Honorable Clergymen

Most of us probably watched the Super Bowl this past Sunday night (just to see Linnea’s son Davis rock that palm tree in the halftime show). I really didn’t care which team won, but there was a person on the sidelines for the New England Patriots who caught my attention – their chaplain, Jack Easterby.

Jack Easterby, chaplain of the New England Patriots

Jack Easterby, chaplain of the New England Patriots

The typical team chaplain is a pastor at a local church who volunteers to host Saturday chapel for 10 or so players who attend and is compensated with cash in a collection plate. In New England, Easterby has an office. He 
hosts Bible study, works coaches’ hours in his office counseling players and their wives, throws passes in practice to Darrelle Revis and sometimes even jumps in on scout-team drills. When he’s not listening, he’s texting. When he’s not texting, he’s writing players and coaches individual notes, recapping their personal goals and reminding them of how thankful he is to know them. He prefers to be called a character coach, not a chaplain, because he doesn’t push religion on anyone. “He just wants to love you,” Slater says. “He just wants to be your friend. How can you not love a guy like that?”

I’ve never met Easterby personally, but I’ve known about him for several years as the University of South Carolina campus director of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. My future son-in-law did an internship with him a few summers ago. In 2005, he got a job as the academic adviser for the Gamecocks men’s basketball team. He began hosting Bible study for all of USC’s athletes and coaches, and he learned how to bond with all kinds of young men — fatherless, fathers themselves, black, white, rich, poor — by focusing like a laser on what they needed, not what he wanted. “Jack cut across all religious beliefs,” says then-coach Dave Odom.

He still lives in Columbia, SC, with his wife and two young daughters. He travels to Foxborough for Thursday through Monday, but he sees himself as a character coach more than a team chaplain.

There are very few admirable men of the cloth in Austen’s writings. Henry Tilney and Edward Ferrars are the only two which come to mind. I’ve already mentioned Edward in a previous post, so the spotlight is on Henry today.

Tilney (Northanger Abbey)is intelligent and witty. He’s fairly handsome, loyal to his family, particularly his sister Elinor, and attracted to the heroine Catherine Morland. When Catherine is dismissed in disgrace from his ancestral home while he is on his own estate, he follows her, apologizes for his previous misunderstanding of her, and proposes. There is no hint of a Collins in the man – no subservient, overly complimentary tendencies. No fawning. He is straightforward and honest.

JJ Feild as Tilney

JJ Feild as Tilney

Peter Firth in the role of Henry Tilney

Peter Firth in the role of Henry Tilney

8 thoughts on “Honorable Clergymen

  1. Laura Hile

    Your guest list for that wedding boggles the mind. It reads like the college football hall of fame or something. There are men who, if they knew who is coming, would crash that reception for sure!

    I’m thinking that like Jane, you could write modern clergymen who are just as self-serving as Collins. As a pastor’s wife, what you see is a lot! On the other hand, you are in the position to recognize the real deal when you see it. No rose colored glasses are worn by you.

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    1. Robin Helm Post author

      I have no rose colored glasses about any aspect of ministry. In fact, I constantly fight cynicism about highly public religious figures. Jack Easterby is the real deal. I’m not that easily impressed, but he impresses me. What a position to be in! He was able to help that team through the Hernandez debacle, and he’s been counseling them through deflategate. I know he’s been very influential in the lives of U of SC athletes.

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  2. Susan Kaye

    Behind the curtain is an ugly place to go.

    Now about Tilney. Just can’t feel it. I’ve read all the Tilney-ite propaganda and still am unmoved. Yeah, he followed her to her home, but she still had to get there by herself. What a putz. (His only excuse is youth. But I don’t grade on a curve.)

    Good post.

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    1. Robin Helm Post author

      He followed her as soon as he knew she had been sent away. He didn’t know about it when it happened.

      I’m not a huge Tilney fan, but I think he’s a good guy.

      Thanks!

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  3. C. Allyn Pierson

    I had no idea that any NFL teams had a full time chaplain…that is so cool! This kind of person might just be able to safe some of these players from the horrendous mistakes many of them make in their lives…an adult who cares about them and keeps an eye on them (and not just for their football skills) is a valuable commodity!

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    1. Robin Helm Post author

      I didn’t know it either, so I was pleasantly surprised. Easterby is one of my future son-in-law’s mentors, but I had no idea that he was the chaplain for the Patriots.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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