BUIES CREEK, North Carolina – Tuesday, Feb. 9, was not the first time that Faye Owens had attended a Campbell University Divinity School Service of Convocation and Commissioning.
Several years ago her son, Joshua, was commissioned as she; her husband, William; and her oldest son, Andy; watched. She never imagined then that one day she, too, would be commissioned.
She was once really shy. She was older and had two adult sons. And she never felt called to preach.
Yet she was there Tuesday, in Butler Chapel, along with 10 other new Divinity School students for a commissioning ceremony that marked the beginning of their journey in graduate theological education and that celebrated their response to God’s call. She and the other new students also received a Celtic cross to remind them of the cross they bear daily to follow Jesus and of the Divinity School’s mission to provide a Christ-centered, Bible-based and ministry-focused education.
“When you reach my age, you never think of starting a new phase like this. You are thinking about winding things down,” said Faye Owens, who has worked at Cape Fear Valley Hospital for 35 years, 30 of which she has served as the manager of hospital staff services. “But I’m pretty excited about doing this, and the commissioning service is like a sendoff into a new journey and a new future. It’s encouraging.”
Campbell President J. Bradley Creed added to the encouragement in the Charge to the Students he delivered during the ceremony. Drawing on Matthew 9:35-10:8, he urged Owens and the other new divinity students to remember what Jesus told his 12 disciples when he commissioned them: be willing to receive and be willing to be sent.
“Mission is about activism and about doing something, but there is also the passive dynamic. It means yielding to a force that is greater than we are. The power is in receiving,” said Creed, who was provost, executive vice president and professor of religion at Samford University, a private Christian university in Alabama, before becoming Campbell’s president July 1, 2015. “Through faith, you receive the blessings of Christ—more than that, through faith, you receive Christ himself.”
To understand what that faith looks like watch a 6-year-old’s birthday party, he added. There is not one gift that a 6-year-old does not willingly accept with relish, abandonment and enthusiasm. “They show us the joy of receiving,” Creed saaid. “The mission begins with receiving.”
Disciples must also be willing to be sent. “Being sent somewhere is just another aspect of dying to oneself. It’s another way of letting go and losing control of yourself,” said Creed, a former professor of Christian history, associate dean and dean of Baylor University’s George W. Truett Thelogical Seminary who served as a pastor of churches in Texas and Louisiana earlier in his career and holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“For Moses didn’t say I don’t do wilderness. Joshua didn’t say I don’t do walls. David didn’t say I don’t do giants. Mary didn’t say I don’t do virgin births. Jesus didn’t say I don’t do crosses,” he added. “You have to be willing to be sent. When you are willing to be sent is when you really start to go places.”
Faye Owens is willing. She began teaching Sunday school at her home church — Mill Creek Baptist, in Roseboro — years ago when her children were small. She started in the nursery. As her children grew, she moved up with them. She even served a stint as the youth director.
Then her son Joshua enrolled at Campbell Divinity after completing his undergraduate degree from Campbell. He told her about what he was learning in divinity school. She was fascinated. He encouraged her to take classes, too. But she didn’t have a college degree, she told him.
He told her about Campbell Divinity’s Christian Women in Leadership Certificate program where she could audit classes. He again encouraged her to take a class.
“You don’t want to disappoint your children,” she said.
So she took one class. She fell in love with it. She took another. While completing the Christian Women in Leadership Certificate program, she also began to work on an undergraduate degree in business administration at the University of Mount Olive. She graduated from there Dec. 19 and started at Campbell Divinity Jan. 19 as a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry student.
“I think I just love learning, but also a lot of people in my church and community will never be able to come to a divinity school,” she said. “I just want to be able to continue to learn so I can continue to share what I learn with others.”
Campbell Divinity was the right place to continue that learning, she said, because of its mission to provide a Christ-centered, Bible-based, and ministry-focused education and because of the people. The students are supportive, caring, and encouraging of each other, she said, and the professors are phenomenal.
“I’ve never had a class where you are looking at your watch ready to leave,” she said. “The way they teach and the information they share—it’s just enthralling. It’s like hearing a great sermon every class.”
Owens doesn’t picture herself preaching her own sermons someday. She’s focused on teaching. At her home church, she alternates teaching a Sunday school class for young adults one month and a class for second, third and fourth graders the next. She’s also involved with the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU).
Her family is about to change, too. Her son Joshua, who today is an associate pastor for youth, children and families at First Baptist Church in Monroe, is getting married in April. Her oldest son, Andy, is a paramedic and lives in Harnett County with his wife, Leslie. They are expecting a child – her first grandchild – in March. Her husband, William, is retired from Kelly Springfrield.
“There’s a lot of change on the horizon—a lot of exciting change,” she said.
Still, she plans to continue her involvement in ministry activities while working full time at Cape Fear Valley Hospital and taking one class per semester at Campbell Divinity until she finishes her degree.
“My calling is not to preach but maybe to teach,” she said. “My plan was to come here for personal development and to share what I learn with those I teach. But who knows what God has in store for you.”