Asquith Memories -- by Brian H. Childs

07 Apr 2017 6:21 PM | Perry Miller, Editor (Administrator)

In 1984 Glenn Asquith went on sabbatical for a year of study away from Moravian Theological Seminary in Bethlehem,PA. If I recall he went to Europe for a while and also worked on his Boisen project. The president of Moravian College of which the seminary was a part, asked Seward Hiltner to drive from Princeton to Bethlehem to stay for two days and teach the courses and advise in the Th,M. program which Glenn would normally do. Seward agreed so long that if he needed backup I would come in to take over. At that time I was a lecturer at Princeton Theological Seminary and director of clinical training at the Trinity Counseling Service. 

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving of that year I got a call at my office at Trinity from Helen Hiltner telling me that she and Ann, their daughter,  had come back from Thanksgiving grocery shopping and found Seward dead on the recliner in the living room. There was a flurry of activity and one of the responsibilities was a call to Moravian and my being told to come to the seminary on Tuesday of the next week to assume my responsibility in Seward's stead.

It was a long and cold two hour drive in my heaterless VW Beatle convertible over the mountains of Northwest New Jersey to Bethlehem. I was ushered into Glenn's office by a secretary and I sat there for an hour before my first class. I went over Seward's syllabus for that particular course. I was in a fugue state and for all the world just went through the motions. I was not at all sure I was up to the task. I actually sobbed until I was interrupted by the Dean who came to introduce himself. He was noticeably uncomfortable with what he found.

I decided to process Seward's sudden death with the class. Seward in just that brief period of time, maybe five weeks, made quite an impression on the students, not all of it good because I suspect that these good and gentle Moravians and Mennonites were not used to the direct and brusk  Seward Hiltner in comparison to the gentle soul that was Glenn Asquith. Glenn, though, had one very dry and wicked sense of humor. He had a chuckle that was endearing.

I spent the year teaching there and much to my surprise I was invited deliver the commencement address of the seminary in May 1985.

I was wise enough to take the offer of one of the old Council hands who had retired from Allentown State Hospital, Dean Bergen, to meet with him every Tuesday for lunch before my first class that day. Dean was trained by Guiles and of course worked with Hiltner in the early days before the making of ACPE. Dean was of that old school, two martini lunch kind of guy  who really cared about me and the students at Moravian and was a real mentor and help in my own grief. I owe him and indirectly Glenn and of course Seward for any contribution I have made to the cause.

I felt a strong need to leave Princeton after that and was offered a position as associate professor of pastoral theology at Columbia in Atlanta and joined their faculty the summer of 1986. That same year a number of us, about twenty, founded the Society of Pastoral Theology and had our first meeting in Denver at the Brown Palace. Chuck Gerkin, Charlie Brown, Sandra Brown, Don Browning, Jim lapsley, Emma Justice and the other leaders of the field were among the 20 or so. Glenn was there and I shared with him what I have shared with you now.

When we gave Glenn the Dunbar award in Chicago I reminded him again about our Moravian connection and we reminisced a bit about those days. I knew Glenn was ill and sensed I would not see him again.  Aeternum vale.


Brian H. Childs