Rev. David G. Kegler, M.Div. BCC
Many people of faith say there are no coincidences. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Rev. David G. Kegler, M.Div. BCC, finds himself in the position of Director of Spiritual Care and Lead Chaplain at Simpson House. Not only has Reverend Kegler known of the community his whole life, but his grandmother moved to Simpson House in 2010 and lived here until she passed five years later. During that time, Bob Walk served as Chaplain, a post he held for 20 years until he stepped down recently. Now chaplain emeritus, Bob and his wife came to live at Simpson House in 2019, so he was able to provide transitional support when David joined the spiritual care team in March 2021.
It’s all come full circle. Today you might see David giving a sermon in the Jane Henry Chapel, visiting residents in every part of the community or preparing programming.
“As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m working to re-engage volunteers and putting new programs in place, creating new things and rebuilding,” says David.
Bringing a broad perspective
A native of the Logan section of Germantown by way of Richard Allen housing projects, David brings a diverse skill set to his role at Simpson House. His career has spanned the corporate world, work as a social anthropologist in Texas, and 10 years as an administrator at the University of Pennsylvania.
He grew up in a household that valued music and education. Trained as an opera singer, David attended Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and received a bachelor’s degree in music from Boston University. While in Boston, he first volunteered for, and became an employee at the AIDS Action Committee. He went to seminary at Drexel Hill Baptist Church/The Green Church and earned a Master of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. Today he is affiliated with the American Baptist church, the most diverse of the Baptist denominations, and the Philadelphia Baptist Association.
As part of the journey toward becoming a board-certified healthcare chaplain, David served his first year-long residency in clinical pastoral education at Penn Medicine, where he worked on the labor and delivery/women’s health, trauma and medical intensive care units. He did his second one-year residency at The Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he stayed for another year while studying to take the board exams. He worked in the behavioral health and neurology units and spent time as a hospice chaplain as well.
“Those residencies were a super-educated, intense experience of addressing needs,” he recalls.
Seeing and listening to seniors with reverence
Meeting the needs of older adults is a lot like meeting the needs of other groups David worked with during his residencies. What’s the main difference?
“Seniors have seen more sunrises,” he says. He understands that seniors are not a monolithic group—they are individuals, and he respects the dignity of the lives they have lived.
As a continuing care retirement community, Simpson House provides independent living, personal care, skilled nursing and end-of-life care.
“With seniors, you are ministering as they are transitioning from one reality to another” across the continuum of care,” David says. The important thing is addressing people where they are, and being aware and culturally appropriate.
“You can’t help someone if you don’t ‘see’ them,” David explains. “I try to bring a ‘reverent ear’ to the seniors in my ministry and to be a loving presence regardless of the individual’s faith tradition, if any.”
Sunday services and beyond
Although it is related historically and by mission to the Methodist Church, Simpson House welcomes those of all faiths, and today it is home to a diverse and vibrant faith community. The community holds regular Sunday and Wednesday services, as well as holiday services, bible studies, rosary groups on Tuesdays and Fridays, Keeping of the Hour, Lenten observation, devotionals and other community prayer time. Chaplains make daily rounds and will also visit and/or offer prayer upon request.
“If there is a need we cannot address, I’ll find an individual from outside to help,” David explains. For example, he’ll bring in leaders of different faiths, such as priests, imams, etc. He is also incorporating technology to make services available to more people in the community. Thanks to a camera in the chapel, those who cannot attend Sunday or Wednesday services in person can watch on in-house Channel 3.
Services are only one way that Simpson House meets the spiritual needs of its residents. One of David’s goals is “to bring 21st-century context to the living word of God. The Good News is for everyone.”
To that end, a Spiritual Growth Group that meets in Constitution Hall is designed to foster illuminating and inclusive conversations about current, past and future events with a leaning toward spiritual growth. In the past, the group has discussed such topics as critical race theory, Jesus and bias, the justice system, and keeping the faith when faced with challenging circumstances.
Community, family and fun
In his role at Simpson House, David is “chaplain to all, pastor to some.” Unlike a congregational leader, he ministers to everyone, not just those who attend his Sunday service.
“As a chaplain, you minister to all the people you come in contact with, including residents, families, coworkers, etc.,” he explains. “You are out there and have direct contact with the people you minister to, day in and day out.”
In his free time, David focuses on his own personal relationship with God. He enjoys movies and exercising and loves a good meal. Every year, he takes a trip to Cape Cod, and he also spends time with family. When anyone asks about his workplace, he tells them that Simpson House “is a beautiful, beloved community of inclusion and diversity.”