Day 1 – Friday, Feb 24 Kilimanjaro

Esther arranged a tour for Alex and I the next morning. A guide drove us to the mountain. We could see it in the near distance with its white peak. Kilimanjaro! I’ve known about this amazing mountain since I was boy reading National Geographic. The tallest mountain in Africa. Over 19,000 feet in elevation, rising almost from sea level. The highest solitary mountain in the world. A mountain on the equator where there are glaciers on the top. A mountain that defeated every climber until the middle of the 19th century when a German and an Austrian reached the top along with a local climber named Yohani Kinyala Lauwo, who only received credit in 1989, on the centennial of the climb. Since that time, four trails have been mapped, and climbing equipment has improved to the point where ordinary hikers can reach the top. One man from the Andies ran to the top in just over six hours.

kilimanjaroWe drove through the gate on the southern slope of the mountain. We were already 2000 feet up, and a guide named Yankee Davis explained all about the mountain and the trails. He promised me that if I come he will make sure I can reach the summit in good health. Julie thinks that it a bad idea for an overweight, out of shape, 56-year old man who has had heart surgery. Who should I trust? The woman who has been my companion for over 25 years or a guide that I talked to for an hour?

Then our guide to us to Kilasiya Waterfall in Marangu. I was expecting something like Bushkill Falls with loads of tourists taking a casual walk around to see the waterfall. No, there was only one other person there, and the trip down to the fall was steep, muddy, and treacherous. I was cursing the fact that I had worn Birkenstocks instead of boots since I was planning on hiking! Alex is a young rugby player who is joining the Navy. Did I mention that I am a 250 pound man with bad knees, a stiff back, asthmatic, and had heart surgery? But I made sure that the young fellow got down safely. The trip was worth it! It is a single free-fall waterfall in a beautiful little gorge. Alex stripped to his shorts and went for a swim under the waterfall itself. Icy cold. I, however, remembered the good doctor’s warning about swimming. Honestly, the cold water did not daunt my spirit! It was so beautiful and refreshing to sit in front of the fall and feel the spray. And then our guide said those horrible words. Let’s climb back.

Just the night before I had read the part in the Two Towers when Gollum leads Frodo and Sam up the Winding Stair out of the Morgul Vale. This was something like that. Up and up. Steep with uneven steps covered in slippery mud. Halfway up, I had to stop because the heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. Rest. Apologies to my

thumb_img_0432_1024younger and thinner companions. And then a renewed assault. Almost to the top and then there was bench. What a beautiful view of the vale below. Yes, let’s sit awhile and contemplate the meaning of life while the heart stops pounding. And then to the top. Yes, after that surely I can come back and climb Kilimanjaro. Right?

Our guide is a member of the Chagga tribe whom the government recognizes as the caretakers of Kilimanjaro and the surrounding forest. He told us many interesting things about the area and his people, including the brewing of banana beer. And then he took us to the Chagga caves. This may have been the most interesting part of the trip. A young Chagga woman told us about the caves. The Chagga and the Maasai were neighbors who depended on each other. The Maasai are nomadic herdsmen while the Chagga grew various crops. Most of the time there was mutual respect, but in times of drought the Maasai cattle would die and they would raid the Chagga villages for food. They also captured Chagga women and raped them so they became pregnant. When the child was weaned and no longer need its mother, the woman was killed so the child would not know his or her mother had not been Maasai.


About two hundred years ago the warfare between the Chagga and Maasai was so severe that the Chagga dug tunnels in the ground overlooking the river. Along the edges of the tunnel there were rooms big enough for a family to live for weeks in darkness. The only light came from burning castor beans. Air vents shafts allowed fresh air to circulate, and the openings were protected by poisonous plants. The entrance to the tunnel had a low place so that intruders would bump their heads and cry out. Three Chagga warriors kept guard and when they heard an intruder they beat him with heavy clubs. Then they chopped up his body and washed it out the tunnel into the river where the crocodiles devoured it. So the Maasai never knew what happened to their scouts. It is a grim story, but the tunnels are ingenuous, and UNESCO helped the Chagga to restore a small portion of the two-mile network so people like me could see them and learn this story that I now have told you.

Then I bought some gifts for family and our guide showed two of the Chagga traditional huts where people lived in peaceful times. Then he showed us how to take raw coffee beans and pound them to remove the shell, and then how to winnow them to get the kernel. And then we helped roast the beans in a clay pot on an open fire. Then we pounded the roasted beans and threw them into boiling water. And, of course, we then got to drink the coffee with milk and sugar. This is what Moravian lovefeast coffee should taste like! It was an amazing day with the Chagga that ended with a visit to someone’s home in the village where we shared a very large glass of banana beer, but I will leave the mystery of the taste to your imagination!

Then it was a rush to get back to the airport for my flight to Dar Es Salaam on FastJet. On the way we drove through Maasai country and I could see their huts and some of the men herding cattle. Women build the huts and stay with them while the men roam with the animals. The flight was good, and the driver from the Latana Hotel was there to greet me on time. The 7 mile drip from the airport took over 40 minutes because of traffic. My room had a canopy bed! And I was asleep by midnight but woke at 3:30 a.m. before the alarm. My next flight was at 7 a.m. and the same driver took me. He had slept in the car.


Arrival in Africa – Feb. 23

My flights all went well. In fact I was lucky to be on a nearly empty plane to Amsterdam, so I had room to relax. The flight to Africa was more crowded, but I still had three seats to myself. That flight had many Americans who were on their way to a safari. Most of them were retired people and some seemed a bit frail, but they were eagerly anticipating their adventure. They were going to see the Africa in the documentary films. My journey was a bit different.

We arrived safely at the Kilimanjaro International Airport, which is between Arusha and Moshi after dark. The time difference from Pennsylvania is 8 hours and it had been 26 hours since Julie left me at the airport. I was so happy to see the driver from the Alteeza Lodge was there with a sign with my name on it. There was a young man from England on the flight who was also staying at the lodge so we shared the ride to Moshi. He is taking a year off after university before joining the Royal Navy to see the world. He had just been in Thailand for five weeks working with elephants and now was going to be teaching English in Arusha.


We arrived at the lodge, which is a lovely place, and Esther Alexandria greeted us and checked us into our rooms. She was confused because my name is Craig Atwood and the other person was Alexander Craig. And her last name was Alexandria. She asked what I do for a living and why I was in Africa, and I told her. She smiled and said that her dream is to be a professor. Of mathematics.

The people in the picture are Alex and Yankee Davis who guides people up Mt. Kilimanjaro.

My African adventure: Preparation and departure – Feb. 22


It was in Herrnhut, Germany in 2015 that the Rev. Peter Kawageme of the Mlimani Theological College in Rukwa Province, Tanzania invited me to come to his school to give lectures on Moravian history. I have wanted to go to Tanzania since the mid-1980s when I was a student at Moravian Seminary. One of my classmates, Edward Mmanywa, was from that country, and I admired him greatly. Since then I’ve had many friends in the Moravian Church visit Tanzania and tell me how wonderful their visit was. There are now seven provinces in Tanzania with nearly one million members. That is ten times the number as in the rest of the world combined. I teach about this a little in my Moravian history classes, but I really wanted to see and experience it for myself. So I told Peter that I would come, but then other obligations and trips put his invitation out of my mind.

At the beginning of the fall term, he contacted me to see if I could come this academic year. The only time that worked for me and for his school was during MTS’s spring break. I figured out a way that I could be gone from school and home for two weeks. It would take two days of travel each way and I would have eleven days in the country. One week would be in Sumbawanga where Peter lives and works. I also felt I should visit the TEKU university in Mbeya, which is on the way. So, we made plans and he consulted with the officers of his school and the province. In October I received a formal letter of invitation, with a tentative itinerary, and I purchased tickets from Delta. Allentown to Detroit to Amsterdam (change plans with a long layover) to Kilimanjaro. Overnight in Kilimanjaro and then a late night flight on FastJet to Dar Es Salaam. Overnight there. Another flight to Mbeya and then a long car ride to Sumbawanga. What could be easier?

And then other obligations and travels (Morocco, Jamaica, North Carolina) occupied my mind. Finally in January I realized I needed to get serious about this trip. It would be my first trip south of the Equator, and my first trip in 20 years to a malaria zone. I had to get inoculations against typhoid, hepatitis, tetanus, and other diseases. I purchased something that would sterilize water just in case there was not ample bottled water. The doctor gave me stern warnings about all the ways I could get sick and die in Africa. Don’t eat fresh fruits and vegetables unless they have a rind that you can peel. Brush your teeth with bottled water. Don’t swim anywhere, but especially not in places where there are crocodiles. Be wary of dogs because they may have rabies. Never go barefoot. Use Deet spray three times a day. Keep hydrated. Wear a hat. Don’t flash large sums of money. Only eat food if you see the steam rising. Buy insurance so they can evaculate you to Nairobi or home. By the end of the visit I was reconsidering my trip!thumb_img_0480_1024

And some of friends who had been so encouraging about going to Africa suddenly began telling me of the horrible things that had happened there and the various ways I could get sick, die, or offend someone. And then Peter wrote to say that the rains had come and the weather was cool and wet, and the mosquitoes were bad. I made a rush order on Amazon to get Permethrin to spray on all my clothing to kill mosquitoes, which took a long time to do because I was packing for both hot and cool weather. And somehow in the midst of all that I prepared my lectures.

Africa! By the time I left I was worried and over-prepared (I thought), but I was also excited. I was going to the birthplace of the human race, to the continent that Europeans knew almost nothing about 200 years ago. I was going to a place like no place I had ever been. So many of my images of Africa came from movies like the African Queen and documentaries about wild animals and exotic tribal peoples. I knew in my mind that Africa is a modern continent and not Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. But still, there was a tingle in my heart as I packed my bags. One bag of clothes. One bag of all the stuff for the plane and my computer. And one full bag of books and other gifts. I took my first anti-malaria pill, kissed the womenfolk good-bye, and started on my long trek to the land that was like no other I had seen.

Leaving COP22

cop22-marrakechI am in the Madrid airport waiting to board my flight to Philadelphia. It was a good, but exhausting week in Marrakesh. One thing that became very clear to me is that people all over the world, from scientists to religious leaders to community organizers are working to find solutions to climate change. Some are working on mitigating the rise in temperatures. Some are working to remove carbon from the air. Others are helping people adjust to the epic changes in the environment. But the recent American election was a pall on the whole community. Only America has leaders who deny there is a problem and who are working to make things worse rather than better.

On the last day of COP22 I went to a very interesting session on the work of faith communities toward climate justice. They argued that climate change is a peace issue since the stress on the environment will lead to violence as people are forced to migrate and compete for scarce resources. The Pentagon is very aware that global warming is a threat to peace and security.

Two of the presentations were very helpful to me. One drew upon the recent history of transitional justice to address how to move forward. Many countries in the 20th century had civil wars or oppressive regimes that were devastating to the people. Crimes were committed and people wanted the perpetrators to be punished. But that would only prolong the violence and would force the guilty to hide their culpability. South Africa under Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela pioneered a process of Truth and Reconciliation that gave amnesty to the guilty if they revealed the extent of their crimes.

lion-made-of-tires-cop22The speaker argued that something similar could be done to deal with climate change, but on a global scale. Some countries in the Northern hemisphere are guilty of having done the most damage to the world. Much of this damage was done before climate scientists knew the effects of industrialization and can be dismissed as ignorance. But for the past 20 years there has been overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing because of human industry. And there have been many powerful people who continued to profit from industries that are threatening the lives of a billion people.Even those of us at the COP contributed to global warming by flying to Morocco! The truth needs to be acknowledged but the threat of retribution makes it hard for the guilty to participate in creating a more hopeful future.

The other presentation was by a Quaker representative who spoke about the “quiet diplomacy” she has been involved in with the national negotiators. They had dinners where they could speak freely off the record. Often the negotiators are constrained by nationalist politics and cannot publicly disagree with their governments. But they spoke freely about their grief and fear. The speaker argued persuasively that people are more willing to participate in addressing climate change when their human rights are respected. As we work to reverse the damage done by burning fossil fuels, we must also care for those whose livelihoods are affected. This needs to be seen as the top national priority for all nations since all nations will be affected. She said, “We are the problem, but we are also the solution.” A scholar in the audience responded to the papers by stating that what needs to happen is that we reclaim a sense that the earth is sacred. Why is that so hard for American Christians?

The earth is the Lord’s


This is a picture of a mother bear and her cub who became stranded on an ice floe. They could no longer hunt for food because they were at sea. This is what climate change looks like. This is just part of the damage that we are doing to the world. These two creatures of God starved a few days later.

For nearly 300 years Moravians have used daily watchwords from the Bible as part of their spirituality. The texts for each day are chosen in Herrnhut more than a year in advance. I was wandering around the COP22 exhibitions yesterday (Nov. 17) when I received the texts for the day in my email. They were perfect for the occasion:

Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it. Deuteronomy 10:14 (NASB)

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. Romans 1:20

One of the most distressing things for me in the recent election is that so many Christians voted people who deny climate change and who believe that humans have no responsibility to care for the earth. I have found that many Christian churches, including the Moravian Church do not place the doctrine of creation at the center of their theology, but the Daily Text reminds us that the earth is the Lord’s. This world is God’s creation and God loves the world.


I meditated upon these texts while looking at the NASA display of carbon in the atmosphere. Most of that carbon came from humans burning fossil fuels and other things. Some of it is from the wildfires that have increased because of climate change. The earth is the Lord’s and yet we are covering the skies with greenhouse gasses and ruining the health of the planet.

It is sinful to mar God’s creation wantonly and without regard for the harm that we do. We Christians are called to love God and love our neighbors. Surely that includes taking steps to address the climate change problem even if it means that we need to change our economy. It is time for Christians to repent. If our politicians do not lead, the people must.

Wandering and wondering in Marrakech


I walked several miles around Marrakech today, in part because I was lost. I wandered far from the tourist zone and walked past shops where men were repairing cars and other items. I was angry and frustrated for awhile and then reminded myself that I was in one of the great cities of the world and it was a beautiful day with blue skies. Eventually I found the Souk just off the main square – Jemaa el-Fnaa. It is a medieval labyrinth filled with shop after shop. Many of the people were selling spices and dried herbs. But they also had oils, perfumes, soaps, pottery, jewelry – you name it. I wandered deep into the souk into the area where people buy their poultry (hanging up in the window), meats, eggs, and vegetables. The fish stalls did not improve the smell, but around the corner there were fragrant spices. It was hard to pass through without buying anything, but I managed it.

When I came out of the souk I found I was at the Bahia Palace, which I had gotten lost trying to find. It is a large, 19th century palace with lovely mosaics. Every doorway is a work of art. For some reason it reminded me of King George’s little place in Brighton Beach. After the palace I had a large lunch sitting on the square. I was disappointed there were no snake charmers or other performers, but the king does not always get his wish. 2016-11-16-12-09-54

After lunch I went to the baths for a hamman, which is a special Moroccan form of steam bath. It is a square room with a ceiling that comes to a point. The walls are heated. I’m so broad it was hard to lie on the bed without touching the walls. Just when I thought I couldn’t take the heat any more the attendant came in and gave me a scrub with sea salt. Felt much better than I expected, but it left me feeling a little raw. So I really enjoyed the goo she covered me with after. Slimy, but aromatic. I chose the one with grapefruit in it. After another long time in the heat, I showered and was led to a room to recover with mint tea and water. Then it was time for the massage, which was just perfect after my long walk. All this for only $70!

2016-11-16-17-55-24I felt so great after the hamman and massage that I went to a shop I had seen on the first day. Mufasa still had my business card. We drank tea and he helped me find presents for the girls in the family. And then we went upstairs to the rugs. Mountains of rugs. Berber, persianesque, arabic. They showed me about a dozen. They were all too expensive, but we finally made a deal on a Berber rug and all the presents. I’m sure he got the better of the deal, but it seems to be a reputable place. And it fits in my suitcase. A fellow from the shop gave me a ride home on his Vespa carrying the rug. So I got to do something I really wanted to do, which was to cruise through a foreign city on a Vespa.

Tuesday at COP22

Today was the day that the heads of state arrived at COP and all of the high level folk gathered for ceremonies and meals and speeches. I’m just a lowly observer with a RINGO and so I spent part of the morning viewing the displays. I had a long chat with French marine biologist who had a display on the effects of carbon on the oceans. She was surprised that I was interested in the topic and actually knew something about what is happening as the oceans grow more acidic. [Thanks to the New Yorker magazine and Elizabeth Kolbert!] I told her that I am a theologian, not a scientist, and I am very concerned about the oceans.

The seas have already absorbed enormous amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, which has the positive impact of reducing the greenhouse gasses, but the carbon in the water is reacting to the calcium in  sea shells producing acid. Not only does this weaken the shellfish, the acidity of the water threatens all forms of life in the seas. It is accelerating the death of the coral reefs. The marine biologist gave me a video and more information, but what she really wanted to talk about was why I was at COP and asking about the oceans. I told her that I think climate change is a theological and ethical issue. God used the oceans to bring all things to life and the oceans continue to be the source of much of our existence. It is no wonder most of the world’s population lives by the sea. We talked about how many Christians in the US voted for Donald Trump who has vowed to end the US involvement in the struggle to protect the climate. She knew that Pope Francis has come out strongly in favor of the effort to reduce carbon emissions and was surprised that so many Catholics voted the way they did. I explained that many voters were concerned only about outlawing abortion and not about the cataclysm that will accompany the rising sea levels, the toxicity of the oceans, and the increased numbers of tropical storms.

I accompanied Diane Husic, the dean of Moravian College’s new School of Health and Natural Sciences, to a meeting at Cadi Ayyad University. It was sponsored by the RINGOs and focused on the role that universities can play in helping countries build capacity for addressing the effects of climate change. It is not enough to do research and write papers. Is there some way that universities in the industrialized nations can work with universities in those countries that are already suffering the effects of climate change in joint efforts to address current problems while working for long term solutions? It was pointed out that universities are among the oldest and most sustainable institutions on the planet, but most universities currently do not have robust research agendas that can help with climate change. A representative from Uganda proposed that a new consortium be created so that universities can play a greater role in implementing the Paris Agreement.


I introduced myself as a theologian, which caused some heads to turn. There were a few non-scientists in the room, including an Italian professor of social work, but I was the only theologian. I spoke with a man from Uganda after who was very interested in getting the Christians of Uganda working to address climate change. He asked why this is so hard for churches. My response was that churches have tended to focus on personal salvation and personal well-being – or the wellness of the congregation. Christian theology has not paid as much attention to Creation and the ethical obligation to care for creation as it has the doctrine of redemption. I am trying to change that in my church, but it is difficult. My friend Rick Sides started an Eco-Camp for young people in North Carolina, and some of the pastors in the Moravian Church were opposed to it. They felt it was not Christian enough even though the refrain for the week is “The Earth is the Lord’s.”

This evening I walked from our house to the old city (Medina) to have a Moroccan meal. As I was walking there were motorcades, police cars, and heightened security for all of the heads of state and other dignitaries at COP22. It was rather exciting seeing the various military, security, and police uniforms. I hope their meetings went well. My dinner was lovely.


2016-11-14-12-05-25This morning my colleague Hilde Binford and I walked from our rented house to the COP22 conference. The walk was about a mile further than we expected and we got a bit sunburned on the way. And by the time we made it through security and got our badges, it was 11:30. Since we hadn’t eaten since the night before (or had coffee) we decided to head straight for the onsite food places. Before long I was sitting down to a plate of sushi, which seemed appropriate at such an international conference.

The conference is an amazing tent city, with tents the size of small warehouses. I have been to lots of conferences in my life, but nothing like this. I am simply overwhelmed by the organizational skill it takes to manage a conference on this scale. I have been to several international conferences, but never to one that is so truly international. The presidents of most of the African nations will be here this week along with high ranking officials from most of the countries that signed the Paris Agreement and Kyoto protocol. I am not accustomed to simply being an observer at a conference and watching serious people intensely engaged in their conference work while I can wander to and fro attending sessions and viewing displays.

The exhibition tents have displays from many different countries highlighting the effective ways that they are addressing the problem of carbon emissions. Solar farms in Qatar, for instance. The United States exhibit includes information from NASA. They are using satellites and the international space station to gather data and images that clearly show the increased carbon in the atmosphere and the rising temperature of the world’s oceans. They have used satellite imaging to find illegal logging camps in Latin America. One of the most beautiful displays was digitally enhanced film of all the world’s oceans where you can see the currents flowing with different water temperatures. NASA makes this information freely available online for anyone in the world.

2016-11-14-13-17-51Morocco seems to be an incredible host. At the second session I attended Princess Lalla Hasnaa of Morocco spoke. She is President of the Mohammed VI Foundation for Environmental Protection and is the sister of the current king. Apparently Morocco is one of the major drivers of the global climate initiative, and everywhere I go I see solar panels. The heads of UNESCO and UNFCCC also spoke at that session. One of the speakers talked about the importance of education in helping people recognize that the problems of the world are their problems. He was not talking simply about putting climate change information in the science curriculum, but the important role that the liberal arts play in helping people think critically and engaged other cultures and people with empathy. A presenter from MIT spoke on the need for education that changes the hearts and minds of people. He has developed workshops that are not focused on numbers and charts but which engage people in simulations so that they can participate in the process of lowering emissions. It is what he called visceral education.

Representatives of the youth delegates to COP22 presented a strong plea that climate change information be included in all school curricula in every country at every level of education and that the scientific information be readily available in every country. Most of the discussion was about making this information accessible in poor, rural countries that do not have access to advanced technologies. The youth treated climate change as a human rights issue because we are affecting the world they must live in. I think Brexit and the US elections show how little people over the age of 55 in industrialized nations really think about the world that people under the age of 30 will have to confront.

What depressed me was the fact that in my country this information is readily available, but school boards and now even the federal government try to keep it out of school curricula. The whole world is coming together to combat climate change while the United States continues to resist the overwhelming scientific evidence that the globe is warming, the climate is changing, and carbon emissions are the primary cause. One presenter researched the effect of education on people’s view of the environment and willingness to change their behaviors. He found that in almost every country the higher a person’s educational level the more aware they are of climate change and how to prevent it. The one exception is the United States where the most educated people are radically polarized in their view of the science and the need for action.

After leaving the education session I saw a man with virtual reality equipment and I talked Hilde into letting us try it. He was working with the Red Cross and Red Crescent on developing interactive computer software to teach about climate change and its impact on natural disasters. The software also shows people why it would be better to gear disaster relief funds to prevention and proactive measures rather than having to respond to disasters after they have happened. I’ve never used virtual reality and I was very impressed with the experience. I did a program on the melting of the Arctic Ice, and I am sad to say that I correctly predicted the rate of the rise in temperature in the Arctic over the next 30 years and when the ice would be all gone (2050). The guy developing the software was really nice and so glad that he had people to show off to. Hilde and I thought of several ways to use this technology in teaching at the college level, and he also told us about the many new Indie computer games that teach people the effects of their actions socially and environmentally. He was certainly the highlight of the day.

We topped off an exhausting day with an early dinner at a French restaurant, complete with wine and creme brule!


Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016

I arrived in Morocco about 1 p.m. this afternoon. I am here for the COP22 meetings sponsored by the UN. COP stands for Conference of the Parties, which means the countries that have agreed to address Climate Change through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is the 22nd such meeting since 1994. At the Paris meeting last year most of the world’s nations agreed to the Paris Accords that set the goals for each country to reduce carbon emissions. I am here with faculty and students from Moravian College who are primarily observing and learning at the conference. We are one of the RINGOs – Research and Independent Non-governmental Organizations. It is exciting being part of such an enormous international conference, but already the American presidential election is the major topic of discussion. Donald Trump has vowed to pull the US out of the UNFCCC, especially the Paris Accords, and to cut all funding for combating climate change.

It is now 8 p.m. in Morocco, and I am worn out from traveling. Julie took me to the Philadelphia airport for my flight across the Atlantic to Madrid yesterday afternoon. It was only a six hour flight, but then there was a three hour layover before the flight to Marrakech. I slept a little on the planes. It took a while to find the house we are renting, but eventually the cab driver found it, and I was glad Hilde Binford was here to let me in. We walked about a mile to the old walled city and had a very nice Moroccan dinner and wandered in the the shops.

I am very excited and happy to be here. I have always loved Moroccan food, art, and culture, but this is my first visit. The people are so beautiful and so friendly. Many people have congratulated me on the election even though they would have rather that Hilary won. They are mainly impressed by the peaceful transfer of power America has every four years. I am trying not to worry about what the new president may or may not about the environment and focus on learning what I can at the conference while also enjoying this beautiful city.

Death of my mentor

Yesterday we buried the ashes of the Rev. Dr. David Schattschneider. It was a beautiful memorial service that David and his wife Doris planned. David chose the music (mostly Bach) and the Scriptures (Philippians and John). The church was crowded with friends from different aspects of his life. There was a section of Moravian pastors, a section of Moravian College and Seminary folk, a section of people from his congregation, and even several people from the model train club he loved. The head of the Northern Province of the Moravian Church, Betsy Miller, read her memoir of David’s life. We all learned things about David and his family that we did not know. His daughter, Laura, read one of the scripture passages and I read the other as if I were part of the family. It was hard to read through the tears in my eye because David was my second father in so many ways.

I had received word that David was going into hospice care just a week before his funeral. I read the email just ten minutes before I had to teach the same introductory church history course David had taught for so many years. It seemed fitting somehow that I would be carrying on his work as he prepared for his passage into the next life. You see, I am now a professor at Moravian Theological Seminary and one of the successors of David Schattschneider. I work in the same office that he used before he was promoted to the Dean’s office.

My life intersected with David’s in many ways. After I graduated from MTS with my MDiv, David hired me as the Assistant Dean. We worked closely together and sometimes joked that I was responsible for all of the extroverted things (admissions, recruitment, alumni affairs, and student life) while he took care of the introverted things like faculty and curriculum. David supported me through one of the darkest periods of my life as my first marriage collapsed and he ordered me to seek therapy. I lost many friends in those years, but David stayed true to me. I was honored that he was willing to preside at my second marriage. David wrote recommendations for me for graduate school, and he allowed me to teach my first graduate-level course while I was still working on my dissertation. Eventually I was hired to teach Moravian theology and history at Moravian Seminary, but David had already retired at that point.

The morning after I learned David was in hospice, I served communion at a retreat for Moravian pastors and church educators. It was hard to say the words of institution and the remembrance of the death of Jesus as I thought about the death of my teacher. But it was when I looked into the eyes of my former students who are now pastors that I began to weep. David was my mentor, my friend, my father, my Obi-Wan Kenobi. I wondered if my students ever think of me that way and if they would grieve one day as I grieve now. Have I been as good a teacher and mentor to them as David was to me? After communion I checked my email and learned from his wife Doris that he had already died before I celebrated communion. When I had said to the congregation that we were communing with all of the saints who have gone before us and live in eternity with Christ, I did not know that David was already part of that invisible choir. Or perhaps I did. It certainly felt like David was there with us.

I met David when I first enrolled at Moravian Theological Seminary in the autumn of 1984. He was the second youngest member of the faculty, but he had already been at the seminary since 1968. I remember sitting in his office and petitioning to be exempted from the required introductory course in church history. Lane Sapp and I did a double major in college in history and religion, and David agreed that it would be a waste of time for us to sit in his intro class. I did take four other courses that he taught: American Religious Experience, Moravian History I and II, and History of Worship. ARE was a delightful class with a tradition of creative group projects. I still remember Lane dressing up as an Episcopal bishop illegally ordaining the first women priests. My group focused on the religion of the African American slaves, and I still use some of the research from that project. David had one of the driest wits I have ever known, and frequently I was one of a handful of students who got his jokes in class. He encouraged my research and my pursuit of a PhD. He also taught me a lesson in humility when he awarded the annual Moravian history prize to someone else. David was also the professor that allowed me to vent about the other professors from time to time. They could be a frustrating group of people.

David chose me to be part of the Inter-seminary seminar that brought together students from Moravian, St Charles Borromeo Catholic, Philadelphian Lutheran, and Eastern Baptist Seminaries. David was a life-long ecumenist as well as a scholar. The seminar was interesting, but the weekly car ride to Philadelphia was even better as he shared nuggets of wisdom about the church and life. For years David kept me up to date with developments in Moravian interchurch dialog. He also shared lots of personal stories about the great historian Martin Marty such as the fact that kept a typewriter by a filing cabinet and when he had a thought he would type it and put it in a file. When the file got thick enough, it became a book. David used to schedule the last appointment of the day with Marty so he could walk him to his car and get an extra fifteen minutes of his time. David himself was much more generous with his time for students. I also heard stories about the legendary (and fictional) scholar Franz Bibfeld at the University of Chicago whom students invented as an elaborate prank on faculty. Speaking of pranking faculty, none of us at MTS will ever forget the times that “Count Zinzendorf” would make visits and spoof the faculty.

David took me on my first trip to Manhattan and my first academic conference. The annual meeting of the American Society of Church History was in the Hilton in midtown. David had grown up on Staten Island so he knew his way around, but I was a redneck from North Carolina in the city for the first time. I felt like I was in Midnight Cowboy or some other movie. It was the 80s and New York was still dangerous so David taught me basic urban survival: “Don’t look people in the eye. Keep moving on the sidewalk. Remember Manhattan is a grid. Don’t keep all of your money in your wallet.” We took the bus to the Port Authority and walked quickly past the topless joints to get to Broadway. We didn’t have places like that in Bethlehem! We ate lunch at Le Bonne Soup where I still eat about once a year. For dinner we went to an old fashioned Italian restaurant with velvet flocked wallpaper and a maître de who looked like he stepped out of The Godfather. He said to me “Youse want wine.” It wasn’t a question, so I agreed and let him bring me whatever he wanted. The food was excellent, but I never got over the feeling that I might not survive the meal. David was amused or perhaps bemused at my discomfort. When I offered to pay, David told me that I would pay him back by taking one of my students out to dinner when I became a professor. I have taken several and I always tell them the same thing. It cost me more money than that meal, but it is worth it.

The conference was not memorable, but I later joined the ASCH and presented papers myself. David showed me how to do that. But it was also David who gave me permission to skip sessions at conferences and enjoy the city. I now choose conferences based as much on geography and cultural allurements as the topic of the conference.

I stayed in touch with David during graduate school. He was interested in my dissertation, but I think he was disappointed I did not ask him to be an official reader. It was years before he actually read my dissertation, and he was surprised at how different my interpretation of Moravian history was than his. We experienced some of the tension that fathers and sons feel as a son takes what he has learned and does something different with it. But we continued to respect each other’s scholarship. I admired his willingness to travel to obscure parts of the world (like Labrador) to lecture on the Moravians, and in that, too, I have followed his example. I only wished David had published more than he did. I learned from him that unpublished research will be lost.

One of David’s crowing achievements was securing funds to establish the Center for Moravian Studies at Moravian Seminary. I am honored to serve as the current director, and every two years I give the David Schattschneider award to a scholar whose work expands the field of Moravian studies. When David retired as Dean of MTS in 2001, I hoped that I would be chosen as his successor. I think he wanted that, too, but the search committee chose someone who was already on the faculty. Frank has been a worthy dean, and I was very grateful when he hired me to teach Moravian theology and history in 2010. It is strange, though, to sit in David’s old office where I had spent so many hours discussing my research thirty years before. I even have some of his old files.

David took me to my very first meeting of the Moravian Historical Society back in 1985, and if I had had a hundred dollars then I could have become a lifetime member. He later served as president of MHS and guided the society through some of its most tumultuous years. I had the honor of being elected president a few years ago and was able to bring to fruition some of the projects that David had started. I often told him that it wasn’t fair that I got to be president during the fun years while he had struggled through the dark years.

This past year I began writing a one-volume history of the Moravian Church. From the beginning I planned to dedicate it to my friend and mentor. I assumed that I would complete the manuscript while David was still alive and could present a copy of the book to him. I was able to share with him the section on 19th century American Moravian history, and once again he was the professor and I was the student as he critiqued, corrected, and disagreed with my account of the history. I was looking forward to sharing every section of the manuscript with him so he could correct and improve it. I never wanted to get out of the shadow of the great Moravian historian. I wanted him to illuminate what I wrote and be proud that my work is part of his legacy.

But now he is gone. David had a wooden sign on his desk that said “Fact” on one side and “Opinion” on the other. He used it in class to teach students about historical fact and interpretation. He used it in faculty meetings to clarify what his colleagues were arguing about. At his memorial service it sat on the pulpit. For most of the service it said “Fact.” Fact. It is a fact that David Schattschneider is dead. I didn’t want it to be true. I want to believe that he is off on an adventure, riding some train to some obscure historical site, or fishing in Canada. But he isn’t. He is gone.

I missed my chance to say good-bye with a last meal. I missed my chance to tell him that he was my second father and that my career has been an attempt to be like him. Fact. At the memorial service I saw the grief in his wife’s eyes and in his daughter’s tears. Fact. But David’s legacy lives on. His work continues in the work of his many students. This, too, is fact rather than opinion. Many of his students became pastors, church executives, and even bishops. A handful like me became scholars. In my classes, in my lectures, in my writing, and in my work in the world I try to honor the man who taught me so much about history and life.

I will miss him. I will miss his wit and his wisdom. I will no longer be able to learn from him or to share my ideas with him. But in many ways he is with me every day.