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David MacDonald talks about serving as a campus chaplain

This is the third in a series focusing on clergy in the Ada Icon community. Darlene Bowers compiles the interviews.

Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity."  Psalm 133.  Rev. David MacDonald’s favorite Bible verse reveals his passion to connect students to resources they need. Read on to learn more about this ONU chaplain.

What degrees do you hold? Where did you attend high school?

Doctor of Ministry: Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary,
Master of Divinity: Methodist Theological School in Ohio,
Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies): Mount Union College,
High School: Central-Hower High School (Akron)

How long have you been in the ministry?

I have been in ministry for 16 years; ordained for 8 years.

Where have you served?

Boundary/Denmark United Methodist Churches (Morrow County): 2000-2002 Newcastle-upon-Tyne Methodist Circuit (England): 2002-2004 Marshallville/Easton United Methodist Churches: 2004-2007
Niles First United Methodist Church: 2007-2012
Ohio Northern University Chaplain: 2012-present

How did you come to be a clergyperson?

I felt a call to ministry at around the age of 14 when a member of my home congregation in Akron, Ohio, told me after a youth Sunday sermon that I gave that she knew that I was going to be a preacher someday.  After that, I began to explore the call to ministry and was licensed as a lay speaker in The United Methodist Church when I was 16.

What are your favorite roles, duties and tasks of being a clergyperson?

I love being a support person for people as they go through the ups and downs of life - being there for big moments, like baptisms, confirmation, weddings, and funerals.  As a chaplain, I especially enjoy having the opportunity to help students discern their own vocation or call from God, through one-on-one mentoring and spiritual direction.

What is the most challenging part of being a clergyperson?

Not being able to "fix" everything - sometimes I forget to let go and let God take care of things. 

What sermon topic/message always excites you to share it.

I love to talk about calling, spiritual gifts, and vocation!  I enjoy helping people to understand that everyone has a ministry - not just those of us who are clergy.

What do you feel is the greatest strength of your congregation?

I don't really have a "congregation," but the greatest strength of our ministry on campus is being able to connect students to the resources they need in order to grow in their faith - on campus, local churches and faith communities, and nationally/internationally.

What makes your congregation unique or different or special?

We're mostly made up of people between the ages of 18 and 21!  We have some professors and staff members who worship with us on Thursday mornings, but most of our leadership in Chapel worship is done by students.

And, tell us your best or most memorable clergy moment?

Being able to baptize three generations of a family within the span of one year.  I baptized an older woman and her two sons one year, and then the child of one of the sons the next year.  Last fall, I was invited back to that congregation to help baptize another child from the third generation of the family!  I was also privileged while in England to baptize a mother and her three children all in the same Sunday.

What motivates you?

I wake up every day knowing that what I do on campus makes a difference, and that keeps me going.  It's not that I see myself as special or unique from other clergy, but I have opportunities to interact with students in a way that a lot of clergy often don't, so I am excited every day to reach out to the students on our campus in whatever ways I can.

What hobbies, interests and activities do you participate in and enjoy?

I love to read and write, and to explore my creative side through art. I also love camping, fishing, and hiking.  I am currently planning a 150-mile hike through northern Spain for next summer.

If you weren’t a clergyperson what would you be doing?

I can't imagine doing anything else than what I do now, but if I had to have another job to supplement my ability to be in ministry, I'd probably be working in a book store or a library.  Or, as a camp director.  I worked for 9 summers as a camp counselor during high school, college, and seminary.

What are your favorite Bible verses.

Psalm 133 - "Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity."

Isaiah 40:31 - "Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” 

What qualities would your congregation say are your strengths?

That's a tough one!  Since my students are gone during the summer, I can't even ask them!  My guess would be that they would say my availability to be present with them when needed, and to listen to whatever problems or issues they are facing in life without judgment.

What would your congregation be amused to learn about you?

One embarrassing story I often tell about myself is about how I got locked in my hotel bathroom in Paris once, and couldn't get out until my wife came back about an hour later!

Is there anything else you wish to share?

I love working with the pastors and congregations in Ada, and I am always looking for ways to help students connect with places of worship that might interest them!

Thank you, Rev. David E. MacDonald, for working with all of us and for sharing, too.