The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic closed the doors of churches across Mississippi for almost three months before reopening. Throughout the process, many of the RTS Jackson faculty have faithfully served local churches.
Dean of Students Charlie Wingard highlighted the importance of faculty involvement in the local church. “We introduce students to the treasures of biblical studies, church history, and theology, but our work is not over until we can show them how to share that learning clearly and winsomely. A seminary faculty cannot accomplish this if we are not churchmen deeply involved with our congregations.”
Dr. Wingard is also Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology. He has served as the Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Yazoo City since February 2016. During the statewide lockdown, he and Dr. Guy Waters alternately led and preached morning and evening services recorded for both First and Second Presbyterian Churches in Yazoo City. Dr. Waters continues to preach regularly at Second Presbyterian Church now that both churches have resumed gathered morning worship.
In August 2019, Dr. Bruce Baugus became Interim Pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson, and he has continued to fill that role throughout the pandemic. During the lockdown, Trinity recorded morning and evening worship services. Since reopening their doors on May 17, they continue to record their evening services. Dr. Baugus has also served as a ruling elder, Sunday school teacher, and adult discipleship leader at Trinity. He also preaches occasionally at other churches in the area.
Other faculty have also served local churches before or during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Mike McKelvey preached regularly at Grace Presbyterian Church in Starkville until they called a senior pastor in April of this year. Dr. Jim Hurley was scheduled to teach a Sunday school class about marriage at Redeemer Church in Jackson. Though the pandemic shelved the class, Dr. Hurley has taught it numerous times in the past.
Dr. John Fesko has served at both First Presbyterian Church in Jackson and at Pinehaven Presbyterian Church in Clinton. For First Presbyterian Church, Dr. Fesko recorded a Wednesday-night teaching series entitled “The Christian and Technology,” based on his book by the same name.
Pinehaven’s pastor has been on medical leave, and Dr. Fesko has filled their pulpit as the stated supply preacher. RTS Jackson and Pinehaven have a longstanding relationship. Faculty have filled their pulpit on numerous occasions, sometimes for extended periods while Pinehaven was searching for a full-time pastor.
Leon Hemphill, an elder at Pinehaven, expressed his appreciation for the church’s relationship to RTS. “I just can’t tell you what a tremendous stabilizing benefit it has been to be able to call on RTS to help fill our pulpit with such capable men. We have been greatly blessed by that over the years and continue to be with Dr. Fesko.”