Commissioning service challenges divinity students to find “interrobang” of faith

September 17, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Commissioning service challenges divinity students to find “interrobang” of faith

BUIES CREEK -- In the 1960s, Martin K. Specter, the founder of a New York-based advertising firm, needed a punctuation mark that expressed both excitement and questioning. There wasn’t one, so he invented a new punctuation mark, combining an exclamation point and a question mark to create “?!” or “‽”. He called it the interrobang.

This interrobang represents the approach to theology that Dr. Jody Wright encouraged the new students in the Campbell Divinity School to take toward their faith, their ministries, and their studies during his Charge to the Students at the school’s fall 2014 Service of Convocation and Commissioning held Tuesday, Sept. 16, in Butler Chapel.

“The interrobang perfectly fits a faith like yours and mine, especially a faith that is still finding its grounding and discovering new facets of truth all the time . . . ,” said Wright, the pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “In all that he did, Jesus taught that God has blessed us with minds as well as with bodies, and he expects us to use them both. . . . How can you begin to minister with people who are erupting with questions if we are not willing to ask those questions ourselves?”

He added: “God give you all a faith and ministry marked by an interrobang.”

The commissioning service marked a day to celebrate students responding to God’s call and to formally recognize their start of graduate theological education. Following Wright’s sermon, the Divinity School gave each of the 27 new Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Ministry students a pin to symbolize its commitment to provide a Christ-centered, Bible-based and ministry-focused education as well as the students’ commitment to take up the cross and follow Jesus.

Also receiving pins during the service were four Doctor of Ministry students who are new to Campbell and Dr. Alicia Myers, assistant professor of New Testament and Greek who joined Campbell Divinity this semester.

“As you begin your seminary education and wherever in God’s grace you are privileged to minister, do not neglect to question your faith,” Wright said. “Struggle with the issues of the world and wonder where God is. Find your place in faith and celebrate it, because you won’t be there for long. A life of faith is always on the move, always looking for God, always being stalked by God.

“Don’t ever stop discovering the interrobang, because that is where faith lives.”

New students in the Campbell Divinity School with faculty. 

3 divinity students, 3 experiences, 3 callings

Three of Campbell’s new Master of Divinity students talked to about how they ended up at Campbell Divinity and their calls to ministry. We asked the students six questions each. Responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Jonathan Blackburn' 05 was in a car accident that he should not have survived. Now he wants to help minister to others in hopeless circumstances.

Name: Jonathan Blackburn '05

Hometown: Angier, North Carolina

On why Campbell Divinity: The quality. There were other seminaries I considered, but Campbell stood out. Also, I have personal connections to Campbell. I did my undergrad here, and my dad [Grover Blackburn] was campus minister here many years ago. He’s been at Angier Baptist Church for 20 years now. That number speaks volumes in itself. He’s committed. I also saw in him how the call itself plays into everything he does. He’s been on vacation when there’s been a sudden death, and he has had to come back. That’s the definition of a call. It’s 24/7.

On my calling: I feel that chaplaincy is the path for me, particularly a ministry in the hospital setting. I have a heart to minister to people in low circumstances and hopeless circumstances. I’ve been there, and I think God can use me in those situations.

On my own low circumstances: I’ve been in two accidents. One in 1998 should have taken my life, when I tore my aorta, broke my back, crushed my left pelvis, broke ribs on each side, and had my left lung collapse. Then during my first summer in Greece, in 2008, I was in an accident where a girl hit me and broke my femur. They did partial hip placement in Greece. The Lord did some amazing miracles in the process. One notable miracle is a guy did a quick prayer in the name of Jesus over me, and my leg instantly grew. That took care of the uneasiness from the surgery and the break. Even amidst things like that God is doing amazing thing.

On my time in Greece: After graduating from Campbell, I worked at a local hardware store as I began the process with the International Mission Board to be a journeyman. I knew a missionary in Greece and made contact with him to see if there were any openings. There weren’t, but there were openings in the Czech Republic. So I said, ‘OK. I’m going to go for that.’ And I was going for that, but Greece kept coming up in my mind. I was watching a minister on TV and he was going over his upcoming schedule. I said, “Lord, if you want me to go to Greece, let him say that he’s going to Greece next.” Right after I said ‘Amen,’ the pastor said he was going to Greece next. Sure enough an opening came for Greece. I served as a missionary there from January 2008 to December 2012.

On why Greece: Possibly the history there. There was also a big ministry there to minister to Muslim refugees. 

On what I learned in Greece: The way God extravagantly pursues his people. I’ve heard stories of Muslims having dreams of Jesus when they had never heard of Jesus before. I just think if God is pursuing Muslims like this, then why can’t He pursue all people like this.

Caitlyn Rogers '11 traveled through 11 countries in 11 months with only a backpack. It sparked her desire to focus on missions and serve people around her.

Name: Caitlyn Rogers '11

Hometown: Williamston, North Carolina

On why Campbell Divinity: I felt in high school the Lord was calling me to ministry, though I didn’t know what part of ministry. I went to undergrad at Campbell; and as an undergrad, I got to work at a church in Angier whose main focus is ministering to the community around it. It taught me the importance of ministry. I had the chance to go overseas, and that sparked more of a desire in me to focus on missions. When I came to visit Campbell this past summer, I got to reconnect with a few professors and was reminded of the community I had here. On my way home, I knew it was time to pursue a Master of Divinity.

On my overseas experience: I found out about World Race online. [Campbell Campus Minister] Faithe Beam knew one other person who had done it, and she assured me it was worth it. So from October 2011 through the end of August 2012, I traveled to 11 countries in 11 months, with everything I own in a 45-pound backpack. There were 45 people in my squad, but we split into teams of six and seven. In each country we worked alongside missionaries or people from the country serving in orphanages, teaching English, building a church, working with children -- whatever was needed. [Editor’s note: The 11 countries Rogers traveled to were Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Malawi.]

On a transformative experience overseas: I was homesick the first two months. For month three, we were in Nicaragua working in a slum ministry alongside an organization. That first night there four boys in high school told us their testimony and how they can look back and see how God protected them from drugs, gangs, violence, and alcoholism. Now they were discipling others. It was powerful. That was the point where homesickness went away and I realized I needed to be 100 percent in this every day and God had things He was going to show me.

On what I learned from the World Race: A lot about prayer. A lot of people we were around knew so much more about prayer. They have so many struggles that were real, like “Will I have food to feed my family?” They taught me to be real with God and how to pray to God in every situation and about everything.

On what I’ve been doing since returning: Working as a teacher assistant in a school in Robbinsville, North Carolina. It’s a Title I school, and there’s a lot of poverty and a lot of violence in the community. But God knew I needed to be somewhere where I could serve, and God provided.

On my calling: I love missions. I don’t know if God will have me overseas or doing missions here in the U.S. I’m pretty open to whatever. I know I have a lot to learn, and I’m excited about the things the Lord will teach me and show me here.

Carter Benge’s grandparents used to sing hymns with him, fostering his love for music. Today he’s using music to help youth see where music and God collide.

Name: Carter Benge

Hometown: Fayetteville, North Carolina

On my calling: I’m pursuing a Master of Divinity with a concentration in church music because I want to continue to use music as a way to help youth encounter Christ and to help them see how they can use it to help others. I’m also serving as a music intern at Hayes Barton Baptist Church, in Raleigh, and trying to help re-grow the youth choir there.

On how I ended up at Campbell Divinity: It was through a long and twisted road. I finished my undergrad at Mars Hills University in May. My music director from my childhood and youth [at Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville] was Larry Dickens, who is now chair of church music at Campbell. He had a big influence on my life and on coming here and continuing to pursue my ministry. PASSPORT Camps has also had a big part in my ministry and helping me realize I want to continue furthering my education and continue in the ministry.

On my experience with PASSPORT: I’ve worked with PASSPORT for the past three summers. For first two summers, I worked at PASSPORTchoices through Wingate University. One of the things I did for that was lead a group called Grace Notes. One of my tag lines for that was to help students see where music and God collide. This past year I worked at PASSPORTmissions, which was in Jacksonville, Florida, and Danville, Virginia, and was a lot more out in the community and mission-based. I had to figure out more creative ways to use my musical gifts in helping others while we were out working with the youth.

On what I took away from PASSPORT: PASSPORT has been a big part of my life because one of my foundational ministry goals is to build long-lasting relationships with youth. If you don’t have a long-lasting relationship with them, they are less likely to open up and they are less likely to listen to what you have to say.

On my love for music: I’ve always loved music. My musical influences are Larry Dickens and my grandparents. I remember singing hymns with my grandparents all the time. My grandmother was always sitting down with the piano. She'd play hymns and we’d sing them. My love for music has developed over the years through youth choir and through Larry and through PASSPORT and youth group and all that has brought me to this point.

On what I’ve learned from Larry Dickens: I can’t pinpoint one thing, because I’ve just absorbed so many things he has done so many times. He’s had such a long-lasting impact on my life. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve observed about him, though. I like to build long relationships, which he does really well. I think I’ve learned how to do that from him.