“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103:1-2).
Giving thanks is the most fitting action that intelligent creatures can perform in response to the manifold goodness of God. God bestows upon his people a multitude of benefits. According to Psalm 103, the Lord forgives all our iniquity, heals all our diseases, redeems our lives from the pit, crowns us with steadfast love and mercy, and satisfies us with good (Ps 103:3-5). In giving thanks, the soul rouses itself to acknowledge God’s manifold goodness and perfects itself in God’s praise.
It has been my custom at Thanksgiving to reflect upon some of the ways God has blessed RTS Orlando throughout the preceding year. As 2019 marks another year of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to us, it provides another occasion for giving thanks. Below is a list of ten things I am thankful for in 2019.
(1) Elizabeth Pennock: In January, Ms. Elizabeth Pennock joined the faculty of RTS Orlando as Assistant Professor of Counseling. Elizabeth is a delightful colleague who brings a number of gifts to our campus, along with rich experience in Christian ministry. She is already making a big difference in the life of the seminary. (To learn more about Elizabeth, see here.)
(2) Classroom updates: This year we completed a multi-year project of updating our classrooms with new technology, furniture, carpet, and more. We were able to complete this project ahead of schedule thanks to the generous gifts of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, AGI, and several other local families and friends.
(3) Nancy Guthrie’s Biblical Theology Workshop: In September we hosted Nancy Guthrie on campus for a Biblical Theology Workshop. It was a joy to see women from across the state of Florida filling the Pamplin Chapel and being equipped to better read and teach the Bible as the unfolding story of God’s creating, redeeming, and consummating work. I am grateful also to Leigh Swanson, Elizabeth McAdams, Tracey Clarimont, Christina Mansfield, Savannah Liebegott, Lauren Hughes, Abby Camilli, and Nicole Hamilton, along with the worship team at Crosspointe Winter Park, for the many ways they contributed to making this event a success.
(4) Joey Sherrard: Dr. Joey Sherrard, Associate Pastor of Discipleship at Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church, has been on campus twice this year: first, back in January, for the Paideia Center for Theological Discipleship annual conference; second, this fall, to lead a Center for Pastor Theologians student reading group. The goal of the latter is to help second and third year MDiv students think through what it means to engage pastoral ministry as theologians. We are grateful for Dr. Sherrard’s investment in the local church and for his willingness to invest in those who will lead local churches as pastor-theologians in the future.
(5) Our alumni: It’s always a joy to see alums on campus. This year, graduates who visited the campus included Justin Borger, Justin Coverstone, Jim Davis, Matt Eusey, Donny Friederichsen, Kim Mascher, Tim Rice, Matthew Ryman, as well as a host of MAC alumni for our first MAC Alumni Luncheon, honoring our new counseling professor, Elizabeth Pennock. This year, at our biannual Vision Dinner, we also had the opportunity to honor four of our graduates with the RTS Orlando Distinguished Alumni Award: Laura Grace Alexander, Phil Hissom, Stephen Oharek, and Monica Tyedmers.
(6) Ordinations and new fields of service: A number of RTS Orlando alums were ordained to the gospel ministry this year, including Kurt Gray, Aaron Gunsaulus, Ben Kandt, Steve Kang, John Lee, Winston Miller, Terence Ng, and Zach Tarter. In addition to these ordinations, others entered new fields of service: Tim Inman returned to Dunn, North Carolina to plant Christ Church. And, after serving for a number of years as RUF minister at Davidson College, Sid Druen was installed as pastor of NorthCross Church in Cornelius, North Carolina.
(7) New staff: The Lord blessed RTS Orlando with a number of people gifts this year in the form of new staff members. We welcomed Caleb Burnison, Abby Camilli, Tyler Freire, Lauren Hughes, Rob McAdams, and Mike Osborne to the RTS Orlando family. Each of these gifted men and women are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and to preparing the next generation of pastors, counselors, and teachers for service to Christ the King.
(8) Justin and Lindsey Holcomb: Justin and Lindsey Holcomb joined us for two lunchtime conversations and taught an elective course devoted to the topic of abuse in the church. Justin and Lindsey are experts on this challenging issue. We are grateful for their willingness to equip our students with the knowledge, wisdom, and skill necessary to confront abuse in the church.
(9) Special lectures and conversations: A number of guest lecturers and speakers enriched our seminary community this year by their presence. Dr. Fred Sanders delivered the Kistemaker Academic Lecture Series on the topic of divine beatitude. Dr. Mika Edmondson delivered the Hughes Preaching Lectures, addressing several of the challenges that preachers face in our contemporary cultural context. Katherine Leary Alsdorf, the Founding Director of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work, and Dr. Case Thorp, of First Presbyterian Church Orlando and the Made to Flourish network, shared their wisdom and experience on matters related to faith and work.
(10) John Muether: This year we celebrate Professor John Muether’s 30 years of service to RTS Orlando. A founding faculty member on the Orlando campus, Professor Muether serves as Dean of Libraries, Professor of Church History, Assistant Director of the DMin program, and Editor of Reformed Faith & Practice, the RTS online journal. John is an exemplary colleague, a loyal friend, a devoted churchman in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and a faithful servant of Jesus Christ. People gifts are what make RTS Orlando what it is. Among its people gifts, none have served with greater fidelity, steadfastness, and good cheer, in both hard times and happy times, than John Muether. Thanks, John, for 30 years of faithful and fruitful service at RTS Orlando.