Retiring Pastor Richard Priggie '74 has 21 years of Augustana memories: dramatic moments such as 9/11, but also happier times as a homebuilder and student confidant.
He has been a chaplain, teacher, leader, advisor and friend to so many in the college community.
His new goal will be to relax, something he admits he isn’t very good at.
"But friends who are clergy have told me insistently not to agree to anything major in this first year of retirement—but just to sit back and relax and reflect on things. So that’s what I will do."
In his responses to the following questions, it’s clear that Pastor Priggie has plenty to reflect upon.
What makes you proud as you think back on your years at Augustana?
I am increasingly proud of the relationships I've been part of building over 21 years and of the spiritual programming offered by Augustana Campus Ministries, which has been varied and deep. Specifically, the campus-wide process of writing the Five Faith Commitments of Augustana College was rich, and I am pleased to find the statement being used in and out of the classroom and the chapel as a statement of what it means that we are a church-related college.
In 2004 and 2005, we did a series of open forums in Wallenberg, where we invited people just to come and look at the draft. Really, people became much more impassioned than I expected them to be. I thought—whoa, this is really important to people! It was truly a dynamic document.
The five commitments show how the Christian identity of the college makes us more hospitable, more open than we otherwise would be, and more hungry for justice and peace.
I have never met someone as open and welcoming as Pastor Priggie. His care and attention came without any conditions—no matter where we were in our walk, he was there with a smile.
We are bridge builders rather than territory definers and protectors. I think that defines what our take on humanity is like: conciliatory and open. And I love that.
What stands out as a memorable moment for you?
September 11, 2001, was a Tuesday. We had a midday open period already in place every Tuesday noon, and so as the horrifying pictures of the World Trade Center crumbling made it around campus, it just seemed to be what we wanted to do was to invite everyone to gather in Ascension Chapel for prayer, readings and silence, which we did.
Then on that Friday, we packed Centennial Hall for an Augustana community gathering that featured the public reading of scripture, prayers from a variety of religious traditions, and singing led by the Augustana Choir. One of the primary leaders that morning was Waqas Hussain, who was president of SGA and a leader in our Muslim Student Group. It was...an unforgettable hour. It was thoroughly interfaith, and I thought it was very moving.
What are some recent positive changes in expressing our mission as a church-related college?
I am excited about the new Augustana Presidential Center for Faith and Learning, led by Dr. Jason Mahn, who teaches in our religion department. In partnership with Campus Ministries, the center has already sparked more intentional wrestling with the question of what difference it makes in all areas of Augustana's campus life that we identify as a Lutheran college.
I and my chaplain colleagues every year have offered a session for new faculty on the church-related identity of Augustana. What Jason has put together is a larger and more regular conversation with faculty and staff and others.
What will you miss?
There is so much that I will miss about the opportunity to serve as chaplain of this special place!
I will miss the weekly rhythm of worship: gathering in a circle for Holy Communion on Sundays, listening to our senior students talk about their lives and their faith at Augie Reflections midday on Mondays, then sitting in the candle-lit darkness for Wednesday Chapel, a time to re-center.
I'll miss traveling with students to Appalachia every spring break to rebuild homes and build relationships with one another and with the wonderful people of Frakes, Ky.
I'll miss the lovely Christmas celebrations at Augustana Lutheran Church in Andover, and in our own Ascension Chapel.
I'll miss The Soul of Harry Potter, the class for first-year students that I taught for 13 years.
More than anything, I'll miss the people of Augustana: students, faculty, staff, administrators, for inviting me into their lives at many important points, and for all the good we have been permitted to give and to receive in the 21 years we have had together.