Williams College Appoints New Chaplain

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College has appointed the Rev. Valerie Bailey Fischer as the next chaplain to the college. She will begin her position in July.  

As chaplain to the college, Bailey Fischer will support the vitality of the many religious, spiritual and intellectual traditions at Williams through dialogue, outreach and advocacy. In addition, she will provide counseling and spiritual guidance for undergraduates and foster community between students and their neighbors in Williamstown and the wider world.

Bailey Fischer comes to Williams from Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, N.J., where she currently serves as priest associate. She brings to Williams more than 11 years of college chaplaincy experience and nearly a decade in ordained ministry.

"We were highly impressed with Valerie's diverse professional background, particularly her engagement with student-directed interfaith programming that included students from multiple faith traditions as well as those with a more secular focus," said Steve Klass, vice president for campus life. "The social justice component of her work as exemplified in her experiential education programming underscored the empathetic bridge-building aspect of her approach to ministry."

Bailey Fischer was raised in West Philadelphia in an African American Pentecostal tradition, participating in several other Protestant traditions before joining the Episcopal Church as a young adult.

After graduating with an master's in divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York City, she became university chaplain at Framingham State University, where she helped students from a variety of religious, moral and philosophical traditions form and strengthen their communities. In addition, she assisted students in planning creative rituals and liturgies that deepened their spiritual engagement. Through Bailey Fischer’s ministry’s strong foundation in social justice, which included Urban Pilgrimage, the unique experiential learning program she developed at Framingham State, she galvanized the student-led development of interfaith programming to encourage learning across traditions.

She received her bachelor's degree from Penn State University and is completing her dissertation in Anglican studies and U.S. Episcopal Church history at General Theological Seminary. Her research examines the ancient order of female deacons from the early church, its late-19th century revival, and its role in the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

"I am inspired how the chaplains, faculty, staff and students [at Williams] are engaged in issues of faith and religion in a variety of ways," Bailey Fischer said. "I am excited to be part of this process as chaplain to the college."


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