Grace. That marvelous, amazing grace—given to us and hopefully passed on to others through us. During the time I have been at Memphis Theological Seminary, I have made my share of mistakes, mishaps, and missteps. Through it all, I have experienced grace and mercy from the board, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I am so thankful for that grace.
But the grace shown to MTS by people like Mrs. Barbara Hamilton has been absolutely matchless. Over the last decade, Mrs. Barbara Hamilton and Dr. Ralph Hamilton contributed $3 million toward the construction of a new, standalone chapel at MTS. (Dr. Ralph Hamilton sadly passed away in 2017.) This chapel would seat over 250 people, house a 1924 Moeller pipe organ, and be a focal point for midtown Memphis. The seminary was in need of a little good news and this was a lot of good news.
When I arrived on August 1, 2018 as interim president, things were somewhat dire. Twenty positions had been discontinued or left unfilled. The budget was over $500,000 in the red even after the cuts. There had been a ribbon cutting for the chapel project several years before but no construction had begun.
One night, I had an idea. I wondered if Mrs. Hamilton would be amenable to allowing us to redirect her very generous gift from building the new chapel to remodeling the current chapel, endowing the first fully funded faculty position in her honor, and retaining the rest as a savings account for the future.
When Rev. Dr. Rick Kirchoff and I visited with Mrs. Hamilton, I saw true selfless generosity and kindness. We shared our proposal with her and she said, “Sounds like a good plan to me.” I admit, this scenario was the not the best result. I know this was not what the Hamilton’s envisioned as a result of their gift. But we at MTS thank God for mercy and grace.
I believe the seminary community and our donors will show this same kind of grace to the next president, Rev. Jody Hill. I have known Jody for nearly twenty years, since he was my pastor at Rogersville First CP Church in Rogersville, Alabama. He, I know, is a grace-filled individual who will bring a loving, forgiving, merciful heart full of kindness and generosity. May God continue to bless MTS and Jody as you begin this new chapter.
In His Love,
Dr. Susan Parker
Interim President, Memphis Theological Seminary