Philadelphia Eagles chaplain, Pastor Theodore Winsley./Photo courtesy
of The Family Church
Pastor Theodore Winsley favors football lingo, even in everyday conversation—he was a running back on the last state title team at Dover High School, after all—so it’s only natural that the longtime Philadelphia Eagles’ chaplain talks about “handoffs” when he recounts the history of the team’s Bible study leadership.
Winsley—a Delaware State University (DSU) graduate the players call Pastor Ted—had a front-row seat when cornerback Troy Vincent handed the team’s spiritual guidance over to safety Brian Dawkins. Dawkins passed it to wide receiver Jason Avant, who passed it to quarterback Nick Foles, who would take the lead twice in two turns with the team. Quarterback Mark Sanchez eventually took on the role, then Foles again before the team’s nationally recognized religiosity evolved into a culture that quarterback Carson Wentz has inherited.
“Carson has strong faith, but he walked into a room of guys who are seasoned believers,” says Winsley, the chaplain since 2001. “The culture now is to use football as a platform for their purpose—their faith.”
The fan talk of divine intervention surrounding the Eagles’ recent seasons might just stem from Winsley’s work with the team. The 48-year-old pastor runs The Family Church in Voorhees, New Jersey, with his college sweetheart, wife and co-pastor, Dawn Winsley.
During the season, he holds frequent nondenominational and cross-generational services locally. On Mondays, for example, the Winsleys offer Bible study for about 21 couples at players’ homes, often Wentz’s. On Tuesdays and Fridays, Pastor Ted is at the team’s NovaCare practice facility in Philadelphia for one-on-one counseling. On Thursdays, it’s players-only chapel at NovaCare for around 20, and then Saturday chapel open to players, coaches and their families.
Winsley’s work is voluntary, which, he says, helps lend him “automatic credibility because I’m not here to take; I’m here to give.” He does get season tickets, and the team supported giving him a Super Bowl ring in 2018. “Carson and other guys said, ‘Give Pastor a ring like ours,’” Winsley says with a smile.
Good fortune—divine or not—has long interceded in Winsley’s life. Studying agriculture at DSU, he parlayed his academic scholarship into an internship with DuPont, leading to a career in human resources and a high-profile sales management role in the celebrity clothing industry. He eventually left corporate America for the ministry to help redefine the outreach and messaging for the 4,000-member church. Initially, he assisted his pastor at Eagles services. “After 1 1/2 years, he looked at me and said, ‘I’m not supposed to be doing this, you are,’” Winsley says.
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