Mens sana ...

Chaplain and Coach represent two sides of life at Moravain

On one wall of his office, the new chaplain of Moravian College and Moravian Theological Seminary has tacked a worn piece of fishing net, complete with cork floats. It’s there as a symbol of his pastoral work, recalling Jesus’ charge to the fishermen brothers Simon Peter and Andrew that he would make them “fishers of men.”

The net comes from Indiana, where David Bennett was pastor of Hope Moravian Church before coming back to Bethlehem. “This guy was just going to throw it away,” he said, “and I asked if I could have it. I like it that it’s torn and brown and ragged.”

It says something about his ministry: that he’s not up in the forecastle but down below decks, where the work takes place.

The job of a chaplain in a secular age at a formerly sectarian college might seem, to some, to be an anachronism. The job description includes everything from leading worship services to pronouncing invocations and benedictions. The chaplain also serves as a “gateway” for troubled students: “He might be the front door” to a student in need of professional counseling.

But the mission that underlies all his public tasks is also the mission of the College. “Students come here to explore,” he said. “It’s very important that there be an environment that supports them on their journey.”

Bennett was raised in the Moravian church in the southern Illinois town of West Salem.

Though he took his undergraduate degree in math education at Eastern Illinois University, he realized before he left college—while involved with Tar Hollow, the Moravian summer camp in Ohio—that he wanted to become a pastor.

After an internship in clinical pastoral counseling at Lehigh Valley Hospital, he thought he might become a hospital chaplain. But he received a call to a church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and was pastor of two congregations there before moving to Hope, Ind., in 1998.

His congregations have had their differences. But all, as well as Tar Hollow camp, have had something in common: teenagers making the difficult transition to adulthood.

“They ask: ‘Who am I? What am I to be? What am I to make of my life?’ ” Bennett said. That, he says, is the great gift of college: the freedom to think for themselves, make their own choices, find paths that no one has shown them.

He believes a college chaplain must help create a place in which it’s no disgrace to stumble over answers while searching for them. Andd many of the questions with which his new flock struggles involve faith and spirituality.

“The guy whose statue is out front [Comenius] believed that there was a spiritual dimension to learning,” Bennett said, “and I believe he was right.”

David Bennett: A Snapshot

Age: 39.

Family: His wife, Connie, staff accountant at St. Luke’s Hospital.

Significant other: Kodi, bichon/shi tzu cross, age 6.

Education: Eastern Illinois University, B.A. in math education (1984); Moravian Theological Seminary, M.D.V. (1988).

Pastorates: Rio Terrace Moravian Church and Millwoods Community Moravian Church, both in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Hope Moravian Church, Hope, Ind.

Team: “I’m a rabid Edmonton Oilers fan.”

Feburary 12, 2002

Mens sana ...
Profile of new chaplain David Bennett corpore sano
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