Like many in the Unification Community, I was first introduced to Dr. Dietrich Seidel at our beloved Unification Theological Seminary (UTS) in Barrytown, NY.
I was a “late arriving” student in the fall of 1987 having needing a while to straighten my affairs before becoming a member of the historical class of ’89. Dr. Seidel was one of my professors and little did I know that he, like me was “new at this.” (I Only recently found out this was his first year as a professor at UTS).
As a “new student” and as one, like many UTS students at the time, who had been away from “formal education” for a while, it was hard to get those old “gears” grinding away again. I struggled.
This whole “studying theology” in a university setting was new to me and extremely difficult. My most recent “theological training” had been as a “boots on the ground” missionary for the Unification Church. I found myself struggling to stay awake in my classes and especially Dr. Seidel’s theology course (right after lunch) who with his bright smile and thick German accent, found a way to make the complex…even more complex! I couldn’t understand why, for the love of God, we had to make all this “God stuff” so…complicated?! He was or…He wasn’t. That was my theology.
But Dr.Seidel was a kind and compassionate, patient man and he did his best to help myself and all his students understand “the complexities.” I can remember numerous “round table” discussions in the dining halls (the tables were…round) during mealtime and at all hours of the night where we would have intense discussions (debates?) on all topics including and beyond theology. Dr. Seidel was always an engaging presence full of smiles and laughter that made me…more interested in all this “academic stuff.” And he like me, had a young family with him at the seminary, which was rare, at the time.
The two years went quickly and I graduated, a miracle, perhaps to many, finding myself somewhat enlightened by the likes of my experience and friendships with students and professors…hopefully…with some theological knowledge thanks to Dr. Seidel!
But perhaps even greater was my appreciation of Dr. Seidel as a friend, which was greatly enhanced much later as former student and teacher encountered each other again in Cheong Pyeong in the South Korean spiritual training facility of the Unification Church, which at that time was conducting intense spiritual workshops for families. At the time of our meeting he was a “Western leader” of a 40 day workshop group of which my myself and my two daughters joined for twenty one days while my wife participated with a Japanese group for 21 days.
I believe he had been there for some weeks before we arrived as he seemed comfortable and confident in his role as group leader of a “hodge podge” of western unification families including men, children and teenagers, a daunting task, as you might imagine. But he did his best with a sense of humor and always a bright smile, through many challenging circumstances, he took it all in stride.
It was at Cheong Pyeong where I found in Dr. Seidel, a friend. No longer “my professor” he was a trusted elder brother, a friend a confidant. He helped me and my family “negotiate” the complexities of living in close quarters with literally tens of thousands of other sojourners. We had many days and nights of conversations and discussions on a variety of topics ranging from how to raise rowdy teenage girls to deep philosophical and spiritual questions. He made my brief stay a rich warm experience that I will treasure always.
One of the most profound insights that I gained from my friendship and camaraderie with Dr. Seidel was that, although it was interesting to “talk about God” and complex theological principles, it was far more important and compelling, to represent “the face of God” and the expression of Divine love in everyday life. In that…he was a great example for me. Thank you Dr.Seidel for your great love, compassion and generosity.
With love and gratitude,
Sincerely, Gregory Davis