At the age of 18, Rev. Dr. Stephen Cook remembers sharing with his mother that he sensed a call to ministry. She told him, “If you feel called, then that’s what you ought to do, son.” Cook joined the military to run from that calling, until an experience on a July 4 holiday convinced him that he could run no longer. Then UMC district superintendent Fred Brown recommended that Cook attend Memphis Theological Seminary to prepare for ministry.
Cook treasured his MTS experience, which he described as a “quality education from great professors.” He appreciated the diversity of religious traditions represented at MTS, how class discussion challenged and equipped him for practical pastoral leadership, and how faculty brought their ministry experience and academic expertise into their teaching. He also valued opportunities for group learning, as this has been especially important for his ministry.
Rev. Dr. Cook now serves as district superintendent of the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church. The theological education he received at MTS has prepared him for the day to day tasks of congregational ministry and denominational leadership, whether managing personnel, using The Book of Discipline, mentoring young ministers, or preaching the gospel. MTS challenged him to be creative in finding new ways of doing ministry with partnerships and collaborations. MTS equipped him for visionary leadership, to think outside of the box, to challenge the status quo to make an impact which moves beyond what he can presently see.
As he reminisced on his seminary education at MTS, Rev. Dr. Cook said: “When you step on the grounds, be prepared to go on a journey that you’ll be thankful for in hindsight, when you have time to reflect on what you’ve learned. You will be thankful for the other students, for kindness, for mentorship, for student services, and for a community of people who really care about you.”