Rejoicing in Lent seems a little uncharacteristic; however, this past Thursday and Friday, the seminary community and friends could not help but rejoice! Actually, there is an ancient precedent for rejoicing in this reflective liturgical season. The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare) is a break in an otherwise penitential season. Like Gaudete —the third Sunday of Advent --the theme is rejoicing, and God’s people are summoned forth to live anew. The opening words of the ancient liturgy are from Isaiah 66:10: “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem.”
Central experienced a great rejoicing as we dedicated the Baugh-Marshall Chapel and hosted an open house for churches and community friends. On Thursday evening, we consecrated the instruments, altar furniture, and sacred space for the glory of God. We also heard one of the finest organists around, Paul E. Oakley, “play every inch of the instrument,” in the words of Linda Roos, Central trustee and President of the Pillsbury Foundation, which provided organ and piano. As Babs Baugh observed: “We built the shell of the building, but the instruments and furniture gave it soul and warmth.” Our students added their voices in vibrant testimony about what had transpired in their lives because of the seminary and the vision they had for Central’s ongoing stewardship of the chapel and library.
Interestingly, the mid-point of Lent is also known as “Mothering Sunday.” It was customary to visit one’s mother on this day, or perhaps to visit the cathedral or mother church on this day; in Baptist terms, this was a “homecoming” Sunday. I am struck by the mothering these two family foundations, both headed by women, have provided for Central. They have helped incubate a dream and brought to term wonderful new environs for ministry preparation. In many respects, the last fifteen years of Central’s life have been sustained by generative women who invested in our mission: Edna Shepherd, Floreine Budde, Geneva Pepperd, Christine Lewis, Nina McWilliams, Florence Stout, Lucille Hall, Dorothy Herrin, and Ruby and Maxine Erickson (and of course I am inadvertently leaving someone out). This is not to forget the faithful men who have offered resources for Central’s vocation in theological education; nevertheless, these women have been extraordinarily fecund in their generosity.
How grateful we are for the many persons who have provided a future, with hope, for Central. Our mission is to prepare women and men to “transform churches and communities by educating and forming them as Christian leaders who are biblically knowledgeable, theologically articulate, spiritually healthy, humanly sensitive and professionally competent.” By God’s grace, Central has pursued this calling for 110 years. That, alone, is reason for great rejoicing.
Molly T. Marshall
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