Episcopal chaplain Reverend Thea Keith-Lucas has been named interim chaplain to the Institute as MIT pauses its search for a full-time chaplain, which launched last fall. “I am honored to serve alongside our dedicated and creative chaplains to support the religious identities, spiritual well-being, and ethical growth of our students in this challenging time,” says Keith-Lucas.
Since 2013, Keith-Lucas has led the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry at MIT, a joint ministry that she shares with MIT’s Lutheran chaplain Reverend Andrew Heisen. She has made it a priority to support LBGTQ+ Services, Violence Prevention and Response, and other efforts to create a diverse and inclusive community at MIT. For the past two years, she has been one of two co-conveners for Christian chaplains in the Office of Religious, Spiritual, and Ethical Life (ORSEL).
She also serves as coordinator of Radius, an initiative of ORSEL's Technology and Culture Forum that examines the ethical implications of technology and scientific innovation on society, individuals, and the environment. “Whether we're leading a public forum, mentoring a student activist, or teaching an ethics seminar, our goal is to help people reflect more deeply on their choices and find the inspiration they need to do good in this world,” says Keith-Lucas.
Hailing from a family of scientists and engineers, Keith-Lucas was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2006. She previously served parishes in Randolph and Danvers, Massachusetts before her appointment as a chaplain to MIT by the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, which has engaged in ministry at the Institute for more than 60 years. She lives in Lexington, Massachusetts, with her husband, Jake Montwieler, and their two children.
Keith-Lucas’s appointment follows a decision by the Division of Student Life to pause the search for a new chaplain to the Institute. “When we started the search last fall, the world was very different,” says Suzy Nelson, vice president and dean for student life. “Given the impact of Covid-19 on our community members’ ability to engage fully in the search, we need to step back and reassess our timeline and approach. We are grateful to Thea for her years of service to MIT as a chaplain. Thea will offer strong leadership during this interim period.”
In addition to coordinating and fostering religious life programming at MIT, the chaplain to the Institute is part of MIT’s larger student support network. The Institute chaplain works with more than 30 other MIT chaplains who represent many religious traditions to promote interfaith discourse and educate the MIT community about the history and role of religions around the world. Though the role was created in 2007, it was part of President James Killian’s vision in the mid-1950s to bolster MIT’s spiritual life and teaching on religion in society.
“This role is very important to the MIT community as a whole, including those who follow a faith tradition and those who don’t. We look to chaplains to be a source of comfort during painful times and an ethical guide during uncertain times,” Nelson says. “That’s a tall order, and we are excited that Thea will take on the challenge on an interim basis.”