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Winter storm, power failure yield ‘phenomenal’ chapel at Southeastern


WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The winter storm that dumped snow and ice across the East Coast and left millions of homes and buildings without power — including Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary — did not stop Paige Patterson from holding the last chapel of the fall semester.

About 100 students, half a dozen faculty members and Patterson, the seminary’s president, gathered Dec. 5 in a cold and unlit Binkley Chapel for a time of worship, reading from God’s Word and question-and-answer session with some of the professors at the Wake Forest, N.C., campus.

Considering the conditions outside, Patterson called the attendance “phenomenal.”

Patterson went ahead with chapel mostly because he wanted the pastors-to-be among his student body to learn a valuable lesson.

“I want them to get the impression, the commitment, that you never cancel church,” Patterson said. He is inspired in that conviction by the story of great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, who was saved in a small Methodist chapel during a winter storm.

Jeremy Bergstrom, a master of divinity student, braved the elements along with his wife Jackie to make it to chapel. The couple was awake anyway, thanks to a large tree limb falling against the side of their townhouse.

Bergstrom said he had heard Patterson boast that Southeastern never closes and wanted to see for himself if what the president said was true.

The group sang “O Come, All ye Faithful” and “Emmanuel,” and Patterson shared the story of the wise men from Matthew’s gospel. Then the six professors — representing theology, missions and evangelism — spent the next hour being peppered with questions about the call of God, the role of women in the church and in the home, the importance of theological education and more.

“It’s more fun for them to get a look at how their professors actually live and actually are [outside of the classroom],” Patterson said.

Overall, the winter storm took its toll on Southeastern. About 150 units of student housing were still without power entering the weekend, and the president’s home, Magnolia Hill, was without electricity as well.

Ryan Hutchinson, vice president of administration, estimated that it would cost the seminary about $70,000 to cut down and haul away the broken limbs and downed branches from the seminary’s tree-lined campus. Other than downed trees, no other major damage was incurred in the storm, Hutchinson said.
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  • Jason Hall