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Minister Connects to Others Through Writing

Minister connects on human level through writing


That Spencerport resident David Seaburn took an interest in religious studies and even became a parish minister is something of a running joke in his strongly Presbyterian family.

“As a kid, I hated church. My parents told me I came back looking noticeably glum after Sunday school, and always had a reason not to stay for church,” Seaburn says with a chuckle.

But things changed in his teens.

“I had a minister that I really connected with and became involved in prayer practice — it was a transformative experience,” he explains.

Interestingly, television also played a role in shaping his life’s path. In 1968, after viewing a show about people entering the budding field of ecology, Seaburn was so impressed with the transformative nature of the field that he was motivated to pursue that path as well.

However, since he had become involved in a faith-based endeavor and science was not his strong suit, he opted for what he calls “human ecology,” or influencing people in a larger sense, on a systems level, and decided to go into ministry.

After attending seminary at Boston University’s School of Theology and receiving ordination from his home presbytery in Pennsylvania, Seaburn accepted a position at a small rural parish in north Bergen, Genesee County..

It was a gratifying experience, filled with meaningful moments.

During Seaburn’s first year of ministry, a 14-year old congregant, who had joined the church’s ruling body as its first youth representative, suddenly fell ill and died a week later.  Seaburn still recalls the boy greeting him with, “I knew you would come,” when he had visited him in the hospital.

Devastated by the loss, Seaburn still found the strength to conduct the funeral and serve as spiritual support and guide to the family. Being able to serve in that capacity confirmed that going into ministry was the right choice. Though there were other validating experiences, personal factors caused Seaburn to conclude that pastoral ministry was not for him.

He did not have to search long for his next career. While still a parish minister, he had the opportunity to conduct supervised counseling of prisoners and others, and found it to his liking. “I realized that I was empathic, a pretty good listener and could help people,” he says.  Hence his decision to earn a master’s in counseling and become a licensed marriage and family therapist.

In addition to his clinical practice, his interests widened to include mental health and later family medicine and he earned a doctorate in psychology.

In his nearly 20-year association with the University of Rochester, Seaburn distinguished himself in a variety of roles within the disciplines of psychiatry and family medicine. Ultimately, he became director of the University of Rochester’s Medical Center of Family Therapy. Subsequent to his years at the university, he served as director of Spencerport Central School District’s Family Support Center.

In 2000, Seaburn began to write fiction. Previously, he had written theologically based poetry, sermons and academic books. However, the fiction novels he writes today were informed by his earlier writing.

Carol Podgorski, who first encountered Seaburn 15 years ago when he was her mentor and clinical supervisor in UR’s Marriage and Family Therapy master’s program, perceives him as someone on a lifelong quest to fully understand and connect to the human condition.'

"This is the essence of who he was as a family therapist and I see it now in his writing as well, in how he gives shape and voice to his characters,” says Podgorski,

Seaburn’s belief that he could start writing even if he did not know where he was going gave him the courage to try his hand at fiction. That belief “captures so much of what life is about,” he says. “Going out not knowing,” much as biblical Abraham did, is the theme, as well, of the blog he writes for Psychology Today Magazine.

“I have known Dave Seaburn for almost 30 years,” says friend and fellow writer Terry Werth. “He can be quiet and almost shy, when in fact, I believe he is observing people and connecting with them on a very human level that ultimately finds its way into his writing.”

Since his early days as a fiction novelist, Seaburn has successfully written five books.

His latest: More More Time, inspired by his granddaughter’s request for “more, more time” to play with her grandfather, focuses on the passage of time and Seaburn’s observation that “We’d do well to pay attention to the shortness of time we have in our lives.”






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