Episcopal Divinity School
Jean Steele ’68 Award
The Reverend David J. Siegenthaler, D.D. ’55, ’95
In an essay on spirituality David Siegenthaler wrote: “The Book of Common Prayer is informative for Anglicans not only for definition of doctrine and polity but as well for the content and style of spirituality. That book is the matrix. The concerns and consequences of corporate worship are the concerns and consequences of personal worship. In its simplest terms this means that Anglican spirituality is personal but never private, never detached from an individual’s engagement with the community and with the world. Anglican spirituality seems always—as do the services of the Book of Common Prayer—to compel the individual back into the world….The individual is empowered to rejoin the ranks of the larger company, to go forth in concert with others, ‘to continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as God has prepared for us to walk in.’”
This is precisely what theological education is meant to do as well. Students come for a time, enriched and shaped by teaching, worship, and community life and then, empowered by our formation and training, we are sent back into the wider church and world, among that holy fellowship, as we together in concert, laity and clergy alike, undertake the work that God has prepared for us to walk in. For generations of students, staff, faculty, and alumni/æ at Episcopal Theological School and Episcopal Divinity School, the Reverend David Siegenthaler has played a vital and integral role in this particular matrix of theological, spiritual, and liturgical formation, refreshment, and empowerment.
It might surprise some to know that David Siegenthaler, who seems so much the quintessential Anglican, started life as a Lutheran. His father was the pastor of churches in Buffalo and Baltimore. Nor did David initially pursue his own theological education here on Brattle Street. Rather, that was in New Haven at the Yale Divinity School. In God’s good time, however, David was lured into the Episcopal Church by the richness of Anglican spirituality and the Prayer Book tradition he describes so eloquently. He found his way here to Brattle Street and into our lives initially to pursue graduate studies before being ordained in June of 1955 by Bishop Norman Burdett Nash (ETS 1915).
David returned to ETS in 1969, a well-seasoned priest, to serve on the faculty as a tutor in church history and as librarian in the then-new Sherrill Library. He has been a constant and gracious presence ever since—46 years, so far. In the Library David has cared for the School’s archives and special collections with particular dedication and devotion. In the classroom and as a senior tutor David inspired generations of students to read the texts of history carefully and deeply. Katharine C. Black ’86 recalled especially a course titled “Hearth and Altar—Christian Nurture in England on the Eve of the Reformation.” It ended with students recreating an authentic 14th century feast, including some kind of whole beast roasted over an open fire in the back campus parking lot. Only a lover of history, like David, could inspire his students to bring the middle ages to life with such powerful, if smoky, effect. But, lest we imagine, falsely, that David actually lives in the middle ages, we shouldn’t forget that he also proudly served as a concelebrant for the consecration eucharist of Bishop Barbara Harris in 1989—remembering and cherishing our sacred past, while standing firmly in the present, much like EDS itself.
I arrived at EDS in 1995 after David had “officially” retired from teaching—so there was no “Hearth and Altar” or roasted beast for me. But, of course, a teacher like David never truly stops teaching—whether in the classroom, chapel, or refectory. A particular recollection of those years is David’s annual historical tour for new students, highlighting points of interest on the EDS campus—the Flemish inspired architecture, the chapel windows, and even the conspicuous presence of the Partridge Parchment in the stained glass window of the Tyler Room. Some of us who were no longer new students took the tour every year, just to absorb as much lore from David as we could.
The same was true when one year David co-taught Liturgical Practicum with Lloyd Patterson and John Hooker, regaling us with tales of his curacy in Boston and rectorship in Duxbury. A particular story that comes to mind is of a baptism early in his curacy at Emmanuel Church on Newbury Street. The baby was wearing a slippery gown and David said that it was touch and go for a while, worrying that the child might slip right out of his arms. My favorite moment, though, was David’s tutorial on liturgical haberdashery. After explaining that the tippet is worn over the hood, what exactly an amice is, and how to tie a cincture, David offered us his general philosophy of liturgical attire, which is fairly easy to remember: “the more fabric the better!” He probably should have received a commission from Almy’s and Wipple’s after his impressionable students, like me, rushed out to order the longest and flowiest surplices possible. I think of David every time I wear it.
Most of all David has been a friend and inspiration to generations of students and alumni/ae, to say nothing of faculty colleagues and staff. Whether in the refectory, out on the campus quadrangle, or in Harvard Square along Brattle Street, David has a unique ability to forge friendships, bringing to nearly every conversation his extraordinary grace and wit, to say nothing of his wry smile. What day isn’t made better by breakfast or lunch with David Siegenthaler, or even just a tip of his hat?
There is no way that we could even begin to count the number of lives David has touched and the ministries he has shaped in nearly fifty years of ministry on this campus. There is no way we could count the number of hearts that are warmed simply by the thought of this gentle, caring, and witty man, who has devoted his life to this school and to the training of clergy and laity for ministry in the church and the world.
No one epitomizes what EDS is and can be when it is at its best than the Reverend David Siegenthaler. Twenty years ago the faculty honored David upon his “official” retirement with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Tomorrow, the School will honor him by dedicating the Library Atrium in his name. Tonight, it is the Alumni/æ Association’s turn.
Therefore, in recognition of his faithful, dedicated and inspiring ministry in and to this School, I am extraordinarily pleased to present the Reverend David J. Siegenthaler ’55, ’95 with the Alumni/ae Association’s Jean Steele Award, our highest honor and given now for only the fourth time, for exemplary service to Episcopal Divinity School and in thanksgiving for all the ways that he has inspired and empowered generations of students and alumni/æ to do all of the good works that God has prepared for us to walk in.
Matthew P. Cadwell ’99
Co-President, Alumni/ æ Executive Committee