Posts Tagged Furman

A Chaplain’s Hope for Furman University* – Rev. Maria Swearingen

IMG_3487 (4) - CopyThis summer, two days after nine African-American men and women were slaughtered by a white supremacist in Charleston, Furman-Lake-autumn600thousands of people gathered all over the state to hold hands, process outrage, and acknowledge communal sins. As I watched 350+ people from all races, creeds, and religious traditions pour into the Chapel that afternoon, I was hopeful about what a collective response to racism and xenophobia would look like for our country, for the state of South Carolina and for this campus.

I was hopeful then. I am hopeful now.

Even so, I must be clear. That hope is not borne out of ignorance. As a chaplain and as co-chair of Furman’s presidential committee on diversity and inclusion, I carry a host of stories that pain me to my core. I know Catholic students who have been told they are going to hell, Muslim community members who have been told that their tradition is inherently violent, gay and lesbian students who have suffered slurs and blatant disrespect, international students told to go back to where they came from, and the painful list goes on. Perhaps we like to think these things do not happen here, but unfortunately, they do.

We have much to be proud of. We have a long way to go.

Amidst my awareness, exhaustion, and outrage over moments like the ones I just described, I hold to the seemingly outlandish conviction that it is within spaces of great difference, personal, religious, social, and ideological, that the real project of the university comes to life. Homes for higher education were never meant to merely conceptualize democracy for textbook consumption. The real project has always been to facilitate space, learning, and opportunities for the enactment of democracy. This enlivens and enfleshes discourse, calling us into one another’s lives and stories. Here, we sit at tables and live in residence halls and actively listen in classrooms with people who help us grapple with our bias, re-imagine community beyond our well-worn contexts, and embrace the complexity of difference we all pose for one another.

My hope for “what’s next” at Furman is that we will intentionally and joyfully choose to be a place that presses into this grand experiment with equal doses of fervor and care. We must believe that the project is worth our time, and even at the cost of overdramatizing, the grounding force for civilization.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR  Reverend Maria Swearingen is in her sixth year as associate university chaplain at Furman University. Originally from Texas, she graduated from Baylor University and received her master of divinity from Duke University. She offers pastoral care and interreligious engagement to Furman’s faculty, staff, and students, along with alumni and friends of the university.

*This article first appeared in the Spring issue, Vol.59 issue of The Furman Magazine and is used here with permission.


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331 Years of Serving God and Man

On Sunday, September 29, 2013, First Baptist of Charleston, South Carolina will celebrate 331 years of service. The congregation was formed in Kittery, Maine in 1682 and moved to Charleston in 1696. In 1699 Mr. Elliott gave the property where the church is located. There has been a Baptist church on the site since 1701.

It is inspiring to think about all those who have worshiped here and the lives that have touched.  Everything of importance in early Baptist history happened here. Before the Civil War there were over 200 Black children in Sunday school. During that time there were more Black members than there were white members. After the Civil War those members were invited to stay and many did until their deaths.

Richard Furman is the most famous of its pastors. John A. Hamrick is the most important pastor since the Civil War. Dr. Hamrick established the day school and was the founding president of what is now Charleston Southern University.

The church has practiced open communion since its founding. The church is home to what is known as the Charleston Tradition which refers to formal worship and educated clergy. The major contributions of the church are Christian education and sending members into the ministry.

The church as established a reputation for its classical music in worship program undergirded by a talented volunteer choir now under the direction of David Templeton. That music will be a vital part of the anniversary celebration at 11 o’clock on June 29th.

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Thankful Thursday – The Rev. Bernett Waitt

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for the gifts that the Rev. Bernett (Bernie) Waitt brings to my life. Bernie grew up in Winnsboro, South Carolina and eventually made his way to Furman University and then to Southern Seminary. Along the way he had the good fortune of persuading Jane to be his wife. After serving as pastor at First Baptist Church of Timmonsville, he joined the administration of Dr. John Hamrick at the fledgling Baptist College of Charleston now Charleston Southern. Upon leaving the college post, he felt a new calling to the intentional interim pastorate. Since that time he has served twenty three interim assignments. He has repeated at some churches as many as three times. He was also Minister for Administration at Ashley Baptist River Baptist Church. Bernie has been a member of the Hamrick Lectureship Committee from the very beginning. He and Jane have added so much to our deliberations. He knows absolutely everyone in Baptists circles. He has also been a vital voice for work with senior citizens. Jane also taught math at Charleston Southern. Bernie and Jane are always willing to pitch in and help. On this Thankful Thursday I am grateful that the Rev. Bernett Waitt is part of my life.

Thankful Thursday is a day set apart to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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Thankful Thursday – First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC

On this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for all the gifts that First Baptist Church of Charleston brings to my life. Sunday Sept. 30, it will celebrate 330 years of service to God and man. FBC has the warmest, most gracious fellowship I have ever known. People really do love one another. The Robert Mills sanctuary itself is beautiful. The organ is magnificent and the choir inspiring. The church has been blessed throughout its history with great ministers; the most famous is Richard Furman. In modern history, Dr. John A. Hamrick was a visionary and great leader. Not only did he start the fully accredited First Baptist School, but he was the founding president of what is now Charleston Southern University. Dr. John and the late Minister of Music and Worship, David Redd, really taught me the meaning and practice of worship. The congregation at FBC contains a wide spectrum of religious beliefs and political preferences but this has been true since its founding. Diversity is strength. My family and I have been truly blessed by the FBC family. As glorious as its past has been, I know that its future is even brighter as long as it remains true to its calling. First Baptist Church occupies a unique position of influence which always provides a challenge.

Thankful Thursday is a day set aside to recognize the importance of someone to our lives and to let her or him know of our gratitude. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter. You will be glad that you did.

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