Daniel Heath, a 2020 MDiv graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and the Seminary's first student life resident, has taken a creative approach to community building, particularly during this time when connecting in person is challenging.
“I try to reimagine ways to sprinkle in memorable moments to bring people out of their daily routines and allow them to experience community, as we’re used to experiencing in the dining hall and chapel,” he says.
Activities have included an outdoor summer art gallery, a children’s garden tour, virtual cooking classes, and a socially distanced Halloween celebration. This focus on community is one of the factors that initially drew Heath to Princeton Seminary, and he made his final decision to attend after seeing the playground at the Charlotte Rachel Wilson (CRW) campus.
“I felt as if Princeton Seminary had planned not just for me, but for my whole family, and that’s the lens through which I view my call — I serve the whole community, students and their families however defined,” he says. “I’m looking at how all community members can participate in community. Students, partners and spouses, children, and pets…they’re all part of who we are.”
Serving as student life resident encompasses all areas of Heath’s calling, he says: community building, pastoral care, worship, and diversity initiatives. As an ordained pastor, Heath serves students and their partners and spouses in joys, concerns, and vocation discernment. Leading worship is one of his favorite ways to serve at Princeton Seminary, whether preaching, reading scripture, praying, or participating in offering music.
This spring, Heath is excited to be working with Victor Aloyo, vice president and associate dean of institutional diversity and community engagement at Princeton Seminary, on the antiracism task force and urban ministry committee. “We’re looking at how this work can become part of the fabric of Princeton Seminary,” Heath says.
Heath’s other projects this year have included expanding the community garden at CRW and working with students to develop an outdoor labyrinth. A popular fixture at CRW, the garden expansion will enable more students to grow their own food and connect with the land. Heath views the labyrinth as an exciting opportunity for community development — students will be able to participate in its design and construction each year, using sustainable materials to create a space they and peers can use to meet with friends or engage in prayerful contemplation.
When asked what he has built in his first 10 months as student life resident, Heath says, “I have built nothing, but have participated in what God is building. When I step back, I can testify to what God is doing and God invites all of us to participate in that work. There is no burden or pressure; all joy. In my role and call, I get to do rather than I have to do.”