Article By: Suzanne R. Holsomback
"Ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous," these were the words echoed by both Russell Hutchison and Fredricc Brock, two first year students at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, when they heard that the Fall of 2007's preacher of the year, Emily McGowin, had never preached in public before. Russell says, "We heard her preach, she is a wonderful preacher. This caliber of a scholar and a preacher had never gotten the opportunity to perfect that gift. And so we started talking about doing something about that."
Russell and Fredricc began dreaming and discussing the idea about providing an opportunity for Truett students to preach, creating their own worship service. Fredricc says that in the African American tradition, seminary is the "preacher school" and students in seminary are trained specifically to preach. "So to have and to see and hear about people only preaching in their preaching classes is amazing. It blew my mind away." He says, "[I]t was absurd to have such great preachers, regardless of gender, with particularity to women, to have such great women at a seminary with a chapel and not be preaching."
"[A]fter we listened to Emily, we said that there are not enough preaching opportunities," says Fredricc, "so we said that we need to hit that circuit and wherever we get the opportunity to meet pastors and start practicing because you're not going to get better unless you're in the pulpit. And we said, 'What about the women, Emily was awesome. We should start our own service.'"
Several weeks later Fredricc was driving and had an "ah ha" moment. He called Russell and asked what was stopping them from having a service. They both wanted one and they both knew Dr. Jimmy Hunter, the pastor at Toliver Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, and he was proactively looking for ways to partner with Truett. Everything was lining up. They finished the fall semester with a plan and a schedule for services to begin in January and run through the semester.
Russell says that as they planned the service they wanted to open a venue for students to perfect their preaching ability, especially in a church tradition that values preaching and holds it as a central aspect of worship. Fredricc says "we wanted to create a non-discriminatory atmosphere for people to practice. It is not only about preaching, even though that is central. Our colleagues from the seminary are participating doing prayer, reading scripture, and giving the benediction. All the parts of the service, even the music is lead by seminary students."
As the spring semester began, the Sunday Night Live preaching venue at Toliver Chapel came to life with Angela Benson and David Bonnet preaching the first service on January 20th. Russell says that is was a successful service, but more than that, it was the day before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and was truly "a celebration of the equality he fought for." Fredricc agrees and says that the most powerful moment for him was the final hymn they sang. "[W]e sang We Shall Overcome right before the benediction. It was amazing."
Russell and Fredricc say that their vision for Sunday Night Live is for it to be a place for students to refine their preaching ability, but also be a promotional tool for Truett. Russell says that they want people to know "that when you come to Truett there is a place for students to exercise our opportunities in preaching." Fredricc adds that they want people to know that Truett students are not just discussing preaching, but actually preaching in a safe and encouraging environment.
Fredricc says, "we know we can't change the whole world, but we can change someone's world. We do have that opportunity. We hope that people who are considering Truett will be able to see the emphasis this year. We have some great preaching, not just professors that teach preaching, but preachers here at this school, both the faculty and students."
Schedule for Spring 2008:
January 20th-Angela Benson & David Bonnet
February 10th - Richard Villarreal & Tihara Vargas
March 2nd - Lee Fox & Lillian Hinds
March 9th - Russell Hutchison Jr. & Robin Fox
April 13th - Daniel L. White & Qiana Johnson
April 27th - Pending Confirmation of preachers