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Christian Association welcomes a new director. Warren Cederholm, president of board of christian association directors

For Penn’s Christian Association, there is no need for a church to have a place of faith, learning and community building.

On Friday night, the CA opened its doors to students, alumni and community members for an official welcoming of new Executive Director Rob Gurnee. The event, which drew a crowd of about 30, featured a series of speakers, a group of musical performers and a dessert reception afterward.

Gurnee — a graduate of American University — expressed both gratitude for the opportunity to lead the CA and excitement for what the future of the organization holds in store. He explained that, despite some common misconceptions about its vision, the CA hopes to attract new members to a “non-denominational place of gathering.”

“There are some people who do social justice work with no faith, and then there are others who have so much faith but no social justice,” Gurnee said. “Our mission going forward is to create well-accomplished leaders in both of those fields.”

For College senior Danielle Heitmann, Gurnee’s message touches close to home.

The CA has “definitely been a very positive experience for me,” Heitmann said. “I spent a lot of time this past summer worrying about the future of our organization, and I’m glad to see that it’s now in great hands.”

For the CA, such leadership comes at exactly the right time.

Near the end of last year, a wave of financial troubles prompted the group to make a series of tough decisions. The CA’s executive board, headed by Rev. Warren Cederholm, decided to consolidate the positions of some of its active leadership. The move, which resulted in the stepping down of the organization’s executive director and chief minister, led to a period of time that Cederholm said was “tense and full of emotion.”

Friday night’s reception, however, was anything but tense. Rocking back and forth in their seats to the rhythmic banging of African drums and listening closely to Gurnee’s vision for the future, those in attendance were clear about at least one thing: the CA is ready for a new beginning.

“I wish I could’ve had a place like the CA when I was in college, but I didn’t,” Gurnee said. “It’s things like this that make me sure I’m where I need to be.”

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