On the mind of the Rev. Adrian Dannhauser

Jan 4, 2024

It is a great pleasure to share the good news that on January 1, 2024, the Rev. Dr. Nate Lee became Associate Rector at Church of the Incarnation. This new title recognizes and acknowledges the vital contributions he makes to our life as a parish. I know my own ministry is blessed and strengthened by his presence among us, and I know too that my experience is widely shared.

Incarnation’s mission statement includes an emphasis on “intellectual exploration.” I hired Nate with that exact phrase in mind. Nate is a superb teacher, gifted writer, and adept and thoughtful preacher. He is truly one of the most brilliant people I know.

Nate came to us in the fall of 2021, having just earned his PhD in Religion from Baylor University. Much of his work at Incarnation has focused on Christian Education, and Nate has continued to lean into the academic side of his vocation. He is an adjunct professor at St. John’s University and Drew Theological School and regularly presents papers at academic conferences.

We are so fortunate to have someone of Nate’s credentials, caliber, and charisma helping us live into the Gospel teachings of Jesus. And it is always a joy when I get to co-teach a class with him. Our upcoming class called The Heart of Christianity, starting Wednesday, January 24, will be one of those occasions. Stay tuned for details!

I remember working with Nate to craft a series on the Holy Spirit in the Spring of 2022. During one of the classes, Nate asked everyone how it is that Jesus can pray. If Jesus is God, why would he pray to God?

I jokingly volunteered that we all talk to ourselves multiple times a day. (Psychologists call this “self-talk.”) Jesus praying is just God talking to Godself. Ha, ha. I didn’t get a single laugh.

Nate gave a much more sophisticated answer grounded in the reality of the Trinity. He essentially said while we worship a monotheistic God, there must be more than one person in the Godhead if (a) God is love and (b) God is entirely noncontingent, or self-sufficient.

In order to be love, God must have an object to love. But if God is self-sufficient (i.e., if God needs nothing), then God can’t depend on something outside God’s own self to be that object. The solution is for God to be – within God’s own self – a loving relationship. Therefore, there must be at least two persons in the Godhead. How do we get from two to three in the Trinity? You’ll have to ask Nate. But let’s just say my mind was blown over his teaching about “intra-trinitarian relationality.”

In addition to enhancing our intellectual exploration, Nate has deepened our commitment to helping newcomers and new members find their way into the life of the parish, taken a lead on young adult, youth, and family ministries, and shepherded the Spiritual Development Committee, Racial Reconciliation Group, and seasonal lay-led book studies. He also has been vital to our stewardship campaigns and will be taking a role in the upcoming capital campaign for the restoration of the organ.

Finally, it goes without saying that Nate’s young sons, Ezekiel (Zeke) and Malachi (Chi), have added greatly to the life and joy of our parish.

As we seek to become Jesus’ disciples and fulfill our call to actively share the love of Christ, I hope you will join me in giving thanks to God and to Nate for the gifts he brings to our congregation.