Young Perspectives

Two Faculty Children Reflect on Seminary Life

by Hope Andersen

ust because we're younger doesn't mean we're inferior," states Josiah "Si" Adam, second child and ten-year-old son of Andrew K. M. Adam, Princeton's assistant professor of New Testament.

Si and his twelve-year-old brother, Nathaniel ("Nate"), are discussing the virtues and vices of children's sermons, or messages, as a part of worship services. Though the boys exhibit different preferences in many areas -- Si is an aspiring marine biologist, while Nate hopes to make a career as a musician -- they agree that children are generally undervalued in the church.

Si Adam

Fortunately for the Adam brothers, they live in a community that respects and supports them as "real people, not a sub-category," says their father. That community is Princeton Seminary.

The Adams moved from St. Petersburg, Florida, to Princeton four years ago when the boys' younger sister, Phillipa ("Pippa"), was just six months old. It wasn't long before they found themselves involved in the life of the Seminary. They began attending daily morning worship at Miller Chapel, an activity often followed by a trip to the Mackay dining hall where Nate inevitably chose a bagel or a plain donut while Si opted for the stickiest, sweetest item he could find -- practices that continue to the present!

(Every weekday night, the boys and their parents attend evening worship at Trinity Episcopal Church where Nate often leads the service and Si is both an acolyte and a lector.)

Miller Chapel is the resource on campus that the brothers most appreciate, and both boys have taken part in special services there. In February 1997, Nate was involved in a special Lenten service coordinated by David Wall, program coordinator for continuing education at the Seminary. "We were trying to bring to mind the younger members of the Seminary community," says Wall. "I felt that it would be better if we had someone young involved in the service, so I asked Nate."

Nate also sings in the Chapel Choir and has participated in PTS's Service of Lessons and Carols at Christmas. His musical talents are not limited to singing; he also enjoys instrumental music and plays the violin. "Last year I wanted to learn to play the saxophone or the clarinet," he says, "but I have to wait until my braces come off." What precipitated his taking up the violin? "My grandparents had one," he replies.

Like his older brother, Si has participated in worship services at Miller Chapel. Last year, he read a piece that he had written in a service planned by the Stewardship Committee. And he, too, is a musician. "I prefer the piano," he says.

The boys do not attend regular public or private schools but are taught at home in a non-traditional way; they enjoy a variety of academic and educational opportunities at Princeton Seminary. Two years ago, Nate took Professor Leong Seow's year-long Introduction to Hebrew. Last year he studied Latin. "Mom wants me to learn French next," he says. Not one to imitate his brother, Si chose to study New Testament Greek with his father. Various Seminary students have tutored the boys over the years. In fact, both Nate and Si have many friends in the student body.
"It's a really friendly community," says Si.

It is not unusual to see the boys and their parents and sister on and around campus. They attend activities and socialize at the Women's Center. They play Ultimate Frisbee with students on the quad. And, they go to special events.

Several years ago, Nate accompanied his father to a lecture on The Divine Comedy given by Dante scholar Peter Hawkins, a friend and colleague of Adam's from Yale Divinity School. "I had no idea what The Divine Comedy was like," confesses Nate, "but after that lecture I really enjoyed reading Dante. Especially Paradiso. I used to think life after death would be boring. Not anymore!"

On a less esoteric level, Nate reveals that one of the aspects of Seminary life that he most likes is the annual Theologiggle, a series of skits that parody life at the Seminary. "We go every year," he says. "Someday I want to be in it."

Another Seminary resource both used and appreciated by the boys is Luce Library. Quite apart from the fact that they enjoy moving the moveable stacks -- boys will be boys! -- the library provides them with information about topics in which they are interested. Most recently, the topic has been angels. "I wanted to find a list of all of the angels that had names," says Nate.

Si was more interested in the four archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, and Raphael. Furthermore, if he were given the opportunity to ask God one question that God had to answer, he would ask, "What is it like to be an angel?"

"Not an archangel," he qualifies. "They are the next rank up. Just the regular angels."

Nate would ask God, "What is heaven like?

"Not only would I ask what it's like," he continues, "I'd ask how it all works. Do people go straight up to heaven when they die, or is there a stopover? You can't imagine how that has vexed me."

On a (slightly) more concrete level, if the boys could ask God for one gift, Nate says that he would choose either a "Celestial Standard Version" of the Bible, "so I could see what the people who wrote it really meant...; or a vision, like Dante's or John's." Si would like to travel in time.

The conversations that take place at the family lunch or supper table -- discussions of that morning's sermon or sophisticated questions about abstract ideas -- are not the typical conversations carried on by ten- and twelve-year-old boys. But then, the Adam brothers are not typical children. Or maybe they are ordinary children who have had an atypical upbringing.

They have grown up immersed in the church. As their mother, Margaret, says, "The boys and Pippa have never not been in the church. The church is a part of their lives."

Nate Adam

In addition, they have had parents and adults in their lives who have taught them "not to think of themselves as just little kids," as their father says. "Their imaginations aren't constrained by images that are smaller." They have been respected and challenged by people like Margarete Ziemer, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at Princeton who teaches them piano, and John Bertalot, director of the Trinity Church Choir, in which both boys participate. "He respects us enough to involve us in the regular choir instead of having a separate children's choir," observes Nate.

Some adult role models have been culled from biblical and other literature. Si is especially impressed by what his namesake, King Josiah, did. (2 Kings: 22) "He was a God-fearing, faithful man," Si comments, but adds that he is especially attracted to St. Francis of Assisi. "I am really impressed by how he changed from being a nobleman's son who threw huge bashes to being a really humble, faithful guy."

"A Litany for Children," written by the Children's Defense Fund for National Children's Day 1982, includes the following prayer:

    O Lord of light and Source of all creation, we praise and glorify you for the childrenyou have given us.
    For their lives, their inquiring minds, and receptive spirits...
    For their joyous ways that fill us with wonder and delight...
    For their simple trust in you in these complex and troubled times,
We thank you, O God.

Members of the Seminary community -- students, faculty, and staff -- who have taken the time to listen to and speak with Nate and Si Adam express such gratitude for their presence at Princeton.

One wonders what other children would do with the same unconditionally supportive environment. Would they all pursue life with the enthusiasm of the Adam brothers?

Pippa Adam and her parents

Four year-old Pippa with her mother, Margaret, and her father,
assistant professor of New Testament Andrew K. M. Adam,
en route from Miller Chapel to the dining hall.

Though Pippa refrained from participating in the interview
with her older brothers, she would like it to be on record that
her favorite thing about life at the Seminary is the donuts!
The artwork in the table of contents is hers!


Requires RealPlayer

Hear Nate and Si's recording with the Trinity Church MBG Choir: Let the People Praise Thee, by W. Mathias. Copyright 1997.

running time 5:34
20Kbps stream


Copyright 1998 Princeton Theological Seminary
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