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FROM THE SEMINARIES: New SWBTS video series for ministers; NOBTS student’s composition reflects pandemic; MBTS holds virtual colloquy

New SWBTS video series helps ministers live their calling amid COVID-19
By Alex Sibley

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — “Ministry Now” is a new video series featuring interviews with faculty from The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary designed to help ministers live their calling “in an ever-changing ministry landscape,” especially due to COVID-19.

The series is hosted by Katie McCoy, assistant professor of theology in women’s studies at Scarborough College.

New episodes of the series air every Thursday at 10 a.m. Central on Facebook and YouTube. The first episode premiered May 14 and featured Dean of Women Terri Stovall speaking on the topic “Leading from the Second Chair.”

A second-chair leader, Stovall explained, is one who has a significant leadership role but is nevertheless under the authority of a “first-chair leader.” First-chairs include the senior pastor of a church or the president of a seminary, while second-chairs include a church’s student minister and children’s minister or a seminary’s faculty and staff.

Focusing the conversation on the global pandemic, McCoy noted that “every church, every ministry, every family is going through a time of unprecedented transition” because of the coronavirus. “We still don’t know what life is going to look like on the other side of COVID-19,” she said.

Stovall stressed the need to daily ensure “that my feet are grounded in the assurance that while change is constant, God is consistently constant.”

“I don’t want us to shy away as leaders in speaking about the losses,” Stovall said. “There is a time of lament that’s going to come out of this. … But we do it with hope and with a view to the future to know that God can still do His work,” Stovall concluded. “And we put words to that.”

Future topics for “Ministry Now” include re-opening churches in a post-COVID-19 world (with Chris Osborne, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry) and ministering to people’s needs (with adjunct faculty and former missionary Rebekah Naylor).


Musical composition by NOBTS student finds new life, offers hope during pandemic
By Gary D. Myers

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — Started long before the global pandemic, Thomas Johnson’s long-neglected composition found new life and added meaning during the COVID-19 outbreak. The resulting music mirrors this time of world-wide chaos and offers hope for the future.

Johnson, who is earning a master’s in church music at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), began working on his major composition about a year ago. But long before the pandemic changed his world, Johnson had pushed the piece aside.

In addition to being a student at NOBTS, Johnson serves as minister of administration at Grace Community Church in the Bywater neighborhood of New Orleans. He also founded and runs an audio-visual company. The composition took a backseat to other pursuits in Johnson’s busy life.

Johnson had begun working on “A Walk through City Park” with then-adjunct professor Jason Waggoner not long after starting at NOBTS. Waggoner challenged Johnson to write something unique that he would be passionate about. Though Johnson and Abby had not lived in New Orleans long, they had developed a love for City Park. The beautiful sprawling park is an oasis of nature in the city less than five miles from the seminary campus.

Johnson wanted to evoke the idea of a walk through the park. The composition’s A section was peaceful and came together rather quickly.

“I wanted to write the B section as if a storm came through,” Johnson said. “In New Orleans we have some crazy storms from time to time, so I wanted to capture this idea of a storm coming on you as you are on a walk.”

Early this semester, Johnson hoped to give the composition another try, and he received encouragement from NOBTS professor Ed Steele. Still, Johnson found it difficult to complete the work — until COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were issued. But Johnson’s impetus to finish it wasn’t that he had extra time on his hands. In fact, COVID-19 made his life much busier.

With so many churches moving online-only worship services, Johnson’s business, Centered Audio, was suddenly in demand. During the first week of the outbreak, Johnson helped 12 churches develop live streaming plans. Additional requests followed.

“It became a really intense season. I started falling behind in classes,” Johnson said. “It was a turbulent time, as it was for everyone.”

In the middle of this struggle and busyness, Johnson returned to his composition. Writing music became therapeutic during a time of global uncertainty.

“I was at the point in the song that I needed to write about the storm,” Johnson said. “It came very naturally.”

“Some of the most beautiful things will come from seeing the results of that ‘storm’ in a different light,” he said. “As we look back on this time, we are going to see all the ways that God brought the church and believers back to a focus on what’s important.”

Johnson sees evidence of a shift in focus in the longing of church members to regather for corporate worship and in the ways families are spending time together. He believes that God will bring beauty out of the COVID-19 chaos.


Thomas Kidd lecture, Ph.D. presentations highlight MBTS virtual colloquy
By John L. Inman, III

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP) — Historical theology was the theme of the second annual Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Colloquy, which was held May 8 via Zoom.

The colloquy, hosted by Midwestern Seminary’s Residency Program, is a theological forum for Midwestern’s doctoral students to present topics aimed at scholarly discussion. It included 14 presenters and more than 60 people attending via virtual format.

The colloquoy had originally been scheduled to be held on campus, but was moved online because of the coronavirus pandemic. Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology and director of the Residency Program at MBTS, presided over the event.

Strachan opened the event by encouraging attendees that during this season when many are fighting to survive, “at Midwestern Seminary, we are not only trying to exist, but to thrive theologically, academically and institutionally.”

Strachan charged the presenters to keep pushing intellectually and theologically, and he expressed that great leadership is a key component to thriving in “God’s kindness.”

After Strachan’s introductory comments, each of the 14 presenting students was given two minutes to provide a summary of his or her paper. Other students, along with history and church history professor Thomas Kidd and Strachan, added to the discussion and gave the presenters an opportunity to elaborate on their conclusions.

Kidd, distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and distinguished professor of church history at Midwestern Seminary, assisted in evaluating the presentations and was also the keynote speaker. He presented on the topic, “Who is an Evangelical: The History of a Movement in Crisis” from his recent work of the same title.

The Residency program has been offered at Midwestern Seminary since 2016 and combines aspects of the American Ph.D. program and the traditional U.K. doctoral model. The goal of the Residency, according to Strachan, is to merge independent advanced theological research with cohort-based mentorship and oversight.

For information about The Residency, visit www.mbts.edu/degrees/doctoral-studies/the-residency/, or about Midwestern Seminary’s doctoral program, visit www.mbts.edu/degrees/doctoral-studies/

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