When Dr. Christopher Hall first arrived at Eastern University’s McInnis Hall to teach undergraduate classes in the fall of 1991, he had no idea what God had in store for him. During the past 24 years he has not only served Eastern as a distinguished professor, but also as Provost, Chancellor, Dean of the Templeton Honors College and Dean of Palmer Theological Seminary. Hall has not only affected the lives of thousands of students, but also the lives of faculty and administrators. After many dedicated years at Eastern, he will be leaving to become the President of Renovaré, a Christian organization and institution.
I had the honor of interviewing Hall and hearing his story of how he came to Eastern. He started out as an adjunct professor, and when a full-time position opened up he decided to “toss his hat into the ring.” He recalls, “One of the happiest days of my life was when the dean of the undergraduate school, Alan Tharpe, stuck his head around the corner into my office and said, ‘Chris, do you want a job?’, and I said, ‘Yes!’.”
Over the years, Hall has taught many courses, including Nature and Meaning of the Old Testament, Nature and Meaning of the New Testament, Pain and Suffering, The World of the Early Church and his “trademark course” Foundations of Christian Spirituality. Even while holding administrative positions, Hall would find time to teach Foundations.
“[Foundations] developed with me,” said Hall. “I never thought it would get so big, but part of it was I was really interested in how human beings, God’s image bearers, change and what we struggle with spiritually; what is the process and dynamic of transformation? I started off with a class of 19…[and] conceived it in the riches of the classical tradition, or the great tradition in terms of spiritual tradition.…This is something that students are hungry for. I think we are hungry for love and hungry for what it means to live a holy life if we go about it the right way.”
Hall’s Foundations in Christian Spirituality has grown to have over 200 students in a single class. Despite the size of the class, he felt this was his one chance to be with these students, and he did not want to lose that chance because it was why he was at Eastern.
So how was Hall led to his new position with Renovaré? He responds, “This time a year ago I had no idea this would happen, and then what I sensed…over the summer was ‘new.’ I can remember thinking, Lord, what is that all about? I got the best job in the world; what is all that about? As it turns out I had been working with Renovaré for the last few years, and I had grown to love the organization…and then this position opened up.…It was like I got a nudge from the Holy Spirit–‘something new’–and then a year later I’m saying goodbye to everyone and moving through a new door.”
Hall is honored that he has been chosen to lead a Christian organization such as Renovaré, which holds conferences, retreats and seminars on spiritual formation as well as being an educational institute.
Hall sums up his experience at Eastern with one word: wonderful. He says that he will miss the students, and likewise they will miss him. Hall truly cares about his students, and that has made all the difference in the lives that he has touched during the past two and a half decades. Future Eastern students may not have the chance to have him as a professor, but they will be sitting in classes that have been developed by him, meaning his legacy will be felt for generations to come.
“The goal is always to learn to love God and love our neighbor well.…How concretely as an educational institution, whether it be administrators or faculty or students, how can we live well before God as we are loving God and loving our neighbor? It’s really hard, but it’s a really good thing,” Hall says.
We bid Dr. Hall an affectionate farewell and wish him God’s blessing as he travels on to Renovaré. He will be truly missed by his students and colleagues at Eastern University.