Dr. Christine Nelson, Director of Seminary Advancement at Moravian College/Theological Seminary
Photography by Jadrian Klinger
When asked about a guiding philosophy, Dr. Christine Nelson says, “Just keep going.”
For Dr. Nelson, that would be an understatement.
At 61, Dr. Nelson is currently the director of Seminary Advancement at Moravian College/Theological Seminary in Bethlehem. Officially, that translates to Dr. Nelson planning, guiding and leading the institution’s overall development.
But, in her words, that rather dry definition translates to giving people “the opportunities to support their alma mater, or support the mission of the seminary, [or] to help prepare people for their vocation,” whether that be pastor, teacher, counselor or chaplain at a hospital or nursing facility.
It sounds like a weighty job. But Dr. Nelson, who lives in Allentown, is used to challenges.
Her past efforts have included serving as executive director of the Lehigh County Conference of Churches, a nonprofit faith-based organization that included taking on homelessness in the Allentown area as part of its goals. Dr. Nelson co-chaired an ambitious 2007 plan with Lisa Pawlowski, wife of Allentown mayor Ed Pawlowski, to end chronic homelessness in the city by 2017.
Though no longer officially involved in that project, Dr. Nelson stays in touch with the people behind the plan.
Homelessness does not get the spotlight it did in years past, but, as Dr. Nelson says, facing it is “still very much a need.”
Dr. Nelson grew up in western Pennsylvania in “a very typical family. People had a great deal of respect for creation and God.”
How Dr. Nelson came to take the path she did is “a funny story,” she admits.
It was in college – Dr. Nelson began her collegiate education at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania – where “I began to explore faith,” she recalls. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.
It was “a highly marketable degree – I say that tongue-in-cheek! My mother wanted me to get a nice job in a bank.”
But something else was calling. A friend of Dr. Nelson’s was preparing for seminary work. Dr. Nelson was impressed that women could answer the call to the ministry. That opened a door.
“I got [involved] in a local church, the United Church of Christ,” Dr. Nelson remembers. Eventually, she achieved a degree as Doctor of Ministry, Congregational Growth, at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. That led her to where she is today.
Although she keeps active in her work, which includes a faith-based column in The Morning Call, she does manage to wind down.
In that department, Dr. Nelson enjoys what she calls an “eclectic” taste in music – anything from the Beach Boys to Motown to jazz – and theater. She’s a big fan of Act 1 Productions, a theater company based at DeSales University.
She also gives a shout-out to the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team; her LinkedIn profile sports the cheer, “Go Huskies!” Dr. Nelson is also a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dr. Nelson’s family includes her mother, two sisters, one brother and “five nieces and nephews.” She recently visited one of her nephews who lives and works in Korea.
Dr. Nelson admits she doesn’t have a bucket list, that sheet of goals to check off before one dies. But when asked if she has any unfulfilled goals, she replies, “I can’t say world peace?’
Dr. Nelson thinks for a minute and sums up that she just wants to “contribute where I am,” and encourages others to do the same in a world that can seem overwhelming in its problems.
“Simply look around yourself,” she says. “[Look] where you live, where you work. Get involved.”