For 47 years, Pastor Elizabeth Platz, the first woman to be ordained in the Lutheran Church of America, has served the University of Maryland. Now, it is time for a new Lutheran chaplain to take her place.
Ray Ranker, 29, of Reisterstown, M has been selected to fill Platz’s shoes.
(Pastor Platz, Photo credit to http://www.studentaffairsgiving.umd.edu/BethPlatz/)
Ranker said he was asked by the bishop to return to the university. He said he was surprised because he knew how long Platz has worked there and didn’t expect to be graduating from the seminary at the same time as her retirement.
Ranker earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in 2004. After graduating, he spent three years abroad in South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe doing mission work through the Lutheran Church.
After returning from abroad, Ranker served for five months as interim chapel coordinator at the University of Maryland.
“I experienced firsthand how important the work is here,” said Ranker.
Ranker later went on to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where he graduated in May 2011. He has been shadowing Platz for the past year in order to fully prepare himself for the job.
(Pastor Ranker, Photo Credit to http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~lutheran/faces.html)
Ranker is currently one of the only three Lutheran university chaplains in the state of Maryland, including Platz. The other one, Pastor Laura Sinche, serves at smaller schools such as Towson, UMBC, and Morgan State.
“It’s a big honor, especially since this position is not easy to come by,” said Ranker.
Ranker said he knows he has big shoes to fill because he is replacing a woman of iconic status. Her work at the university has been incredible and will be impossible to duplicate, Ranker said.
Platz has done many different things for Maryland, said Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, director of the Stamp Student Union at the university.
She founded the CARing Kids program in Langley Park, which pairs underprivileged children with a student “buddy”. Platz also worked with the President’s Commission on Women’s Issues, in which she expressed the need for affordable child-care at Maryland.
“She is a consummate citizen of campus,” said Guenzler-Stevens.
Ranker said he will continue to carry on the work of CARing Kids, but he also has plans to implement a few new projects and programs.
Ranker hopes to lead students in trips abroad and alternate spring breaks. Even though he wants to bring some new aspects to the position, Ranker said he’s going to keep most of the job’s duties the same.
A lot of the work of chaplains is multi-faceted, said Platz. She said she works a lot on bible studies, ethical questions, and social justice issues, but also spends a good amount of time helping students with things like from personal issues to career choices.
Ranker said he hopes to always be able to give every student as much time and respect as they need.
“PastorBeth was great at this,” he said. “It didn't matter if you were a Lutheran, Atheist, Jew, Muslim, or Pagan - if you needed someone to talk to, she would make the time.”