Kenneth McNeil: "Truett is a Family"

November 14, 2017

These words were shared by Kenneth McNeil, pastor of Willow Grove Baptist Church and Truett student, at the annual Friends of Truett Dinner on November 12, 2017.

August 9, 2017 was a day that I will never forget.

What I thought was just another normal, ordinary day turned out to be nothing but ordinary. Our small country church, Willow Grove Baptist, was broken into, vandalized, and racist graffiti was written on the floor of our Fellowship Hall.

After contacting the local authorities and our church family, I knelt in the middle of our sanctuary and asked God for the strength and courage to lead our congregation.

Kenneth McNeil

That was a Wednesday. The events of Charlottesville happened two days later. Staring at the news reports coming out of Charlottesville, I quickly realized that our attack was no coincidence.

It was then that I reached out to my Truett family, I contacted Dean Still and several professors - Dr. Angela Reed, Dr. Stephen Reid, and Dr. Cook.

The faculty at Truett responded in a loving and supportive way. Many rearranged their schedules and were at our church that Sunday morning. They prayed with us, they supported us, and they demonstrated the love of Christ.

Soon after, Willow Grove scheduled a day of clean up, and my Truett colleagues and the Truett faculty - including Dr. Wilhite - came out and rolled up their sleeves, willing to do whatever was necessary to restore our church to some sense of normalcy.

Truett Seminary has meant everything to me and has been a tremendous blessing in my life.

I remember sharing with Dr. Cook how I felt the weight of pastors who have gone before me, pastors who have had to stand up on Sunday morning and address a congregation after being the target of a hate crime.

Several people have been touched by our response of love and forgiveness in the midst of hate.

It was in Dr. Stroope's class that we talked about connecting with others who disagree with us, that we can connect through our common humanity. In Dr. Reed's class, we discussed being truly transformed.

In Ruth Haley Burton's book, Life Together in Christ, she writes, "The best we can offer to those we lead is our own transforming self."

For me, Truett is more than a building and classrooms. Truett is more than assignments and tests. Truett is more than letter grades and GPAs.

Truett Theological Seminary is a place where Christian leaders are being formed. It is a place where Christ is being formed in us, so when the days of ministry are tough - really tough - when the days are not normal, when ministry is not routine, we can offer the love of Jesus. His love is a fountain flowing deep and wide, and it never stops flowing.

At Truett, disciples are being developed, and the Good News is being proclaimed in the midst of hatred, finger pointing, and name calling. The love of Jesus Christ is being rooted in the hearts and minds of this community.

Truett is a family. There were many Truett alumni who reached out to us as we walked through that difficult time.

Dr. Martin Luther King said, "Character of a person is not shown in times of ease or comfort. Character is shown during times of great difficulty and challenge."

Well, the character of Truett was shown during our time of great difficulty and challenge.

Although there are times when ministry can be tough, I am thankful I said yes to God's call.

And I am thankful I have Truett Seminary to guide me through this journey.

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