Driving lessons with my father always included this counsel: “Be sure to look both ways” at intersections, railroad crossings, and parking lots, to prevent an accident. It proved helpful, to be sure. My usual traffic problems have to do with speed, not collisions.
The Roman figure Janus, was supposedly the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, and endings. Statues representing Janus have two faces, looking both ways—backwards to the past and forward to the future. Conventional wisdom suggests that the month of January is named for this member of the pantheon.
As I look backward, the past year has been a constructive one for Central. We are now living fully into our new construction and renovated academic space. [Everyone has found their new space in the building, although I am still looking for a few things.] We continue to learn better ways to deliver technologically-enhanced (online) theological education; our global reach is flourishing; our graduates are leading churches, regions and judicatories, and community development projects with excellence; and, multi-cultural educational pursuits are at the heart of our mission.
There have been losses in the past year in the larger Baptist family as well as among my Benedictine friends at Conception Abbey. This past week, Father Joel Derks died. He was a ray of sunshine among the monks and especially hospitable to guests. He would always greet me as “Rev. Dr. Mother Molly,” making sure he had it just right. Who wouldn’t smile at such a greeting? I am still trying to live up to his generous appellation.
A week earlier, Rev. Dr. Milton Ferguson, former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, died. A beloved leader, scholar, and Baptist statesman, he was a relative of the Wiles clan, a family I claim as “near kin.” His nephew, Rev. Dr. Tom Wiles, Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Rhode Island, is a Central doctoral graduate.
Looking forward, our school enters the new year with deep commitment to seeking God, who is the source of truth. In a time when “fake news” is a daily allegation, a seminary is a “steward of the mysteries,” which calls us to pay attention to Scripture, the incarnation, and the trinitarian history God has with humanity.
Some new initiatives are on the horizon. The Leadership series gathers energy, and 2018 promises new opportunities for continuing education. The Buttry Center will hold its first official gathering this coming spring, and the Women’s Leadership Initiative is expanding in order to be more intentionally diverse, with new recruitment focused on Latinas. The Korean Studies program is exploring new sites, and we continue to locate gifted professors to teach in this expanding program.
Our God is present to all the seasons of our lives and remains faithful in our endings and our beginnings. This grants confidence and joy as we enter 2018. With the Psalmist we pray, “May the Lord give strength to God’s people! May the Lord bless them with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.