Remembering David L. Habegger

Published: April 28, 2020

David L. Habegger, Rel.D., 94, an AMBS alumnus and former employee, died March 30 in Elkhart, Indiana, at the home of his daughter Becky.

David studied in Chicago at Mennonite Biblical Seminary (one of the seminaries that formed AMBS) and Bethany Biblical Seminary (now Bethany Theological Seminary), earning a Bachelor of Divinity in 1949. He later served as Admissions Counselor of Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart on a one-third time basis from September 1967 to August 1971; the other two-thirds were as pastor of Hively Avenue Mennonite Church in Elkhart. From August 1986 through August 1987, he was Director of the Great Plains Seminary Education Program, a conference-based initiative co-sponsored by Western District and South Central conferences in North Newton, Kansas.

David received AMBS’s Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition in 2011 for his contributions to the church — including congregational and conference ministry, denominational service and seminary recruitment.

Lois Y. Barrett, Ph.D., of Wichita, Kansas, Retired Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies at AMBS, didn’t overlap with David while he served at the seminary but knew him as pastor of her church, Mennonite Church of the Servant in Wichita.

“Even after he was no longer employed by AMBS, he was still recruiting students for the seminary,” she recalls. “David was one of the important people who encouraged me to go to seminary, particularly AMBS, in 1980.” (Lois retired in 2018 after 16 years of service to AMBS.)

Memorial services for David will be held at Hively Avenue Mennonite Church in Elkhart at a future date.


David Luther Habegger
1925 – 2020

David Luther Habegger, 94, died March 30, 2020, in Elkhart, Indiana, at the home of his daughter Becky. He was born June 15, 1925, to Barbara (Hirschy) and Alfred Habegger, in Busby, Montana, where his parents served as General Conference Mennonite missionaries among the Northern Cheyenne people. The Montana years were formative and lasting, in that he deeply enjoyed remembering the Busby sand hills and singing Cheyenne hymns in his final years.

David attended Busby Indian School, was homeschooled for one year, and spent two years of high school in Berne, Indiana. He graduated in 1946 from Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas, where he met LaVeta Loganbill of Hillsboro, Kansas. They married on Aug. 18, 1946, after which David completed studies at Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Bachelor of Divinity from Bethany Biblical Seminary, 1949) in Chicago, Illinois. They were commissioned by the General Conference Foreign Mission Board and joined his parents serving the Northern Cheyenne people. They returned to Chicago so David could pursue studies at Garrett Theological Seminary at Northwestern University (M.A., 1953). In 1965 he completed a doctorate of religion at Claremont School of Theology in California, writing his thesis on “The Mission of the First Mennonite Church of Upland, California.”

In his 42-year ministry, David pastored Bethany (now White River Cheyenne) Mennonite Church, Busby, Montana; Petter Memorial Mennonite Church, Lame Deer, Montana; Carlock (Illinois) Mennonite Church; First Mennonite Church, Allentown, Pennsylvania; First Mennonite Church, Upland, California; Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, Elkhart, Indiana; Mennonite Church of the Servant, Wichita, Kansas; and First Mennonite Church, Urbana, Illinois. Other employment included I-W regional coordinator for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), admissions counselor for Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, and Western District Conference staff, including church planting. He actively supported the work of committees on both district conference and national levels, and attended all of the General Conference Mennonite Church (GCMC) triennial sessions from 1941 to 2001. He promoted GCMC congregations becoming dually affiliated with the Mennonite Church, was an early proponent of integration, and attended Mennonite Church USA conventions through the Pittsburgh assembly in 2011. He also participated in six Mennonite World Conference gatherings in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands and France.

David sought to support the church as a witness for peace and reconciliation, which included organizing silent peace vigils, counseling those considering conscientious objection to military service, promoting social justice within the biblical framework of Jubilee, and advocating for the mentally ill. Concerned about making the church relevant, he encouraged developing annual faith covenants, creating small “koinoinia” groups within a congregation, and considering alternate church forms, such as the house church that led to Wichita’s Church of the Servant. His faith led him to commit his family to a life of stewardship and simplicity. David bequeathed them his love of singing; at age 90 he could sing by memory more than 100 traditional hymns, gospel songs, Sunday School choruses, and contemporary religious songs.

David’s interest in family history resulted in books on the Peter and Elisabeth (Lehman) Habegger family and the Hirschy families as well as 18 articles in “Mennonite Family History” journal. In 1995 he helped found the Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association to bring together genealogists and to digitize genealogical records of Swiss, German, French, Austrian and eastern U.S. immigrant families with Anabaptist roots. He willingly created an “Ahnentafel” or genealogical record for persons interested in knowing more about their European Anabaptist ancestors. He and LaVeta enjoyed leading several family history tours to Europe.

David received the 2011 Alumni Ministry and Service Award from Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (now Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) in recognition of his contributions to the church, including congregational and conference ministry, denominational service, and seminary recruitment.

Survivors include five children, Rachel (John) Pannabecker of North Newton, Kansas; Nathan Habegger of Nantes, France; Christen (Patricia) Habegger, Rebecca (Roger) Zehr, and Peter Habegger, all of Elkhart, Indiana; 11 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his wife, LaVeta; his parents; and six siblings, Marden Habegger, Jeanne Boehr, Helen Fretz, Esther Sauder, Lois Habegger and Bernard Habegger.

Memorial services will be held at Hively Avenue Mennonite Church, Elkhart, at a future date, with burial at the First Mennonite Church of Christian cemetery in Moundridge, Kansas. Memorial contributions may be sent to White River Cheyenne Mennonite Church in Busby, Montana; Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary; Bethel College; Mennonite Central Committee; or Mennonite Church USA.

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