Ta ble a ux Spring 2014
from the dean Ta b le a ux
plural [ta-bloh]: A picturesque group of persons around a common table. At the end of the day, teaching the students at McAfee is what makes getting up in the morning so enjoyable. Helping them explore their God-given gifts, assisting them as they discern God’s dreams and teaching a process for serious, theological inquiry is truly meaningful. The students we’re producing are educated, socially concerned and hope-filled. Most are still discerning and, therefore, attempting multiple ministry opportunities hoping to build a skillset that serves them in years to come. This Tableaux issue showcases just what I mean. It’s full of stories about current students and what they’re doing to explore their vocational dreams. It’s about what McAfee’s doing to help nurture these students into healthy, committed ministers. It’s ultimately about what God’s doing in and through McAfee for these students. We hope you enjoy the read!
R. Alan Culpepper
contents 4 6 8 10 12 16 18 20 24 26 30 32 34 37
“McAfee makes short list” by Jeff Brumley Learning. Leading. Megan and Ryan Hurst Carter James Blay Tara Brooks Rich Havard Alyssa Aldape Matt Nelson Sam Chinn Ossie McKinney Amanda Lewis Le’Roy Davenport “What I’m learning from seminarians” by Bill Coates Class Notes
On the cover: McAfee student Matt Nelson leads worship at Edgewood Church in Atlanta, Ga. Tableaux staff: J. Barrett Owen, editer in chief Lesley-Ann Hix, designer Kate Riney, managing editor Myron Krys, writer Rachel Freeny, writer firstname.lastname@example.org www.tableauxonline.com
McAfee makes short list for high-impact seminaries By Jeff Brumley Assistant editor of Associated Baptist Press
This article was originally published by ABPNews/Religious Herald and is used by permission.
A community service effort at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology is pushing the seminary into deeper relationships with Atlanta-area neighborhoods and recently landed the Baptist school on a list of the nation’s most prestigious seminaries. More importantly, some McAfee students and staff say, the Community Engagement Fellowship that ran from 2012-2013 transformed the way participants view their own interests and passions for ministry. “This has really shaped how I approach church and what it means to be the local church to me,” said Karen Zimmerman, a seminarian who used the fellowship to create ministries and services tailored to help internationals living in Atlanta. “I will never be the same again.” It all started in mid-2011 when Wayne Meisel, an ordained Presbyterian minister then working with a local foundation that promotes services to the region’s poor, approached McAfee about creating a fellowship program through which students would work in impoverished neighborhoods and in local race-relations. “He started that program to attract more of that kind of student — those who are socially engaged — to the ministry,” said McAfee Dean Alan Culpepper. About a dozen other divinity schools were similarly approached, including those at Duke, Vanderbilt, Yale and Wake Forest universities. At McAfee, the program that took shape included current and newly recruited students working in racial reconciliation, international and prison ministries, voting rights, non-profits and theological studies, among others. As a result, McAfee was selected for the inaugural “Class of 2014” on a new website Meisel launched in November titled “Seminaries that Change the World.”
with other post-graduate opportunities, including law, business and education. “As individuals...seek avenues in higher education to connect their passion to impact the world to a life of meaningful work, I believe that theological education and ministry must be presented as viable options.”
‘Welcome in the stranger’
In a November blog, Meisel said he got the idea from two decades of working in various service initiatives, including being a charter board member for Teach for America and being on the commission that crafted and launched AmeriCorps. He was also the founding president of the Bonner Foundation, which supports students’ access to higher education through service opportunities. “Through it all I have seen talented and passionate college graduates who are searching for ways to strengthen their skills, deepen their knowledge and sustain their commitment,” he said in the Huffington Post religion blog. He added that it was about time the nation’s brightest students come to see the seminary as a valid option along
‘Students already very engaged’
But Meisel didn’t pick McAfee simply because it happened to be located in the same city where he was working at the time. Rather, it was an acknowledgement the seminary was already committed to community service, said David Garber, the McAfee faculty member who oversaw the fellowship program. “We were recognized because our students were already very engaged in their communities,” Garber said. “There were many people doing community work, justice work and advocacy work.” What changed with the creation of the fellowship, he said, was that all those efforts were organized and overseen under one umbrella. “The fellowship gave us an opportunity to provide a framework for the work we were already doing,” Garber said. Funds for the fellowship have run out since Meisel’s recent move to Chicago, Garber added, and efforts are under way to find new sources of money. But the work McAfee students were doing through the program will continue. Plus the impact students had during that one-year program has energized faculty and students, he added. “It continues to inspire and help me...to see the things that students are doing and the passion they have,” he said. “It’s contagious.”
For Zimmerman, it’s meant becoming open to a whole new field of ministry — the local church. For her fellowship, Zimmerman worked at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta, where she launched outreach programs to help refugees and other internationals living around the Cooperative Baptist congregation. Karen Zimmerman works in international outreach at Peachtree Baptist Church in Atlanta. The North Carolina native said she was interested in divinity school primarily to explore her interest in international missions. Before coming to McAfee, she spent a year in Nepal as a missionary intern. But through the fellowship at McAfee she also got to explore another interest: helping refugees cope with life in the United States. What she wasn’t interested in — she thought — was ministry in a local church. Since the fellowship expired, however, she’s been hired as a pastoral assistant for international outreach. “I would never have considered this position if I had not been placed here by the fellowship,” she said. “I’ve grown in my love for the local church and it’s been great to see the church open its arms and welcome in the stranger.”
L ea rn in g. L ea d in g.
Donâ€™t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, life, love, faith and purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Megan & Ryan Hurst Carter,
Megan and Ryan Hurst Carter started McAfee in the fall of 2012 and hit the ground running. Megan works as the pastoral associate for youth at Peachtree Baptist, as an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay and is the ELI coordinator for McAfee’s Multicultural Student Association. Ryan works alongside Megan as the pastoral associate of outreach, parliamentarian for MSA and recently stopped working after one and a half years at Matthew’s International Casket Repair shop. On top of these responsibilities, both Megan and Ryan are maintaining full time class status and are volunteering weekly at RRISA
(Refugee and Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta). Needless to say, their days are full. “Some days I don’t see Ryan until after dinner. But the work we’re doing is meaningful, and it’s preparing us for a lifetime in ministry” Megan said. For the past year, a typical day for them looks like this: Ryan wakes up around 3 a.m. and drives to Matthew’s International Casket Repair shop. He drives a semi truck full of caskets to places like Buford, SC, or Savannah. On arrival, he unloads over 100 caskets and then drives back only to get into town with a few minutes to spare before class. In the afternoons Ryan rushes across town to Peachtree Baptist in order to attend staff meetings, host Bible studies, visit parishioners in the community or do a handful of other administrative duties. His evenings are filled with school work, sermonizing and, if he’s lucky, dinner with Megan. But it’s not like Megan sits around waiting for Ryan to finish his day. Her mornings are taken up with class. Over lunch she hosts interreligious dialogues with Mercer’s English Language Institute as well as helps tutor international students in English. Her afternoons have her in the office at Peachtree where she’s busy planning youth retreats, Bible studies and helping give vision and direction to the growing youth program. On top of all of these ministry connections, Ryan and Megan find time to volunteer at RRISA. They’re part of the
builders by J. Barrett Owen
“match program.” They assist newly arrived immigrants in Clarkston in several ways: going to the grocery store, helping navigate public transit like MARTA, conducting meetings around topics such as what to wear for interviews, etc. Of all of the jobs and responsibilities Ryan and Megan share, Peachtree Baptist feels the most like what God is preparing them for long term. Since Dr. Daniel Vestal became pastor, the ministerial staff has taken on an experimental form. Instead of hiring full-time positions, they’re bringing on seminary students as pastoral associates in order to provide a learning ground for ministry. “I focus on pastoral relations and outreach” said Ryan. “Megan works on retention and maintaining relationships with those whom are already members – especially the youth.” And the truth is, both love what they do. But they’re learning ministry is tough. “It’s really hard to be married and do all this” said Megan. “The hardest part is when people think it’s easier being married. Caring for others while remaining emotionally available to my partner who is also giving of himself...it’s tough. We change together, and we aren’t the same people we were when we got married. I’m helping him change and he’s helping me change. We constantly evaluate and reevaluate where we are and what’s upcoming. Honestly, at times, it’s exhausting.”
But the upsides far outweigh the downsides, and McAfee plays a critical role in developing Megan and Ryan as ministers. “McAfee’s given me a renewed love for the church” said Ryan. “Classes like Baptist Heritage helped me solidify what Baptists believe, and now I feel like I’m in line with a chorus of witnesses. I’m more confident with my Baptist heritage, and I look forward to connecting with CBF. Also, the personal conversations, the intimate ones with professors, have made Megan and me more secure, more hopeful to be ministers. As a matter of fact, McAfee’s given me the rhetoric needed to express my theological beliefs and feelings, and it equips me to make pastoral decisions.” “The things I learn in class,” said Megan, “resonate with my soul. I take ideas and projects into the church, but the church doesn’t always receive these ideas and projects with the same enthusiasm. I’m learning to accept the fact that as a minister it’s not my job to change people into who I want them to be. The best thing I can do is continue to offer a welcoming atmosphere where people feel validated and heard. I see God in people like Ms. Mary and Ms. Eva when they selflessly cook every Wednesday night; they’re in their 80s. I see God in the fact that Dr. Vestal doesn’t make us feel like we’re his puppets. He makes me feel heard and equal.” Since starting at Peachtree, Ryan feels like the biggest difference now is his call to preach. “This road has been weird. I thought when I started McAfee that I was going into missions. I wanted to go and ‘do,’ and I wanted to ‘do’ it across the world. Now I feel called to help the local church experience God’s grace. I didn’t think I wanted to preach, but Peachtree helped me see I have real gifts here. I feel the presence of God most clearly when I proclaim God’s word. I now find myself working on my next sermon all the time.” Two years ago neither Ryan nor Megan would have worked in a church. And now here they are. They’re confident, skilled and ready to partner with God through the local church. They face obstacles, get frustrated and are always scrambling from one thing to the next. But at the end of the day, they sleep soundly knowing they are participating in God’s ongoing creation of the world.
James Blay, ‘16
CommunityThere is a famous African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” My life journey has shown me that the work of the village does not end with the raising of the child, it extends to the nurturing and growth of the adult. Throughout my life, my Liberian village (i.e. community) supported me through the difficult years of losing my father, the uncertainty and dangers of a long civil war and the faith formation that now defines my faith. To this day, community continues to shape who I am and who God is calling me to be. The earliest years of my life were happy years. I lived at home surrounded by love and with parents who willingly sacrificed to make sure we had all that we needed. Looking
back, my sense of community and love for the village was developed by them. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of me taking a Sunday dish down the road to the old widow my mother seemed to have adopted. Walking with corn bread and Liberian fish gravy in my hands, I couldn’t help but wonder why my mother was so generous to this woman; we didn’t even know her. Now, many years later, I understand exactly what my mother was doing—she was loving her neighbor as herself. This act of love laid the foundation for my understandnig of the intrinsic value of community. A couple of weeks after my 10th birthday (1989), a civil war started in Liberia; for almost twenty years, I lived with uncertainty and chaos. On Aug. 2, 1990, the war (up to this point, it had been something of a fantasy) became all too real for me and my family. We were awakened to bullets flying through our home and were pulled outside to face the self-proclaimed “Freedom Fighters.” From that eventful morning on, my life was a period of moving from one refugee camp to the next in Liberia, Ivory Coast and Ghana. Throughout these years, as tragic and perilous as they were, it was my ability to build relationships and form community that helped me grow from a teenager into a young man. I needed the strength and vulnerability of others in order to maintain my sanity and not give up on God. In January 2005, I returned to Liberia after spending two years on a refugee camp in Ghana. A month after my
maker Photos courtesy of James Blay
return, I received a call from Dr. Olu Q. Menjay, who I had attended church with as a boy. He offered me a job with Ricks Institute where he was about to serve as principal. Ricks Institute was a premier boarding school in Liberia before the Civil War. The school served as a refuge for over 30,000 internally displaced people during the war, which actually led to the infrastructure being severely damaged. When I started at Ricks in 2005, none of the dormitories were functional, buildings were without roofs, there was no internal plumbing on campus and classrooms were without chairs or window-glass. Teachers served the school as volunteers. The school was literally ruined by the war. Working as the coordinator for student affairs provided me an opportunity to build the self-esteem of young people who were desperate for some kind of hope. My task became one of building community so these students could feel loved, appreciated and valued. They needed to build confindence and self-esteem before they learned to lead others. All we accomplished at Ricks was not in isolation. Our successes are deeply rooted in our ability to form relationships and build community with others who bought into the dream. Several of these partners have impacted my life personally and the life of the Ricks community. One was Mercer University. In the spring of 2009, Mercer awarded two full scholarships for any deserving member of the Ricks community to come and study at Mercer. Edmond Cooper and I were the first recipients of
this scholarship. There are now eight students from the Ricks community studying at Mercer. After my graduation from Mercer in 2012, I returned to Ricks Institute where I assumed the role of coordinator for servant leadership for a period of one academic year. I started the Servant Leadership Program because I had seen how effective it was at another of Ricks Institute’s partner schools, the Brookstone School in Columbus, Ga. The appeal of the idea of raising servant leaders in Liberia was alluring because I had seen firsthand what bad leadership did to our beloved country, and I was convinced that raising a new generation of servant leaders would make a difference. The program is successfully in its second year. My prayer is that it can develop a model that will be taken to other schools around the country. Another passion of mine is in youth ministry. Baptist churches in Liberia struggle with establishing and maintaining functioning youth ministries. My hope is that I can go back home after my seminary education and help these churches. Since studying in the United States, I’ve worked with Passport, Inc. I’ve worked five summers for their youth and kids camps. The community I now share with Passport gives me a place to grow as a minister as well as a mold from which I can build a program that would adequately serve the young people in Baptist churches of Liberia. I consider the people of Passport to be family, and every year that family grows larger as I work on different teams and build new relationships. Currently, as a student at McAfee School of Theology, I find myself in a place where I’m allowed to grow. Life at McAfee encourages me to look beyond who I am in order to see the possibilities of who I can become. My classes give me a framework and a rhetoric to help explore the depths of my faith as well as myself. I’m grateful for this season of life, for this McAfee community is allowing me to embrace new challenges and new possibilities. I’m living proof that it takes a village to raise a child. Let us never forget it’s the c o m m u n i t y ’s responsibility for nurturiing and providing opportunities for us to live out the call of God throughout our lifetime.
Tara Brooks, ‘15
In the spring of 2010, during my sophomore year at Emory’s Oxford College, I was presented with a sophomore superlative—“Most Likely to Work at Oxford in 10 Years” along with a trinket that said “Dream Big.” I laughed about it with the rest of my peers, put it on my wall and began to think about what was coming next. Less than four years later, I found myself reconnecting with the chaplain and was hired as one of his interns working with Oxford Fellowship, an interdenominational group of Christian students, and Interfaith Council, a group of students dedicated to creating programs that celebrate the religious diversity Oxford has to offer and helping each student learn from one another.
In November, I began working with two more groups: Student Involvement and Leadership, where I serve as an advisor for two leadership based groups—the Pierce Leadership Certificate Program and LEAD Team. When able, I spend time with the Bonner Leaders, a group very dear to me because I was a Bonner Leader as a student. These students spend 10-12 hours a week at a placement in the community serving in schools, nonprofits and domestic violence shelters. Once a week, they come together to learn how to better engage social justice in the world. On the Wednesday after MLK Day of Service, I headed to Oxford. Getting in around 10 a.m., I met with the head of Student Leadership and Service, ate lunch with a close friend that works in the library, chatted with the Dean of Campus Life and caught up with the chaplain before heading back to my office. While I planned meetings for the next week, students came in to catch me up on their lives. Each one of them is unique and involved in different programs, yet everything they said seemed so similar. They all have dreams. One dreams to make sure Oxford Fellowship helps students hear God speak. Another dreams of ending poverty and the racial divide in Covington. Yet another dreams that media will one day be transformed so that women are not seen as sexual or submissive objects. Every conversation was extremely different, but the core was still the same: we all dream big!
Photos courtesy of Tara Brooks
In the middle of my time with these students, Crystal McLaughlin, the current head of the Bonner program, came by to ask if I would lead Bonner that night. I didn’t even know where to start. How do I begin to explain to students how passionate I am about social justice in a way that also inspires them? I am already leading two meetings in a two hour period, do I want to add a third one? These students see social justice weekly at their placement, do they really want to talk about it with me? What could I say after MLK Day of Service that would remotely make a difference? Then it hit me—this is not about me. Nothing I do is about me. I have always dreamed of making a difference, and here I am. It’s time to step up and answer that call. In the LEAD Team meeting that night, I found a group of students brainstorming on how to create the best possible workshops for their peers. Their dream is to help friends and peers reach their full potential. After that, I headed over to meet with Oxford Fellowship, where we started a Bible study on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together. These students dream of a community strong enough to feel God’s presence together or apart, a community excited to love and serve the world, a community not afraid to take a stand for social justice. Right after the meeting, I walked across the quad to the Bonner Leader meeting. I headed into the conference room and sat down in the back. When it was my turn, I started to go through what I prepared.
I realized something was missing. I asked Crystal if she could get me some paper. I passed it out and said, “Now I want to know about you. If you were to make a speech with the world listening, a speech that could reshape our entire understanding of what is good and just, what would you talk about?” One environmental science major drew a picture of her dream: to see a world full of plants and animals that are healthy and happy in order to teach whole communities how to be healthy and happy. Another student dreamed about a day where universal healthcare would be enacted, listing all of the benefits for the poor and disinherited. One male student brought tears to my eyes when he said that his dream was for a world free of sexism, a world where the women in his life, who often feel inadequate, find new life. Out of all of the issues these students could choose, out of all of the things that affect them directly, they wrote about dreams they had for the world, many of which would not directly benefit themselves in the same way as it would other people. These dreams were for the people who live disenfranchised. While listening to these students pour their hearts out to one another, I thought, “What is my social justice dream?” I have a lot of them, many of which they named. But then I realized that perhaps my dream was taking place as I was sitting there. My dream is to inspire college students to figure out their social justice dreams and fight for them. My dream is for students to not just talk about the future, but create it. My dream is to be a part of making the world better by teaching students to dream bigger. So what’s my big dream? I guess if you really look at it, my big dream is to live out my sophomore superlative, “Most Likely to Work at Oxford in 10 Years.” Lucky for me, I am doing just that.
BEYOND YOUR CULTURE
BEYOND YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Summer and semester opportunities list and application available at
Rich Havard, ‘14
Looking for Rich Havard on any given day is like playing a game of Where’s Waldo?, minus the striped shirt and bright red ski cap. That’s not to say Rich is absent from the world. He’s just never in the places you expect him to be, like holed up in the library for hours on end, frantically writing papers. If you really want to find Rich, the best place to start looking is off-campus and in the Grant Park community. Since joining the staff of Park Avenue Baptist Church as ministry resident in August 2013, Rich has fully immersed himself in the life of the neighborhood. He moved into an
apartment in the church which has allowed him to invest in the community on a deeper level. His experiences with Park Avenue have taught him more than a model of urban ministry. “One of the greatest parts about [Park Avenue] is its diversity,” he said. “To not only be serving someone who is different from me but to be in a relationship with someone who is different from me is one of the most rewarding and meaningful experiences that will forever shape how I interact with the world.” Looking back on his three years at McAfee, Rich has taken every opportunity to learn new ways of interacting with the world around him. “Ministry experiences that I’ve been afforded at McAfee have been able to ground my theology in reality,” he said. “They’ve allowed me to get my hands dirty, to actually try to live out and put into practice the things that I believe. Along with writing papers, my experiences at McAfee have enabled me to practice what God has called me to do.” That calling is to minister through the local church, with all its ups and downs. “It gets a bad rap a lot and it deserves a bad rap a lot, but I still think church is a place God uses to transform lives,” he said. Rich has had multiple opportunities during his time at McAfee to encounter and engage the local church in different contexts. He spent the summer of 2012 at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., learning about church
chaser by Rachel Freeny
Middle East photo courtesy of Rich Havard
ministry in an urban setting. During the summer of 2013, he split his time between the Middle East Travel Seminar and the Fund for Theological Exploration. METS is a three week experience in countries such as Israel, Palestine and Jordan that brings together students from six different seminaries to explore the ancient heritage of the faith. Through FTE, Rich received a grant that allowed him to travel to several vibrant and creative evangelical congregations around the country. At each of these churches, he immersed himself fully in the life of the congregation for a week. “There’s a divide between mainline and evangelical congregations that I think is unhealthy,” he said. “[This experience] gave me a peek into the church world outside of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.” Experiences in the local church aren’t the only thing that have shaped Rich’s views of ministry and God. In the fall of 2013, he had the opportunity to co-teach preaching to women in the Arrendale Prison in Alto, Ga. Rich knows the importance of a preaching class thanks to Dr. Brett Younger, whose course he says changed the way he writes, preaches and thinks. On the first day of class, Dr. Younger stopped and said, “But you know what I really hope for this class? I hope that out of this class we all become better followers of Jesus.” “[The class] made me a better preacher and a better minister, but I hope I also became a better follower of Jesus,” Rich said.
It’s clear, Rich’s time at McAfee has made him a better follower of Christ, or at least a more authentic one. He says that his expression of faith is more authentic and honest now than ever before. “This is due to McAfee. This is due to places like Arrendale Prison where you can’t just spit out pithy, pious statements and get away with it. It’s because of places like Park Avenue that I’m not afraid to tell people that I doubt or have big struggles. I spent a long time trying to play the ‘perfect’ game. I’m just weary of that. When I feel most alive, I’m the most real that I ever have been with other people.” As he looks back on his time at McAfee, Rich can see how God has been shaping and preparing him to encounter the holy. “I think over the last couple of years, God has worked to debunk any notion that I had that God was trapped inside churches, seminaries or [Christian universities],” he said. “I now believe God is everywhere. God’s in the places that we think are the worst, and God’s in the places that we think are the most ordinary or mundane.” Rich is now ready to help people see God where they think God cannot be found. “One of my great callings as a pastor is going to be helping people act out their faith in their daily lives: at the office, in the neighborhood, in the home...I think for too long we’ve fooled people into thinking that their only [opportunity for] ministry is if they’re on a church committee. I think we need to help them realize that God is active in all aspects of their lives, not just at church,” he said. “The places that I’ve been over the past couple of years have proved that.”
Alyssa Aldape, ‘15
Dream What are you responsible for in a given week? I have several jobs. I work as the next generation missions assistant for Student.GO. It’s a mission program through CBF providing opportunities for graduates and undergraduates. A better way to say it: I help coordinate opportunities for young adults to serve among and advocate for the most neglected people of the world. These students engage in hands-on missions with field personnel and ministry
partners. We also provide cross-cultural experiences and crucial assistance for the ministries in which they work. I’m also the youth minister at Northside Drive Baptist Church. For the last five years I’ve been involved with the camp for CBF’s Third Culture Kids. Through this experience, my heart for youth and young adults grew. I felt a calling to work with youth. I have enjoyed working with the youth ministry at Northside Drive, and it’s been a great church home for me since moving to Atlanta. I’m also the vice chair for McAfee’s Student Advocacy and Leadership Team. I serve the student’s interests and provide opportunities for fellowship. Right now my project is to be a voice for the night students. Most of them don’t get to be a part of the community, especially worship. So my focus is on implementing evening activities for them. We’ve had snack and coffee times, and we hope to start having short devotion times between night classes during the week. What do you love about Student.GO? I love we’ve coined the phrase, “Being ruined for life.” Too often, we think we
During the summer, their perspectives change as they serve as the hands and feet of Christ. This may be the best part of my job because as they’re serving, I get to hear personal stories of how they’re “ruined.” Their stories are life-giving for me. What are some of the ministries Student.GO works with?
We have so many, but some of the most known are (1) The Haeyets Community in Charlotte, NC. This is an intentional community. (2) The National Memorial Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. (3) Sowing Seeds of Hope in Marion, Al. This one is really cool. A lot of the people we hire here actually live in Marion. These students get to invest in the area in which they live. (4) Working with Karen children at Crescent Hill Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. How has seminary helped you? Oh golly, this could be a whole other article. My first year here, I learned to embrace the growth in my faith and discovered that change is good. I’ve learned that a person’s story matters. The stories of students matter. Having someone hear yours and help you in it matters. McAfee has also affirmed me as a minister. I’m thankful to professors who challenge and enable me to unpack my theology into something I can use to help others understand the love and grace of God’s story better. How do you balance everything?
know what God wants, and then we experience God in new ways and we can’t look at social justice the same way again. I love Student.GO helps “ruin” us by giving us eyes to see God’s presence in new ways. When were you “ruined”? In 2010, I worked for Student.GO. I went to India, and my job was to read stories to kids. I learned to value being the hands and feet of Christ by simply playing with children and drinking tea with adults. I learned this kind of work is just as important and life-giving as preaching. What are your primary tasks with Student.GO? Keeping up with emails, helping students finish applications and assisting where needed. My favorite part of the semesters is when I get to talk to student groups about Student.GO. In March I had the opportunity to hang out with CSF-UGA folk and tell them about our opportunities. The summer is especially fun. It kicks off with orientation at Camp Pinnacle. We meet students face-to-face who are preparing to serve for the summer and year. The best part of orientation is that we get to hear the student’s expectations, hopes, worries and ideas of what the summer “should” look like.
I find meaning in what I’m asked to do. But I also use a calendar all the time. I even color code everything. Truthfully, I love seminary, even the papers and books. I love Student. GO and helping students find a way to serve the world in their best capacity. I love my youth group and helping them understand how their story fits with God’s. I’ll admit, finding balance is hard, but when you love what you do, it’s worth the sacrifice. I also drink lots of chai.
Matt Nelson, ‘15
Who is Jesus? None of the gospels explicitly say that Jesus is God. What happens if Jesus isn’t God? Does that actually shatter the Christian faith or does it just provide a different perspective of Jesus’ mission? Questions like these are common for many seminary students. Matt Nelson is no exception. Matt admits that the Bible is not always clear cut. There are a lot of gray areas which make it hard to fully commit to one perspective. Yet, he would be the first to admit that your answer to these
questions determine what you do with your life. Dating back to his early days of high school, these and similar thoughts consistently bombarded Matt’s mind. Thus he finds his life juxtaposed into this expedition of faith. Yet, his journey began long before high school. Born in Bloomington, Ind., Matt, around the age of two, moved to Bloomsburg, Pa., and finally to Atlanta right after the 1996 Olympics. Being the only child of a music minister father and a faithful church mother, music and church were naturally in his blood. His primary instruments were and still are his voice and his guitar; however, he also took his hand to both the trumpet as well as the drums at one point. Entering undergrad at Emory University, he initially decided to study music performance with a concentration in trumpet. He quickly realized, though, he did not want to practice that much, so he transitioned to religion after really enjoying his Religion 101 class. Through his studies at Emory, he was able to gain a greater understanding of the major world religions and how they parallel his own Christian faith. Such extensive exploration of other religions birthed inside him a longing to come back to the study of his own faith. After graduation, Matt joined a traveling worship team called Youth Encounter. Stationed out of St. Paul, Minn., the
by Myron Krys
six members spent a year traveling from Ohio to Colorado to Florida and everywhere in between leading people in worship. Amidst Sunday worship at one church along the tour, Matt had an epiphany. As they passed the communion plates with the “juice cups and the Jesus wafers,” he had an overarching feeling that they were doing it “all wrong.” As Matt participated in communion, he contemplated Jesus sharing this meal with Jesus’ closest friends. It was his last time to disciple them. From Matt’s perspective, his own church’s “Wednesday Night Suppers” more closely resembled Jesus’ Last Supper than communion tacked on to the end of worship services. Continuing on the Youth Encounter voyage, Matt heard a preacher by the name of Bob Lenz. Within his sermon, Lenz pointed out that the church service has become “the game” instead of the locker room. Our life is supposed to be “the game” and church is merely where we get together, pep each other up and make the game plan. Though Matt feels that many churches strive to be the locker room, something is lost in translation. It is these two scenarios on the tour that birthed the burden and set the trajectory for Matt’s mission: church planting. With a new lease on life, at the end of his time with
Youth Encounter, Matt applied to seminary. He chose McAfee because of its affordable tuition as well as its combined practical and academic approach to theology. In talking with alumni, Matt liked what he heard about the way professors presented course material with a non-indoctrinating method, allowing the student to determine their own life application. Matt’s now in his second year. When his journey at McAfee comes to a close, his ultimate desire is to start a church without necessarily becoming a pastor. He’s open to the possibility of being a pastor, but he doesn’t directly correlate church planter and pastor as being synonymous. He leans more to the planning side than the preaching side of ministry. Ideally, the church Matt imagines will be team-led. Grappling through the practicality of the ministry he is envisioning, he is certain that its focus will be discipleship. It is in his heart to walk with people along the journey of truth, not tradition. “My goal is to equip people and send them out into the community of the unchurched. I long for an ‘open’ worship experience that is devoid of pre-set liturgy” said Matt. He clearly addresses the fact that while none of his concepts toward ministry are very new or radical, he does not see them carried out in most churches. Currently, Matt works in the Mercer Atlanta’s registrar office and serves as worship leader at Edgewood Church in Atlanta. He counts himself very fortunate to serve among a community of like-minded individuals who believe that it’s possible to question and love God simultaneously. It is the support found in both Edgewood and McAfee that enables Matt to continue thriving spiritually. Matt solicits your continued prayers as he and others like him continue on the journey of self-actualization and faith development.
More about Matt Hobbies: Watching movies / television and playing games Favorite Books: The Name of the Wind, The Dark Tower, Velvet Elvis Favorite Music: Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Elevation Worship, Sevendust, Alter Bridge. (He has 42.3 days of music in his iTunes library.) Favorite Bible Verse: Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
McAfee Mission Immersion
May 11-29, 2014 â€˘ 6 credit hours
Asian Religions/Missiology & Special Topics in Ancient Religions Drs. Rob Nash and David Garber are traveling with McAfee students on a three-week immersion experience in India. Exploring ancient religions and the Asian worldview through the lens of Hinduism and Buddhism, theyâ€™ll work in the context of ministry together with both Protestant and Catholic Indian Christians.
Sam Chinn, ‘14
Some people are ‘kid people.’ Some are ‘dog people.’ I am an ‘old people person.’ I mean no offense in the title; if anything I hope it expresses my endearment for the extra wise people I know. I call friends of mine older than Baby Boomers ‘old people’ because it seems less formal and more personal than calling them ‘seniors’ or, even worse, ‘the elderly.’ I lived with my grandparents for part of my childhood. I ate their food, spent Wednesday nights at church with their friends and saw my fair share of Lawrence Welk. I love old people and wouldn’t dare mean any offense by calling them such. The thing about old people, though, is they’re getting old. When people get old, their bodies need some help. Frank might need a walker while Shirley has a hearing aid, and Bill takes a blood thinner to help his circulation. To accept this help in daily life is part of the nature of adapting to an aging body, and many people can accept these changes with some grace. Our churches are very often made up of just these people. As we strive to grow congregations with younger families, we also count on the presence of the folks that have made our churches home for decades. It may even be the case that I end up getting to rub elbows with older people at an established congregation again one day, but
right now I embrace the chances I get to do bedside visits with older folks during their stay at the hospital. This summer I was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital doing my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education. I had many great visits filled with conversations about family, hymns sung from memory and prayers to a familiar God. Some visits were tougher. The ways that an older person’s body needed help became all too real. Any nostalgia I had hung on to from years with my own grandparents was countered with recognizing the fragility that comes with being older. One family I met at the end of my internship helped me to know their oldest member, though I never had the chance to meet him. I imagine that when Ted was prescribed Warfarin after his heart attack, there was a sense of relief that he need not worry about the blood clots that sent him to the hospital. Fortunately for him, the attack had been caught early. Though he did not want to take another prescription, taking a daily dose of the blood thinner seemed a small price to pay for such a close call. Weeks after the scare, his family was excited to be getting back into a routine, and his son and daughter-in-law invited him out to the boat with them. Ted was glad to be there, too. He shielded his eyes from the sunlight sparkling off the water and made his way down the boat ramp to join his son pulling up in his bass boat.
Group photo courtesy of Sam Chinn
As Ted kept his eye on the boat and walked down the ramp, he didn’t realize the water was lower than usual. The lower part of the ramp exposed slick algae covered pavement and Ted slipped. He dropped flat on his back before he even realized he was falling, but he seemed okay except for a knot and a sore spot on the back of his head. His son was nervous about the fall; he suggested that they might not even take the trip. Ted insisted he was no worse for the wear, and they headed out. Later that night nausea kept Ted up; his head still hurt despite the painkillers and his wife grew nervous. She called an ambulance. Ted and his wife arrived at the hospital before dawn and other family members followed shortly after. He was admitted to the ICU and immediately transferred to the unit specializing in care for stroke patients. The doctors realized Ted’s injury had been especially traumatic because the medication he was taking prevented blood from clotting inside his head. There was no way for them to stop the bleeding, and if Ted were removed from life support, he’d die. I received a call around 10 a.m. from the nurse working with the family. The doctor had informed the loved ones of Ted’s prognosis, and Ted’s wife had requested to speak with a chaplain. This is where I enter the story. Ted and his wife were exactly the kind of old people I’ve come to know and love at church. I imagined the worn
spot in their favorite pew and the hymns they knew by heart. They mentioned they lived in the country, so I imagined a small sanctuary tucked away between Georgia pines. Their pastor was familiar to them, but he couldn’t be there for this emergency, and they were gracious enough to let me join them in the sacred space normally reserved for their shepherd. They didn’t need to say any of this to me. It was all communicated in the sacred space between the conversations. They did tell me about Ted’s brother on the other side of the room, though. They had been buddies their whole lives and had fallen in love with their Harley’s since they’d retired. They told me about Ted’s beard; how it had reached his belly button before the heart attack and it had made a perfect accessory to the Santa suit he wore every year at Christmas. They told me that his children adored him, and that even though they did not pray themselves, they had wanted me to be able to pray to God for them because it’s what their dad would have wanted. There is no special class in seminary that teaches you what to say or how to pray in these moments. Pastoral Care teaches you to listen; Theology teaches you a little bit about who it is I’d be praying to; but nothing formally trains you to be fully present with those who grieve. Yet in that liminal space with Ted’s family, I found myself more prepared than I could have ever expected to be. Ted was exactly the kind of old person I knew and loved without ever having known him. He was also the kind of old person that had gotten old, lived into the fragility of life and then invited me into the sacred space with the ones he loved as they mourned his death. I am grateful for that invitation and for each of the ‘old people’ I grew to love that prepared me to be there that day.
Ossie McKinney, ‘15
Minister of music,
Ossie McKinney is a mother of five, a piano instructor, a seminary student and the minister of music at Faith Baptist Church in Atlanta. She started taking piano lessons at age 8, began playing for churches at age12 and is now going into her 33rd year of music ministry. Every Sunday morning you find her playing the piano and leading the congregation in worship through song. She found her way to McAfee a year and a half ago when she was preparing to become an “empty nester.” It was always her goal to obtain a master’s and a doctorate degree, but after leaving the Navy, she married and became a mother, which put her educational goals on hold. Here is an interview with her now: You’re starting seminary as a second career student. How did you come to make this decision? Two years ago I realized that three of my children were in college and in another four years I would be home alone with my husband, so I decided to return to school. I always envisioned my graduate degrees to be in music. No university in the Atlanta area offered the degree I desired which was Music History and Theory. After realizing I would not be returning to school to obtain a degree for professional purposes, I started thinking about what degree would be useful in and out of the workforce. My entire life has revolved around ministry and always will, so I looked towards a theology degree. As a second year student in the Congregational Ministry track, how is McAfee shaping your calling? McAfee has been a place of tilling, planting and growing. It has helped overturned many embedded theologies and concepts that
that cooks fantastically when school is in session, and my children are old enough that they don’t require ‘mama’ to assist them. What makes McAfee a unique seminary? McAfee’s inclusiveness and the desire to be inclusive is unique. It is also a place that broke me and carved me to pieces my first year. Having to shed those “Mama and ‘em”embedded theologies was like surgery! Old Testament almost did me in! I sat in Dr. Garber’s class with tears flowing on the inside. I didn’t know what to believe concerning this book that I had placed my life upon. I found, though, that I love history, so what I have learned and uncovered concerning Christianity and the Bible (especially the Old Testament) is a newfound treasure that I can’t wait to use in teaching. What have you learned that is most helpful?
Photos courtesy of Ossie McKinney
I had concerning theology and the Bible. It has planted the desire to continue to learn more about ministry, God’s word and my place in God’s vineyard. I have grown as a minister of music and also as a servant of Christ. McAfee challenges me to be a better leader, director, worshiper and person. How do you maintain a work-school-life balance? From the beginning, I knew that calendars and organization were going to be my best friends. Every minute in my day is accounted for. Each day when I am not in class is a time for study. It takes me 40 minutes to get to class and home. That time is spent listening to music for the choirs that I lead. I also teach piano to children of ministers who hope that their children will become church musicians. Those lesson times also aid me with my music ministry. When I am not in class, I teach piano until 7 p.m. After lessons, I cook; from 8-10 p.m., I read. Weekly I total up the required reading pages from my class and divide that number by four, and I read that many pages each night Monday through Thursday, making sure I’m reading something from every class. After 5 p.m. Friday, I take a break from homework and readings until Sunday afternoon. I’ve downloaded all kinds of apps on my iPad and Samsung Galaxy 4 that I live by, keeping me on task. I am blessed with the luxury of a wonderful husband
I have learned many things in many of my classes that are transferrable for ministry. I learned from Preaching the three-point sermons that I thought were “the bomb,” I could actually create three sermons. I learned about taking the time to affirm others from Dr. Gannon in his Spiritual Formation class. I loved attending worship services that were foreign to me through my Worship class, an experience that challenged me and even caused me to enjoy writing music to fit services shaped by the lectionary. My favorite classes have been in church history like Reformation and History of the Bible. What do you hope for following graduation? I hope to be used even more by God in whatever capacity the Divine desires to use me. I didn’t come to McAfee in order to prepare to “do” ministry; I have been doing ministry for years. My goal is to do ministry better and wiser after McAfee. Upon graduation, I can see myself moving from the keyboard to teaching and maybe even preaching. I love God and want to be used by the Creator in whatever ways I am shaped and created for ministry. I am grateful to McAfee for helping me uncover this part of myself.
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Amanda Lewis, ‘17
“This is your time. This is my time. This is our time. We can make every day better for each other.” -Robby Novak, Kid President
I reflected on these inspirational words as I sat in a cement block church in Dosso, Niger, where I had the privilege to be a part of a seminar hosted by the Baptist conventions of Niger and Ghana. Pastors from both countries came together to share their insights and to start churches in rural communities. These pastors not only spoke words of encouragement to each other, they formed a partnership to combine their energy to spread the gospel throughout West Africa. They didn’t just come together to talk, they began their efforts by planting a church that very week. I served as the assistant to Rev. Emmanuel Mustapha of the Ghana Baptist Convention for seven months through a partnership with the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. I traveled with Rev. Mustapha through five West African countries sharing the gospel and helping local churches plant new ones. Everywhere we went, Rev. Mustapha delivered words of encouragement to the established churches and started partnerships as brothers and sisters in Christ with the vision of sharing the “Good News.” These established churches in conjunction with the newly planted ones are coming together with the
Photos courtesy of Amanda Lewis
understanding that other people came to share God’s love with them and now it’s their time to go out and share that same love across the continent and to the ends of the earth. In my opinion, the energy they share for this project is outstanding. In spite of the many ways that I saw God at work, I admit that there were many days when I dreaded walking out of my front door. I would have just as soon hopped on a plane and come back home. But I stayed for the simple reason that I knew God had placed me in Ghana for a reason; it was my time to serve my brothers and sisters in the name of Christ. In a mere seven months, I witnessed the formation of more than twenty churches in communities in Ghana. These are not churches with brick buildings, elaborate stained glass windows or committees to select the floral arrangements. These churches are made up of people who are joining together to learn more about Christ and share God’s love with others. They study scripture with fervor. They offer prayers and supplications for those who are sick and in need of a helping hand. They give time and attention to the needy, and
they make the sheltered faith of my past seem subordinate. Honestly, the ministry they’re doing is quite organic. I’ve been back in the United States for a few months now, and my head is still spinning. I set my experiences aside to focus on celebrating the holidays with my family and to pack up my belongings in order to move to Atlanta. But now I have finished unpacking my boxes, and I must begin to process what I learned and experienced. I use the term “begin” knowing I will never finish reflecting on God’s beauty and power in the incredible ministry field happening in Ghana. My heart sunk the first day of class at McAfee when I realized I was going to be required to journal for Spiritual Formation; and to make matters worse, the class is not even optional. Yet it is through the journal assignments that I initially dreaded, alongside of class discussions, that have allowed me to begin the precarious process of articulating what I learned and how I developed while serving in Ghana. Only time will tell on how God will use what I learned to further God’s grace and peace. At McAfee, I am blessed to be surrounded by students of all ages who are also working to understand their call to ministry. I have a better glimpse of mine, although it’s still unfolding. But I’m more aware than ever that it’s our time to serve. It’s our time to lead. It’s our time to make a difference in the world. I’m excited to see what God is doing in and through us now and into the future.
Le’Roy Davenport, ‘16
“Are You Sure?” This is the question that Le’Roy Davenport asks as he does the “Knock for the Asking Campaign.” His goal in asking this question is to find out if Jesus comes back today, will you know it’s him? With the help of others, Le’Roy co-leads a door-to-door evangelism campaign for Beulah Baptist Church in Decatur. As the hands and feet of the church, they go out two-bytwo sharing the love of Christ, distributing information and
giving personal invitations to church. Spanning a five mile radius, this ministry has reached over 6,000 homes. Sometimes Le’Roy’s privileged to see the fruit of his labor as people come as guests to church and eventually give their lives to Jesus. One highlight Le’Roy personally holds dear is a time when he helped lead kids to accept Jesus as their Lord and savior. While this was an overwhelming experience, Le’Roy doesn’t paint evangelism as a bed of roses. He receives constant rejection; he sees people close the curtains as he walks up to the house or people blatantly tell him ‘no.’ But he takes this rejection in stride. Seeing it as a glimpse of what Jesus felt when his own people rejected him, Le’Roy’s motto for the evangelism team is “Love, Lift and Lead.” His official title is recruiting officer, and, as such, it is his task to find members of the church who have given their lives to the Lord and recruit them to join a ministry team. When they do, Le’Roy is responsible for teaching them how to evangelize. He leads them out into the community on the third Saturday of every month. They meet at the church for a short time of devotion and prayer, and then they go out into the community according to their map assignments. Making sure that no house is skipped, they attempt to reach everyone within that community. No matter how great this undertaking may seem, this is far from all that Le’Roy Davenport does at church. He also designs flyers and other media-enhanced tools for printing.
by Myron Krys
He teaches the teenage Bible class and preaches at The Rock, the church’s youth ministry. When he can, he teaches Bible study for the 5-7 year olds. There he comically notes that “God uses them to teach him patience.” Occasionally, Le’Roy gets the opportunity to go to Wheat Street Baptist Church and preach for their homeless ministry. Outside of church, Le’Roy is a teacher’s assistant in the pharmacy school at Mercer. Usually this entails him being a test proctor. Even in this secular capacity he sees it as ministry to people, whether helping students with their computer problems or running an errand for a professor. Recently, Le’Roy was able to represent McAfee at the Academy of Young Preachers in Indianapolis. While there, he was able to work the registration table for the school as well as preach. This experience was truly special to him; it allowed him to interact with various people of very diverse traditions. At the preaching academy, it became increasingly apparent to Le’Roy that God can work through all types of people no matter their denomination, gender or disability. Le’Roy is no stranger to humble beginnings. He was born on Christmas Day 25 years ago in Greenville, Miss. Though his parents were very active in his spiritual life, his faith and musical ability were greatly developed at the hands of his grandmother. She birthed within him a foundation of faith and taught him how to read scripture. While he was growing up, she served as the mission’s teacher at the church. She had Le’Roy sit right beside her and
read scripture to her or reference the Bible commentaries. When it came to music, she took him under her wing and began training him on the piano. By 11, he was reading and playing music, yet he did not demand the spotlight, opting to work behind the scenes. Throughout his life, people told Le’Roy he was going to be a preacher. It was not until the age of 18, however, that he personally felt a call into ministry, though he was reluctant to take it. He wanted to make sure that it was God’s will for his life and not just a desire of his own. With music and ministry now under his belt, he became the minister of music at his local church where he served throughout his undergraduate career. He attended Mississippi State University and received a dual bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Marketing. After leaving undergrad, Le’Roy was unsure what he wanted to do. He considered going for a master’s in marketing and research. While he was helping a friend look for a program in physical therapy, however, he came across Mercer University. On the website, he noticed McAfee School of Theology, and he decided to explore more. After coming for a campus visit, he felt God confirm in his spirit that he should attend McAfee. Currently, Le’Roy is in his second year following the academic track for research in pastoral care. Le’Roy Davenport is a talkative, energetic individual with a passion for counseling and motivating teens. In May of 2014, he will travel with Dr. Nash on a mission immersion trip to India. Though he is not quite sure where life will take him after receiving his Master of Divinity, he is currently leaning toward a career as a military chaplain or going into a doctorate program. But for now, his focus is on youth ministry and helping others experience the love of Jesus Christ.
What Iâ€™m learning from seminarians has changed my ministry for the better. Taken and adapted from Bill Coatesâ€™ lecture at the 2013 Mercer Preaching Consultation
I’m learning so much from seminarians. I’ve lost count of how many of them have come through FBC Gainesville in the past 15 years. Some came through McAfee’s Lilly program. We’ve had them from everywhere. Most are from McAfee but also Duke, Candler and others. I’ve learned a lot from these students. Most importantly, I’ve learned to fall in love with preaching and pastoral ministry again. Seminarians are so idealistic and encouraging. Eventually they’ll encounter the crazy people who write them mean letters and want them fired. My hunch is some of these students haven’t had it very hard yet. They grew up in families and churches that spoiled them. They don’t fully know how cruel the world really is. But their idealism and their genuine love for the kingdom of God has greatly encouraged me. I think this next generation of ministers really will change the face of the world. After considerable thought to why, here are three reasons seminarians hold the key to our church’s future: 1. Seminarians hate mixing religion and politics, but they love engaging culture.
They’re tired of the political bandwagons. They’re tired of political movements using the church as a gatekeeper for rightwing (or leftwing) agendas. They wholesale reject the notion that the kingdom of God can be brought about by political power. This gives me great hope. They hate words like “theocracy” and “Christendom.” Seminarians want to inspire and change the world but not through political means. I love this idealism, for they’re really committed to a certain way of life. 2. Seminarians are uninterested in dogma, but they’re very interested in the two great commands to love God and neighbor. The seminarians I know couldn’t care less about homoiousios or homoousios. They enjoy learning, and they need to know church history, but at the end of the day, dogma isn’t what motivates their faith. My daughter is at McAfee. She says, “Dad, I never knew all this history.” She loves her studies. She’s so excited to learn and debrief what she’s learning. But she’s less interested in biblical or denominational arguments than she is using her faith to love the least of these. Her peers are the same way. How refreshing! For example, the seminarians in our church started gathering at our Family Life Center on Saturday mornings calling it Good News at Noon. It’s a ministry setting designed for homeless families to bring kids. They feed the children, play soccer and get to know the parents. Children matter to these seminarians. They matter more than doctrinal beliefs. 3. Seminarians have one principle, “What difference can I make, and how?”
In the summer of 2011, the public defender in Gainesville called me. He comes to church but isn’t a believer. I asked him one day why he comes since he doesn’t believe in God. He said, “Well, you’re right. But I damn well know you do.” This is the greatest compliment ever. He thinks I really believe what I’m preaching. And I do thanks to seminarians. He called me last summer and said, “Bill, would you be
willing to go down to the detention center with me? There’s a 17-year-old mother charged with malice murder of her infant. Will you go with me?” I did. I went in and met her with chains on her ankles and wrists. She sat down in front of me, and I wanted to cry right there. This is a girl...not a woman...a little girl. She looked so lost and pitiful. My heart broke for her. I came home that afternoon and talked with my daughter and wife. I told them Haley’s story. You know what my seminarian daughter said? “Dad, we have to get her out of jail!” “Where would she live?” I said. Elizabeth responded, “She’ll live with us.” I said, “Oh my goodness. We already have a 2-year-old grandchild living with us. How can we take on a teenage girl?” Well, we did. We went before the judge. Actually 40 people in our congregation went with us. We got Haley out of jail, and she lived with us for almost a year. In that time, more and more people got involved in her life, in her story. Haley’s baby died at 9-weeks-old, and she was charged with malice murder of the baby. I don’t believe she did that. Was she a bad mother? Yes. But I don’t believe she took the child’s life. To tell the end of the story, because the involvement of so many in our community, Haley was offered a plea bargain. Malice murder was dropped, and she was charged with child cruelty. She’s serving a 7-year sentence instead of life in prison without parole. When she lived with us, I baptized her. She sang in our choir. Our congregation embraced her. To this day, a member of our church goes to see her weekly in prison. I still go frequently. Haley will be in my life for the rest of my life. I went to see the superior court judge in his office after the sentencing and he said, “Bill, if it weren’t for your congregation, Haley wouldn’t have been offered a plea bargain. If she hadn’t been, I would have sentenced her to 15 years. But thanks to y’all, she’ll now only serve 3 years, and I will offer her early parole when the time comes.” Then he said this, “I don’t know why more churches aren’t involved with our prisoners. If they were, we’d have far fewer prisoners and they’d be serving lesser sentences.” Haley’s story unfolded this way because of my daughter— an idealistic, hope-filled seminarian. This act of kindness didn’t come out of the goodness of my heart. I just couldn’t look my daughter in the eye if I failed to help Haley. I’m learning to be a better pastor thanks to seminarians like my daughter. Les Miserables reminds us, “To love another is to see the face of God.” Seminarians get this. They honor Christ better than my generation. They’re less concerned about the divinity of Jesus and more about the teachings of Jesus, especially Matthew 25. They choose to lookout for the least of these. I believe today’s seminarians want to help God repair the world. I remember a time when I wanted to do the same thing, but then I got angry letters and met crazy people. But these students are reminding me that we’re called to help repair the craziness of the world. Seminarians have little time for a gospel that has no power to change the world. My faith is renewed because of this reality. I’m grateful to my daughter for this reminder. _Dr. Bill Coates FBC Gainesville
Doctor of Ministry
M c A f e e S c h o o l o f Th e o l o g y Including specializations in Preaching & Christian Spirituality
theology.mercer.edu email@example.com 678-547-6474
class notes11 ‘
Rev. Melissa L. Willis (Lewis) (MDiv) is now serving as minister with children and families at Central Baptist Church Bearden in Knoxville, TN.
have new jobs. Brian is the Annual Giving and Membership manager at St. Joseph’s Mercy Care while Carra serves as minister to families at Druid Hills Baptist.
Matt Guthas (MDiv) is the executive director of the Barrow Ministry Village, a nonprofit charity focused on reaching the needy in the community of Barrow County.
Nicole Farrar (MDiv) and her husband, Drew Lumpkin, are excited to announce the birth of a daughter, Addison Bailey Lumpkin, on arrived Jan. 8, 2014.
Matt King (MDiv) was called as senior pastor of Augusta Road Baptist Church in Greenville, SC, on Jan. 6, 2014.
Kewon Foster (MDiv) is now the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in downtown Atlanta. He was voted in on Feb. 9, 2014.
Bradley Kirkland (MDiv) announces the birth of a new daughter, Emelia Klaire Kirkland, on Feb. 5, 2014.
Joe LaGuardia (MDiv and DMin ’10) published A Tapestry of Love: The Spirituality of Caregiving.
Rhonda V. (Carson) Byrd (MDiv/MS) married Joseph Byrd on Aug. 17, 2013. She also completed an EdD in Counseling Psychology. J. Livingston (MDiv) and First Lady will celebrate their second anniversary at Mt. Enon this August.
Noelle (MDiv/MS) and Barrett Owen (MDiv ’10) announce the birth of a son, Henry Wayne Owen, on Dec. 25, 2013.
Abigail and Jacob Cook (MDiv) announce the birth of their son, Judah Alan Cook, on Epiphany 2014. Jacob also advanced to candidacy in his PhD program at Fuller Seminary.
Mark Sauls (MDiv) and wife Sarah announce the birth of their daughter Charlotte Hope Sauls on Feb 16. All are happy and well!
Jenny Duckworth (MDiv) is planning to return to Pyongyang, North Korea this summer to teach English at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). This will be her second trip there to teach an intensive freshman English course to the country’s most elite university students.
Billie Boyd-Cox (MDiv) has been honored by the Women’s Legislative Caucus of Georgia for National Women’s History Month. On March 5 she was invited to attend the annual Congressional Club’s First Lady Luncheon with FLOTUS Michelle Obama.
Wes Hunter (MDiv) and his wife, Alexis, are expecting another child in early August. Wes just started a new job as minister of worship, technology and connections at The Bridge Presbyterian Church, a church plant in Leland, NC.
Elias Crosby (MDiv/MS) is part of the Chaplain Residency Fellows program at Emory University Hospital and works as a psychotherapist at Road to Recovery, a behavioral service clinic.
Jody Long (MDiv) and Julie Whidden Long (MDiv ‘05) announce the birth of a son, John Thomas Long, on Nov. 4, 2013.
Becca Jones (MDiv) and Andy Jones (MDiv ’05) announce the birth of their daughter Julia Drew born Oct. 18, 2013. She was welcomed home by big sisters Nadia (4) and Lydia (2). Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber (MDiv) and her partner, Elizabeth, are excited to announce the adoption of their first child, Riah, who was born on Oct. 20, 2013! Angela also celebrates the publication of her third book, Dance in Scripture: How Biblical Dancers Can Revolutionize Worship Today, in addition to contracting for her fourth book, Holy Woman Icons.
Rebecca Edmonds (MDiv) is pleased to announce the birth of her son, Charlie Tucker Edmonds, on Oct. 29, 2013. Jose is the proud big brother! Carra Hughes Greer (MDiv) and Brian Hughes Greer (MDiv ’09) announce the birth of their twin sons, Mylo and Beckett, in October. They also
Matthew Carroll (MDiv) and Lanta Cooper (MDiv/MS ’13) are engaged to be married in August.
Justin Safely (MDiv) and his wife, Mallory, announce the birth of a daughter, Hannah Claire Safely. She was born Jan. 16 and is in good health. Lauren Waggoner (MDiv) is engaged to Chris Mills and is getting married Aug. 2, 2014. She currently serves as the minister to children at FBC Marietta, Ga.
Jeramy Smith (MDiv) is the campus pastor at Georgia State University. Van Smith (MDiv) was hired as the director of operations and finance at FBC, Decatur on Aug. 1, 2013.
Photo courtesy of Alice Horner