After more than 15 years, the McPherson Chapel at Fort Lewis College will once again host Sunday morning services when school is in session.
The Rev. Nick Federspiel, a newly ordained minister and FLC alumnus, will lead the services. Federspiel earned a business degree at the college in 1979. He has already retired from a career in television broadcast engineering.
"This future reverend found himself as a gun runner in Afghanistan," Federspiel said about his time in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He ended up on a base in Peshawar, Pakistan, where the CIA co-opted him to build relationships and furnish weapons to Pakistanis and Afghanis in America's quest to keep the Soviets out of the area.
It was when the mujahedeen tried to convince him to join them that Federspiel realized he didn't know as much about Christianity as he thought.
"I said I'm not here to go on a jihad, I'm just here to help you," he said. "They called me a Christian hypocrite and asked (that) if I believed in heaven and in living a righteous life, wasn't defending your clan, your state, your country, righteous? When I said Christians didn't fight for their religion, they mentioned the Crusades. I didn't know how to say that Christians aren't obligated to take the express route to heaven."
Federspiel enrolled in the seminary for his own enrichment.
"I needed to fix that problem after being very much outclassed by those illiterate elders who knew everything about the Quran," he said. "I studied theology first, and got my master's in Biblical Egyptology and a doctorate in Christian studies."
Federspiel was convinced he had a mission from two things: He saw a statistic that half of college students who attend church regularly with their families stop going once they're on campus. And, he realized the chapel at his alma mater didn't offer Sunday morning services.
He is ready to preach his first sermon, which will focus on what he calls the "purely theoretical" conflict between science and religion.
"So many people believe the theology in movies and books like The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and The Bloodline of the Holy Grail," he said. "I want to make people more comfortable in their response when they see these things."
Other sermons will focus on similar topics.
"I also want to ask students about their concerns or issues on campus so I can talk about something they want to learn," he said. "There's no better way to be relevant than to ask 'What's on your mind?'"