Religious Life Profiles: Reverend Morrow H ’12

Throughout her 17 years at Lawrenceville, School Chaplain Sue Anne Steffey Morrow H’12 , commonly known as “Rev,” has changed the way students interact with religious life on campus by facilitating various religious life opportunities, from Jummah Prayer every Friday afternoon to Sikh Trivia; many religions within the student body are represented because she works with religious life leaders in order to achieve this ideal.

Throughout her 17 years at Lawrenceville, School Chaplain Sue Anne Steffey Morrow H’12 , commonly known as “Rev,” has changed the way students interact with religious life on campus by facilitating various religious life opportunities, from Jummah Prayer every Friday afternoon to Sikh Trivia; many religions within the student body are represented because she works with religious life leaders in order to achieve this ideal.

Students around the community are quite familiar with Morrow’s jovial personality, but few know the impact she has made outside of Lawrenceville.

Morrow’s interest in religion began during her formative years of high school and college during the civil rights movement and the movement to withdraw U.S. troops from the Vietnam War. Early on, Morrow realized that “for [her], religious faith and social justice go hand in hand.” After discovering this connection, Morrow decided to begin her work within religion.

On the hardships she faced as a female reverend, Morrow noted that “it is very hard for [this] generation to imagine a world where there aren't women doctors and lawyers and heads of departments and presidents of companies...but when [she] went to seminary... [she] had never seen or met a woman minister.” As she began her work as the Dean of Students of the Divinity School at Duke University, “there was one other woman on the faculty, and she was on medical leave. There was no way...to be comfortable at a faculty meeting. The chairs were even designed for men. [Her] little legs jetted out because the chairs were so deep.” Despite the deterrents faced, she continued on her journey of exploring supporting Divinity students at Duke.

“Duke was an amazing opportunity...to preach regularly in the Duke Chapel...to teach Ethics with Harmon Smith, [to preach] with Frank Young, [and] to work with seminarians at the Women's Center,” Morrow said. However, it was also an opportunity for her “to see first hand how deeply entrenched sexism [was] in the church as an institution.” Sexism was an issue that Morrow constantly faced, especially when she transitioned to Princeton University as the first assistant dean of the chapel.

She recalled the story of her first sermon at Princeton. “No woman had ever walked up the [Princeton] pulpit steps before,” Morrow said. As she was the first to do so, Morrow received a great deal of backlash due to her gender. During the sermon, “There were alumni from Princeton with the Conservative Alumni at Princeton Organization, whom I could hear protesting outside the chapel, yelling ‘No Women! No Women!’...They wrote letters to the president. We couldn't have imagined in 1981 that only 20 years later a woman would be the president at Princeton,” she said.

Despite some of her negative experiences at Princeton, “Being a woman, an ordained Methodist, working in multi-faith settings has shaped and formed who I am,” Morrow said.

“The importance of building a solid multi-faith community at universities like Princeton and Duke… is the possibilities we bring together students of the various religious traditions represented on our campuses: to learn from each other, to listen to each other, [and] to try to understand differences in a circle,” she added.

Being with students and supporting and strengthening their religious traditions is what drew Morrow to Lawrenceville. She had never taught regularly before she came to Lawrenceville, but the opportunity to teach seemed like a “tremendous and exciting challenge.”

Though Morrow faced a learning curve when she arrived at Lawrenceville, “[her] taste for teaching” allowed her to eventually overcome. “What happens at the Harkness table is so magical,” Morrow said.

Morrow truly believes in the idea of forming responsible leaders within the Lawrenceville community—which lies at the School’s zenith—and has cultivated religious life around this idea. She explained that one of the most important aspects of religious life is “for the students [who] are atheist, agnostic, doubters, and seekers to experience religions.” She wants Lawrenceville’s Explorations Program to be “fun, and [she] does not want it to be a burden—students already have enough of those.” In order to attain this goal, Morrow has redefined the system in order to accommodate for the 21st century Lawrentian. “When I came to Lawrenceville, there was something called Chapel Credits, and it was limited to very particular religious experiences,” she stated. Morrow aimed “for all [of] the religions represented in the student body to have representation in the religious life.” As a result, four years ago, Lawrenceville decided to do a strategic review of religious Life. Morrow asked that “rather than bring experts from the outside, could we have students convene this strategic review?...Faculty and student alike represented.”

“[For] the old Chapel Credit, it had to be a worship service, and [Lawrenceville] expanded “Explorations” to prayer and contemplation, discussion groups on ethics, [and] sacred scripture study” Morrow said.

When asked about her ideal school community, she said, “It’s about helping students find places in their week to practice their religious tradition, observe the religious traditions of others, find ways to be still, to meditate, [and] to find peacefulness.”

“Part of being a responsible global leader is to have an understanding of the religious dimensions of the human experience…I’ve been working with this age group long enough to know that for many of us, it’s just going to get checked off the list, but [what] I want then is that when you go to have it checked off your list, that you find some value in that experience yourself,” Morrow concluded.

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