Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of guest posts from Bailey Scholars at Randolph-Macon College. Rev. Adam Kelchner graduated from R-MC in 2009, then studied at Vanderbilt University, and now serves at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville.
When I was 12 years old I experienced the joy and blessing of leading worship at my home church in Richmond, Virginia. It was after that experience that I began sensing and discerning a call to ministry. This discernment lasted for several years and coincided with the decision on where I would apply to and subsequently attend college. My orientation was toward ministry though I did not know at the time whether I would serve in the local church or beyond it. Honestly, I did not know whether ordination was a part of my life’s calling to serve in the name of Jesus Christ.
Now that I’m writing a guest blog post for Jason Stanley, I’m reminded how thankful I am for his previous ministry with young people at Lebanon UMC. I found refuge in that ministry as a young person and it was Jason’s encouragement that led me to the A. Purnell Bailey Scholar program at Randolph-Macon College.
In mid-January 2005, I knew where I was going to college the following Fall. I knew that a generous portion (which I doubt I could ever repay) of my educational expenses were covered. I eagerly awaited the start of my undergraduate studies at Randolph-Macon College. I understood that the ensuing four years were for the purpose of shaping my mind and spirit as the foundations for a lifetime of ministry.
So looking back now, from my vantage point in an appointment in a vital local church and urban campus ministry setting, what do I see in the Bailey Scholar program? One of my colleagues, Kelly Conner, suggested that the Bailey program offers community-it does! I also want to suggest that the program offers intentionality. The scholarship is structured in such a way that academic formation, spiritual formation, and a call to ministry (present and future) are woven together.
To me, an exam on the writings of Paul was more than an academic exercise. It was preparation for teaching and preaching regularly in my parish setting. A writing exercise on Holocaust literature for Dr. Breitenberg was more than an academic exercise-it was mental and spiritual preparation for a Fellowship at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics. An internship at the Virginia Annual Conference Office or with Volunteers in Mission, Southeastern Jurisdiction Office planted deep roots for my present ministry leading mission teams abroad and guiding campus ministry at Belmont University.
I trace a long arc of intentionality through the structure and content of the Bailey Scholar program, my academic formation at Randolph-Macon College, professional internships with church programs, my theological education at Vanderbilt University Divinity School, and my movement into commissioned ministry of the church. Above all, the Bailey Scholar program reminds me of the power of God’s generosity and free grace that transforms our lives.
Rev. Adam Kelchner