Manchester Welcomes New Chaplain Tim Troyer

Miriam Erbaugh

Manchester University welcomed Tim Troyer as Campus Chaplain for the North Manchester campus in April. Troyer, who is currently serving as the pastor of the Huntington Church of the Brethren, was hired to work part time providing care for students and assisting with Tuesday Chapel services.

As he integrates into the new position, Troyer wanted students to see him as approachable. “I’m a down-to-earth average guy doing an average job,” he said. “I want students to know that they can tell me anything. I am one of the confidential employees on campus. At this point in life, they’d be hard-pressed to shock me, so let me know how I can be helpful; that’s why I’m here.”

Students can often find Troyer, coffee in hand, wandering around the mall or in Sisters introducing himself to the people he encounters. “Striking up a conversation has never been something I struggle with,” he explained. “There are so many different, interesting people in the world that have stories to tell, and I just enjoy it.”

Chaplaincy was not Troyer’s first calling. He majored in chemistry and physics at Goshen College, before pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and then a PhD from Vanderbilt University. He spent time as a chemistry professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College, before moving to Huntington University and then finally Denison University. He recently stepped away from teaching to pursue ministry more full time. During his time at Huntington, he became pastor of the Huntington Church of the Brethren, where he has pastored for the last ten years.

As he moves more fully into ministry as a vocation, Troyer is currently finishing his Master of Divinity degree from Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana. He discovered his enjoyment for chaplaincy after serving under Laura Stone at Timbercrest Senior Living Community. In fact, he cited Stone as the person who urged him to reach out to the University. He now serves in Stone’s role as Timbercrest’s chaplain, where he spends his mornings, and then crosses State Route 13 to spend the rest of the workday in Petersime Chapel.

While chaplaincy differs from chemistry, Troyer described his new position as feeling natural. “Even in the last years of teaching, it felt to me like I was doing a lot less instruction and a lot more encouragement,” he shared. “In the limited theory I know of chaplaincy, I believe that part of our spiritual care is tied up in our connectedness to people. To be a healthy supporting presence to anybody, I need to know who they are.”

Though Troyer’s position shares some responsibility with that of a campus pastor, he sees the two roles as distinctly different. He pointed out that chaplains even serve in settings like hospitals, jails and airports. “Chaplaincy in its purest form is intentionally interfaith,” said Troyer. “Chaplains interact with people from a variety of different faith backgrounds––but the most important thing, in my mind, is taking care of people’s spiritual needs.”

Troyer’s time in the chapel each week may be limited, but his goals are big. “I want to enhance prayer life on campus,” he shared. “I don’t believe there is a right and wrong way to pray, but I want to create spaces in which people can connect with their own spirit in a meaningful way.” Though it may seem like a tall order, he also wants to help “encourage a spirit of hope” on campus. “Sometimes we just need a little hope, and we may find that hope in subtle and small ways,” he said.

Ultimately, Troyer’s focus is the students. “Chaplaincy in a college setting is helping guide students as they find themselves and their own confidence. They’re here for an education, and I want to see the chaplain as a part of the holistic education; I want to help students achieve their full potential. I’m not necessarily here for conversion time and alter calls. I want to help students walk through the other junk and baggage from what’s going on in their worlds so that they can make sense of it and rise above all of the messes to thrive. At the end of the day, I want to make these four years rock.”