rises out of this institution’s Methodist identity. It’s because we are Wesleyan that we can lead the way.” 

Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2022