Divinity School welcomes new students with pinning ceremony

BUIES CREEK – “Paying it forward” was the message delivered to the 30 new students of Campbell’s Divinity School at Tuesday’s Convocation and Commissioning Service held at Turner Auditorium. Before receiving their pins — the traditional welcome of the now 15-year-old Divinity School — the group heard testimony from fellow student Kevin Johnson and speaker Dr. Frank Campbell, both of whom encouraged them to follow God’s will and begin or continue a trend of helping their fellow man.

“One day, we’ll all look back on the people who helped change our world,” said Johnson, a husband and father of two whose return to school was only made possible by the many donors who supported him and Campbell’s program. “There’s a long list of people who signed on to take a chance on me. … They don’t expect a payback, either. They expect us to pay it forward.”

Before a crowd of family, friends, faculty and classmates, the new students were pinned with a replica of the Celtic cross, a symbol of the Campbell Divinity School’s commitment to provide theological education that is Christ-centered, Bible-based and ministry-focused, according to Dean Dr. Andrew Wakefield.

“This service is the highlight of our fall semester, because it represents what we’re all about,” Wakefield said. “We’re here to celebrate a calling.”

The “charge to the students” was delivered by Dr. Campbell, former president of Gardner-Webb University and current executive director of Stratford House, a retirement community in Danvill, Va. Campbell has served for many years on the Board of Trustees of the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund, which was instrumental in opening up the opportunity for students from North Carolina and Virginia to receive grants for Campbell’s Divinity School.

Campbell said the Keesee Fund exists to offer opportunities to men and women who will, in turn, serve and provide opportunities for others. He encouraged the students on hand Tuesday to take that approach to heart.

“As you’re going to be a minister, encourage others to have courage, and God’s will will be done,” he said. “Tell somebody about Christ, and they’ll tell somebody else, who will tell somebody else, who will tell somebody else. Eventually, we will spread the word throughout the world.”

The Divinity School offers three graduate degree programs — Master of Arts in Christian Education, Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry. Each degree program offers concentrations in specialized areas of study. Established in 1996, the school currently has an enrollment of about 200 students.STORY and PHOTO: by Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications