November 12, 2007
By laura sommer
Benjamin Anthony grew up nominally Christian. Not to say that his family didn't go to church on occasion: They did. But, it wasn't until Anthony was an adult that he got serious about his faith, electing to be baptized at age 20.
Following his baptism, Anthony's faith continued to blossom. He soon found himself on a path to priesthood. "My sense of wanting to be a priest was something I was first aware of during the spring semester of my junior year of college. I was studying abroad in Prague and had just been baptized two weeks before I left. The Anglican Church became my second home while I was there,” he says.
Now, at age 29, Anthony has been named Episcopal chaplain to Emory University. He says it is the exact type of work he has longed for since making the decision to pursue ordained ministry. "I wanted a vocation that allowed me to be exactly who I am in a way that allowed other people to be exactly who they are. I wanted to be someone whose primary responsibility is to be curious about the human heart."
In his new role as chaplain, Anthony coordinates the Episcopal Campus Ministry at Emory and serves as a pastor to the University's students and faculty on behalf of the Diocese of Atlanta. Some of his tasks include developing opportunities for prayer and fellowship, working with other chaplains to foster an environment that encourages — and benefits from — religious expression, visiting Episcopalians in Emory Hospital, meeting with students over coffee or for lunch, and “deliberately loitering” at Emory community events.
Anthony most recently served as associate priest for youth and young adults at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Atlanta. He is a familiar face at Emory: Anthony has taught courses in systematic theology, preaching and public worship as an adjunct teaching assistant and received a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology in 2003.
He says his prior experience makes it possible for him to have a good handle on what weighs heaviest on the hearts of those in the Emory community. "I think that the biggest issue facing almost everyone at Emory is the prospect of an imbalanced life. In a context in which achievement and expertise are the coin of the realm, excess can become a virtue. But, excess eventually deforms those who pursue it," Anthony says. "And I try to avoid giving advice. Mostly, I try to listen. Advice is usually unwarranted and undesired. But, to listen and to appreciate someone for their particularity — these are the gifts I want to give."
Anthony also uses his listening skills to create music. "I have turntables and collect disco, dance and house music on vinyl. I got into turntables when I was in college and had a group of friends who were also into electronic music. I was fascinated by the idea of using a playback device as a musical instrument."
Additionally, Anthony is drawn to running, rock-climbing and reading, especially books that receive good reviews in The New York Times. He knows he has to live a balanced life if he intends to practice what he preaches.
Anthony is also well aware of the big shoes he has to fill. He succeeds the Rev. Nancy Baxter, who is retiring after serving as Emory’s Episcopal chaplain for 25 years. Nevertheless, he says he is up for the challenge.
"I'd like to equip a community with the resources to be deeply religious, fiercely imaginative and passionately reasonable. I’d like to nurture a religious community that enacts its faith without being shrill or irrelevant. More than anything else, I want to be able to say that I cared for the people sent my way."