Divinity School commissions 10 new students, 3 from same church

Photo: Left to right, Samantha Pope, Elizabethtown Baptist Church Pastor Chris Carroll, Tommy Hatcher, and Ashley Sasser. The Divinity School commissioned Pope, Hatcher and Sasser, as well as seven other students, Tuesday. (Photo by Amber Mitchell, Master of Divinity student)

Editor’s note: Profiles of Hatcher and several other new divinity students will be published on the university’s blog,We Are Campbell, in coming weeks.

BUIES CREEK — Tommy Hatcher, a 1976 Campbell University alumnus, had come to the Campbell Divinity School a few years ago as part of a committee searching for a new pastor for his church, Elizabethtown Baptist Church. But while meeting with a Divinity School official, Hatcher “felt the call,” he said.

“So,” he added, “here I am.”

“Here” was in Butler Chapel on Tuesday when the Campbell Divinity School commissioned Hatcher and nine other new students to mark the beginning of their theological education and to celebrate their call. Among those nine other students were two who are also members of Hatcher’s church, Elizabethtown Baptist: Samantha Pope and Ashley Sasser. Sasser has been the youth minister of Elizabethtown Baptist since 2011, and Pope was previously a math instructor.

“It has been rewarding to see other people [from Elizabethtown] come here at the same time,” said Hatcher, who is retired and worked in insurance for about 25 years. “We were all called around the same time, and I’m sure each was the individual work of God. That’s really the only way to explain it.”

In attendance at the commissioning service Tuesday was current Elizabethtown Baptist Church Pastor Chris Carroll, who earned his bachelor’s and Master of Divinity degrees from Campbell, as well as Campbell President Jerry Wallace, who was the pastor of Elizabethtown Baptist when Hatcher was growing up.

Of having three new divinity students from Elizabethtown Baptist, Wallace said: “I think we should applaud that.”

Michael G. Cogdill, a former youth pastor at Elizabethtown Baptist and current professor of Christian ministry at Campbell, delivered the Charge to the Students, “A Calling to Fulfill.”

In his message, Cogdill described Tuesday as a “high and holy day” because the “special service” was a time “when we come together to commit ourselves to the noble mission statement of this school to be Christ-centered, bible-based and ministry-focused.” Each of the new divinity students received a pin in the shape of the Celtic cross that symbolizes that mission as well as their commitment to take up the cross and follow Christ.

“All of us have a relationship with God that we can share with others,” said Cogdill, who was dean of the Divinity School from its founding in 1996 until returning to the faculty full time in 2010. “We have a spirit within us and a Holy spirit that will empower us so that we can give to others. We have eyes to see needs. We have ears that we can listen to people living on the edge, unburden their hearts and speak about what they do. We have mouths that we can prepare for the pulpit and to give Sunday words for a Monday world. We have feet that will take us to places where need is present.

“What do you have to give to ministry?” he added. “Plenty.”

Editor’s note: Profiles of Hatcher and several other new divinity students will be published on the university’s blog,We Are Campbell, in coming weeks.