New Takoma Academy Chaplain Makes Easy Transition
Story by Salena Fitzgerald
One of Takoma Academy’s (TA) missions is to lead young people to Jesus by helping students maintain a strong spiritual life. While the faculty and staff make a team effort to provide spiritual guidance to the students, the role of a chaplain is to expand on it. This was no challenge for new hire Leah Burgess, affectionally known as “Chaplain B. Leah,” who was welcomed to the Tiger family late last year.
Burgess was born in Marlton, N.J., and graduated from high school in 1995. She then attended William Paterson University of New Jersey and graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in African, African American and Caribbean Studies. She is currently furthering her education and pursuing a Masters of Divinity at Howard University School of Divinity (DC).
Prior to TA, Burgess was very active in the community. In 2002 she began her ministry in victim advocacy and gave 17 years of service as a victim advocate and community educator in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. As an advocate, she served in a local rape crisis center, the Dartmouth College sexual abuse awareness program and the sex offender supervision unit in Manchester, Conn.
Burgess observes that “serving people in crises after experiencing sexual violence trauma taught me how to see, walk with and listen to the most vulnerable of these. It gave me the tools to walk with young people who are often excluded, criticized and/or overlooked.”
Her activism has carried over into the church setting. Burgess is an elder, prayer coordinator and a member of the pastoral staff at the Restoration Praise Center (RPC) church in Bowie, Md. She is married and partnered in ministry with Ché Burgess, a volunteer lay pastor at RPC and a 2020 graduate majoring in Theology at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Md. Together they have three children, TA student Dance (’22) and 8-year-old twins Michael and Gabriel.
Shortly after being hired, Burgess didn’t waste time connecting with students and implementing new traditions. “When I was hired, I was impressed by God to show/share with TA students and the community at-large how to live, listen and love,” she says.
Often forgetting that young people deal with many stresses and crises in life, Burgess responded to the Holy Spirit and developed “Nap’el” (Chapel), a monthly experience designed to offer students reflection and rest.
Sherina Moses, the senior class president, says, “Chaplain B. Leah has been very much a mother figure here at TA. My senior year has been very stressful. I’ve gone to her several times, and it’s always a judge-free zone. She is always so open and honest.”