Resting from Our Labors…

So, this long weekend couldn’t have come at a better time for me!  The last couple of weeks have been exhausting–wonderful, exhilarating, and stimulating–but exhausting nonetheless.  So it’s a good thing that my family and I are getting away for the weekend, to the Shenandoah valley in Virginia.  We plan to soak in the hot tub, watch the river float by, explore the nearby caverns, and just generally relax–pure heaven!  The last few months have been a whirlwind of activity and change, and this weekend will be a great opportunity to put all of that behind us and move on.

Someone who’s not in my immediate family might wonder why I would choose to leave campus and community so soon into the new school year.  Wouldn’t being on campus provide a great opportunity to connect with those students who don’t go home for the long weekend?  Yes, it probably would.  I might even get the chance to know some my neighbors better over a friendly Labor Day cookout.  I could even get in some time writing that sermon that I need to have done for next week!  All of those activities would be worthwhile, and would probably net some great opportunities for ministry.  But they would probably also contribute to an early demise.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I need to take time to prioritize my family life, and to have time to play and relax.  Otherwise, I would quite likely work myself to death.  Or, I would become so exhausted with what I am doing that I come to resent the work I do, and I never–ever–want to have that happen to me again.  It’s happened before, and it’s not a pretty place to be, I can tell you.

Therefore, I will be turning off my phone, walking away from my computer, forgetting about my Twitter feed, and generally downshifting for the next several days.  And my pastoral advice to anyone who happens to read this?

You should do the same.

In Peace,


Why We Worship This Way…

This year in Chapel, we have decided to take a slightly different tack in worship than we have in years past.  To begin with, we are starting each hour of worship with lunch.  In the past, lunch was offered at the end of the hour, but people were very rushed to eat and get out before their noon classes started.  In starting with lunch, we can let people enjoy their food and fellowship, have announcement time, and start worship in a more relaxed atmosphere.

Another change that we’re adopting is that we have a very simplified format for worship.  At our spring and summer staff retreats, the Religious Life staff identified three “core values” for our worship together:  Quality Music, Communal Prayer, and Relevant Messages.

Quality Music

Music speaks to the current generation of young people in ways that are different from previous generations.  This is not to say that music hasn’t ever spoken to young people, but the current generation seems to put an especially high premium on music that “speaks.”  As technology consultant Derek Baird wrote on his blog in 2008, for Gen Y, “music is oxygen.” (  Many students that I have spoken to have indicated that they prefer music that lets them reflect on life, their relationship with God, and their many (and sometimes complicated) human relationships.  So, we’ve decided that we want to produce quality music that will “speak,” while maintaining integrity within the service (i.e., the music will go with the theme of the service, and we will not just repeat a song week after week because it happens to be popular).  We have revived the concept of a “chapel band,” which will provide consistent musical leadership, and we have incorporated times for congregational singing and for reflection times that have music as a key component.

Communal Prayer

Students have shared with us that they value the opportunity to pray together for one another’s joys and concerns, but that it can be difficult to share those prayer requests in a traditional “raise your hand and tell it out loud” kind of format.  So, we’ve decided to have as many ways to share prayer requests as possible.  In the chapel building, you’ll now see a bulletin board that is dedicated to prayer requests.  We also have “prayer pots”—flower pots that sit on the tables at lunch—which give people the opportunity to turn in prayer requests at worship.  Also planned this year are opportunities to “tweet in” prayer request via a Twitter feed, and e-mail prayer requests.  All of these opportunities will hopefully give people the chance to have their requests heard and prayed over by the community.

Relevant Messages

By “relevant,” we’re not suggesting that messages in chapel worship should have nothing to do with eternal truths and everything to do with what’s hip, popular, and current.  On the contrary, we envision worship messages that are biblically-based, but which apply the often-difficult to grasp messages of the Bible to the context of a modern American university.  By relevance, we also mean that messages will be consistent throughout a single worship service (meaning that there should be unity among scriptures, preaching, music and prayer), and throughout a defined series (three to four weeks that cover roughly the same theme, but utilizing a different preaching text each week).  Finally, relevance means that the messages we hope to convey in chapel this year will help participants go deep into the Christian faith, and drink from the wells of our tradition and scriptures in a way that will help them to grow in their personal faith.  We wish to counteract the popular notion that worship should be “a mile wide and an inch deep” by focusing our efforts on conveying messages that will have an impact on the ways we think and live.

So there you have it, a manifesto, if you will, on why we’ve chosen to worship the way we do.  By emphasizing quality music, communal prayer, and relevant messages, we hope to be able to better define the “brand” that is chapel worship at ONU.  If you haven’t already, give us a try on Thursdays at 11 a.m.!

God’s Peace to you,


Back to School…

The village of Ada has suddenly become a very busy place!  The students have all returned to campus, making Ada (and ONU) a bustling little hive of activity over the last several days.  And, my life has moved to a decidedly busier tempo as a result.  Added to that, Rebecca and Daniel have started at their new school, and Kelly has begun her classed towards certification as a middle-childhood teacher!

Back to school time has always been one of my favorite times of the year.  When I was a child, I loved school, and going back to classes meant that I could see my friends and favorite teachers again, and embark on new adventures as I learned new things about the world around me.  (Yes, I was a nerd–and I still am, and I’m proud of it!)  In college, the start of a new school year meant that I got to get back to my friends, fraternity brothers, and professors, and that a new year of speech competition was just around the corner!  And, in seminary, the start of a new school year meant that I was one step closer to fulfilling the call to ministry that I had been hearing since I was 15 years old.

Today, back to school takes on a new meaning.  Now, it means that there are many opportunities for me to be in ministry–meeting new students, welcoming returning students back to campus (and meeting them for the first time, since this is my first year!), and getting acquainted with the rituals and traditions of this campus.  Campus ministry is an exciting line of work–every day is a little different than the one before, and I am learning that there is no “typical” day for a university chaplain.  But, through it all, there is the opportunity to help others learn that one’s years in college are not just about books and classes and exams (although they are primarily about those things!), but that one can come to grow as a person, in character, morals, and faith through all the experiences that college life brings with it.

So, happy back to school time!  Enjoy these last few days of summer, as we begin to turn into the autumn of the year, and life takes on a different pace.  If you’re on campus, don’t forget to take some time out of your day to connect with God, and if you’re not on campus, take some time to reflect what life was like when you were, and how it made you who you are today.

School time blessings,


Announcing “Mid-Week Prayer in the Liturgical Tradition”

Mid-Week Prayer in the Liturgical Tradition:
Drawing on Resources from Roman Catholic, Anglican, Episcopalian,
Lutheran, Methodist, Taize and other Liturgical Traditions.

Introductory Prayer Service:
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
5:00-5:30 p.m.
English Chapel Sanctuary

Please join us for this time of prayer and contemplation.
Sponsored by: Chaplain’s Office (Chaplain David E. MacDonald)

Starting on September 5th, we will be offering “Mid-Week Prayer in the Liturgical Tradition,” a prayer service designed for those who enjoy a more traditional/liturgical/contemplative time of prayer.  Drawing on resources from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Taize, and other liturgical traditions, this service will closely resemble Evensong, Compline, or Vespers (for those who are comfortable with such words!)

The goal for this experimental community of prayer will be to provide a space where the ancient words of the Christian faith become the deep wells from which we may all draw inspiration, refreshment, and comfort.  As Christ said to the woman at the Samaritan well, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty.  The water I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13b-14, NRSV)

Please consider joining us for this new venture in prayer, which is really a new expression of the ancient practices of the Church!


I Carried My Umbrella Today…

…so of course it’s not raining anymore.  It’s one of those ironies of life.

But what a beautiful day it has turned out to be!  The sun is now shining, there’s what looks like a light breeze blowing, and I’m sure there are birds chirping in the trees.  I say all this because I don’t really know, since I’m sitting in my office right now and the windows don’t really open.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my office, and I love the view I have of the chapel garden, but some days I just want to be outside.  Maybe today is a day for walking around campus, seeing who I bump into, and striking up a conversation–that is a frightening prospect for an introvert like me, but exactly what I envision a chaplain ought to be doing.  So, don’t be surprised if I’m not sitting behind my desk this afternoon.

Today is a great day, at least where I am.  I am sure that if you are not in a place where the weather is as lovely as it is here, that it is still a great day, too.  Every day has the potential for greatness, if we can only discover where that greatness lies.

Have a day,