The events of the past year have forced us to reimagine many parts of our lives. In the wake of a deadly pandemic, the Memphis Theological Seminary community has reimagined the workplace, the classroom, and the sanctuary, as we seek to stay in community with each other despite physical distancing.
In March of 2020, we moved all of our classes online, and MTS faculty and staff began working from home. At the initial outbreak of Covid-19, we anticipated that there would be an economic impact in addition to the health crisis. As a result, our seminary reimagined how we could be better stewards of the resources God has entrusted to us. This included applying for CARES Act funding that allowed us to purchase laptops and hotspots for student use, as well as offer direct payments to our students to offset the costs incurred by the transition to online learning. We also began offering a series of free virtual classes to local churches and lay people called Sunday Morning Seminary, in an effort to support and connect people of faith in this period of isolation.
What we could not have imagined is how our donors would respond during this challenging time. We exceeded both of our matching pledges in 2020 and received $200,000 more in December gifts than we did in December of 2019! Because of the generous support of people like you, we also finished this past fiscal year in the black. This is an amazing accomplishment at a time when we faced unrest and uncertainty from wide-ranging health, economic, and social challenges.
In the midst of deep uncertainty and constant change, I am deeply grateful for the hard work and sacrifice of our faculty and staff that made these very significant accomplishments possible, as well as for the generous support of the MTS community. Your gracious giving has helped us say to the world: while sanctuary doors have been closed, the Church has remained open, alive, and well.
In January 2021, our accreditation was reaffirmed by SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) for ten years without any stipulations! In addition, we are approved for accreditation by ATS (Association of Theological Schools) through 2025. Both of these accrediting bodies have also approved Memphis Theological Seminary to offer distance education.
MTS introduced two new Master of Arts in Christian Ministry concentrations in Chaplain Studies and Methodist Ministry this past academic year. We are also recruiting students for new Doctor of Ministry cohorts in Womanist Preaching; Preaching as Leadership; Forming and Growing Churches in the 21st Century; and Pastoral Therapy: Faith and Health to begin this summer. We expect to offer some on-campus courses in the Fall of 2021 with proper precautions such as social distancing, masking, and regular sanitation. We will continue to supplement on-campus courses with additional online contact hours and we will offer some completely synchronous and asynchronous online classes at least through the duration of the pandemic.
While 2020 presented us with unimaginable challenges, together we will continue equipping leaders for ministry in the Church and the world in 2021 and beyond. I give praise to God for wonderful gifts of grace all along this journey.
With deepest gratitude and prayerful blessings,
Dr. Jody Hill,