Students, staff and alumni gathered Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in the Numen Lumen Sacred Space to celebrate Elon Intervarsity Staff member Doug Arms' last large group meeting.
“The night I found out about my sister's death, Doug was the first person I called,” explained Junior Kenneth Brown, holding back tears. “You and Katie invited me over, and that meant the world to me. To not have you on campus is going to be tough… I love you guys.”
The knowledge that the IV leader will not be returning to campus in the spring is no surprise due to his semester-long sabbatical, but students are still in shock after receiving news in December that Elon University chaplains asked the staff member to step downpermanently. Students received news that Doug would not be returning from his sabbatical due to a decision made by University Chaplains based on Doug's relationship with his wife, Katie.
In a video he released in December, Doug said, "It had been communicated that the primary reason for this decision was the beginning of Katie and I’s relationship."
The relationship began in the spring 2014 when Katie was a senior at Elon, causing the Chaplains to further investigate their beginnings. For the InterVarsity community that has always known about the couple's evolution, there are many unanswered questions as to why their leader cannot return.
Chapter President Nicole Plante explained that the night was about closure for a lot of people in the organization. “Personally, I am very sad, but trying to move forward. A lot of us are angry and upset,” said Plante. “I feel hurt and unheard, but at this point, I am just accepting it and realizing hurt was felt on both sides.”
Plante said the night was about celebrating the staff member's leadership and commitment to the organization.
Arms addressed the organization through a broken voice, visibly holding back tears.
“It is a surreal experience that this is my last large group,” said Arms. “Seeing alumni here makes me remember all the years, all the memories and all the relationships.”
Arms reflected on his almost 8 years working on Elon’s campus. He gave two shoutouts, one to his small group, The League, the other to his wife, Katie.
Audience members reflected on the ways Arms grew the men’s Christian community on campus. Twelve of his small group members expressed their love, support and sadness as they talked about Arms’ investment in his neighborhood, the Creed, strangers in Moseley and every member within InterVarsity.
Sophomore Jake Young explained how his life had been changed by Arms, “When I heard the news, I was so broken.” Young said before getting involved with InterVarsity and having Doug in his life, he considered transferring out of Elon, but with Doug’s help, he found his community and support system at the school.
The attention turned to Katie Arms as she sat in the audience holding back tears while listening to her husband address the organization.
“Getting to spend three years working together is not something many people can do,” said Arms. “It’s hard to imagine having something as good for us… I know this will be hard for us.”
Club members took turns speaking about Arms and the ways he has influenced their lives.
Story after story was told about how he knew individuals by name and gave people the attention and love they needed when no one else did.
“I am a youth pastor now because of you, thank you for your constant love and commitment,” expressed one alum.
“When I look back on my time at Elon, I see all the areas you invested everything you had to us,” said another alum.
Arms was a figure this community relied on when their wifi went down, when they needed a shelf hung, when they got in a car wreck and when they needed a shoulder to cry on.
Past president Samantha Perry expressed how Arms’ presence will not only be missed in the organization but also in the lives of each individual in the Christian community at Elon.
“On a campus that prioritizes doing over being, Doug provided an intentional space for people to be seen, known, and understood,” said Perry. “His absence will be felt.”
Chaplain Joel Harter attended the event and said he was glad students and alumni could celebrate Arms and thank him for his years of caring service to the group.
“I’ve been impressed overall with the current student leaders and all that they’re doing and planning to move the chapter forward,” said Harter. “InterVarsity at Elon is a valuable part of campus and religious life on campus, and I’m thankful for all the care and commitment of the student leaders within InterVarsity.”
Harter said he could not comment on the decision regarding Arms’ position, but he will be working with the organization to help support the “strong and vital” group on campus.
Arms left the organization with one last encouragement: love people.
“I think that’s really what it comes down to be a follower of Christ,” said Arms. “Love people in a sacrificial way.”