One recent morning, Andrew Craver walked to his office in Bethel, Alaska, in -25F weather with 15MPH winds. To provide some context, Bethel is farther west in Alaska than Anchorage, which is a 1.25-hour plane ride southeast. In January, the sun rises at about 10:30am and sets at about 5:30pm. Andrew says “Before I graduated from Moravian Theological Seminary I had some idea that Jenna (my wife) and I could be called to Alaska, and had given some thought to what life might look like here, but even Bethlehem winters could not have prepared me for this new, very cold, normal.”
Can you share a bit about your life since graduation?
In August I was installed as an ordained minister to serve with Bethel Moravian Church in Bethel, AK. My wife Jenna and I moved to Alaska in early September with our cat (Mowgli) and basset hound (Muxia). This is our first winter here in Bethel, but we are weathering it well so far. We are working toward greater involvement in our community as we learn more about Bethel and the way people have lived here for generations.
The history of Moravians in the south-western region of Alaska is nearly 140 years long, and I learn more about our denomination here every day. In Bethel, our congregation serves a large Native Alaskan population, most obviously through Sunday evening worship services using the regional native language: Yup'ik.
The congregation with whom I serve is in the community of Bethel (pop. approx. 7,000). Though the temperatures can get quite chilly, the people here are warm and hospitable. As far removed as we may seem from the dense Moravian centers of the Lehigh Valley and Winston-Salem areas, my wife Jenna and I feel quite at home here and are happy to report that the Moravian spirit of unity in diversity is alive and well in Bethel, AK.
I have also continued my work as a US Army Reserve Chaplain and currently serve a transportation unit based in Honolulu, HI. In November I fulfilled the final requirements and received assignment orders for chaplaincy in the US Army.
Jenna is currently working as a teacher in a special education classroom at the preschool level.
What is one thing from your time in Seminary that you use in your professional or personal life?
One of the most important realizations that I had at MTS was seeing the current rate of transition in and around American churches right now. Helping a congregation use scripture to navigate the political, cultural, and social flux of a week's worth of 24-hour news cycles seems to be a theme I deal with in conversation—and sometimes preaching—at every church function. Dr. Appler's class on politics and the Old Testament stands out most vividly as a moment when I realized how deeply impactful pastors can be as helpers for congregants who need to see peace and hope in a time when shouting matches are broadcasted as news on a variety of platforms. Ensuring that our sanctuaries are sanctuaries for all people in moments of celebration and mourning is one of my most important missions.
What advice would you give to students in Seminary now?
Use your assignments to your advantage. You should absolutely fulfill the requirements assigned but work within those boundaries to learn about the areas you find most interesting or even fun. Moravian Seminary stands upright today because students before have found the institution useful and helpful for fulfilling a need to grow in service both for the communities who have needs and for the people whose hearts are called to serve—whether as pastors, as counselors, as students of theology, or as spiritual directors. Your seminary years are a great time to learn about your own calling, and I think that the best way to explore that calling is to use the assignments laid before you to consider how you might be of most effective service beyond the syllabi.