Chaplain David MacDowell shares his vision for chapel

Dave MacDowell, the new interim chaplain, has arrived on campus and is preparing for his first chapel this upcoming Monday, Sept. 8. The Record sat down with MacDowell to learn more about his background in ministry and what he’s looking forward to this year.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Record: Can you tell us about yourself?
Chaplain MacDowell: I’m from Schenectady, NY. I came out here to Wheaton and graduated in 1968. I played football and wrestled all four years. From here I went to Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Boston for three years.
Record: Before this were you involved in ministry work?
MacDowell: I have 43 years of pastoral ministry experience. Most recently I came from Community Fellowship Church in West Chicago. I’ve been married to my wife Gloria for as long as I’ve been in ministry. I have two girls and three boys and almost six grandchildren. My baby girl is going to have a baby.
Record: What brought you to Wheaton?
MacDowell: With Chaplain Kellough’s retirement, they wanted to find his replacement and didn’t know how long that process would take. Dr. Ryken prayerfully considered whether they wanted an interim or not. He asked me to start praying about that. It grew in both of our minds that this would be a good fit.
And that gives the search team a lot of freedom to take the time they need to find the appropriate person, and it also encourages the chaplain staff to continue their ministry. I want to be their biggest fan and cheerleader.
Record: What are your responsibilities as interim chaplain?
MacDowell: They are pretty much the same responsibilities as a regular chaplain. They didn’t shave the list down. I have the overall responsibility for the chapel program, even though the chapel speakers have been selected already by Chaplain Kellough, which I appreciate.
I’ll share with Dr. Ryken, speak once a month, oversee the setup of who prays and leads singing and be available for meetings and prayer. For me personally, other than the organizational responsibilities, it is being available and present on campus. My time is short, and so I want to make every effort to be accessible and available to students as well as faculty and staff.
Record: Can you talk about your first chapel on Monday?
MacDowell: I’m going to give a basic introduction into what I hope to pursue, which is a ministry of presence and a ministry of prayer. I’m going to share my own personal journey, really starting, swirling around the time that I was at Wheaton. My text is Psalm 39:4-7, a passage of Scripture that had a tremendous impact on me when I was here.
My next talk in October is about the priority of prayer. Then I’ll move into the area of what I call grace-filled relationships in the area of reconciliation and forgiveness. Those are themes I think are appropriate for any audience.
By that time, I’ll have learned enough about what’s happening on campus that will help me to create something a bit more specific, but even now I’m picking up on the whole idea of unity and reconciliation, e.g. with family. That’s what I want to address, but I want to address it after I share my own story and share something about prayer.
I will address the Wheaton College campus just like I would address my congregation because to me they are people. They are younger people, but nonetheless they are people who desire a deeper relationship with Christ.
In conclusion, MacDowell said he looked forward to encouraging people on campus. He also added, “I love stories. I could just tell stories forever and ever because Jesus did and people listen to stories.”
“I’m going to have fun, and I look forward to that,” MacDowell said. “To be able to come alongside and mentor and to coach younger people is the thrill of my life.”

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