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America's Oldest Methodist College Celebrates its 175th Year

The oldest Methodist school in the United States celebrated its 175th anniversary in a commemoratory worship service held at the Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church in Virginia

America's Oldest Methodist College Celebrates its 175th Year

Last month, the oldest Methodist school in the United States celebrated its 175th anniversary in a commemoratory worship service at the Duncan Memorial United Methodist Church located on campus on Feb. 26.

More than 150 attendees, including nearly 50 alumis of Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, Virginia, joined together for the grand celebration.

The college, founded in 1830, was “born of a need that the United Methodist Church had for educated ministers to spread their new faith in the new republic,” according to the college’s 175th anniversary website.

With the vision of cultivating the minds and characters of those who come to the school from across the U.S. and abroad, the college has been filling that need of the church as well as creating between faculty and students bonds that go beyond this life itself.

“The college needed an event such as this,” said Ira Andrews, a religious studies professor and 1959 Randolph-Macon graduate. “The clergy alumni were thrilled that the event took place and to be asked back to the alma mater to participate. It sent a powerful message to all that Randolph-Macon College is a church-related college and the United Methodist Church is a college-related church.”

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Bishop Charlene Kammerer, newly appointed leader of the Virginia Annual (regional) Conference and who also serves on Randolph-Macon’s board of trustees, addressed the congregation.

“For 175 years, Randolph-Macon College has been building a tradition of quality in liberal arts education,” said Kammerer, according to the United Methodist News Service(UMNS). “Since its founding by Methodists in 1830, the college has been attracting and educating outstanding students of all faiths.”

“Randolph-Macon College proudly holds the distinction of being the longest United Methodist college in operation in the world,” Kammerer said. “You all have had a profound role in not only preserving the past, but continuing to open doors for the generations to come.”

The college is the oldest among the 123 United Methodist-related learning institutions in the U.S.

“While the current college slogan is ‘Believe in the Moment of Connection,’ there is no more vital connection than that of our rich heritage with the United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Franklin Gillis Jr., the school’s ministerial vocation coordinator. “In order to be true to the purposes for which this college was founded, renewed efforts are being made to reclaim and strengthen that heritage.”

“Through the A. Purnell Bailey Pre-Ministerial Program for Ordained Ministry, pastors and churches are invited to identify and encourage high school students to consider and respond to God’s call,” he said. “Students selected to become Bailey scholars are involved in a variety of experiences to nurture their call and commitment to ministry.”

A. Purnell Bailey Pre-ministerial scholarship is annual scholarships offered by the college that include admission to Randolph-Macon, free tuition and even room and board to five students who make the commitment to pursue divinity degrees upon graduation.

A college freshman and proud Purnell Bailey scholar, Jennifer Fletcher, was grateful for the opportunity that she has been given at the school to obtain both knowledge and piety, the two essentials in witnessing to others.

“Grasping both knowledge and piety is vital in our Christian walk,” she said. “Piety is wonderful, but knowledge is important because the more we know about our Savior, the more we can appreciate his majesty. We cannot identify with those we witness to if we do not have knowledge. We need knowledge to answer their questions, to explain our faith in ways that more people can relate to. Piety cannot always be understood, but when it’s coupled with knowledge it is something that more people can relate to.”

In her last remarks, Kammerer encouraged all the attendees to continue their dedication and efforts in educating scholars and strengthening the bond between the college and the United Methodist Church.

David Hindman, class of ’72 and campus minister at The College of William & Mary, expressed the celebration as a “moving experience.”

“I hope and pray it is the first step in a new chapter in the relationship between the church and R-MC,” he said. “I am hopeful and excited about what the future may hold for this precious partnership.”

Randolph-Macon College, named after the two political leaders of the day, John Randolph and Nathaniel Macon, was ranked among the top 100 national liberal arts and sciences colleges of 2004 that offer bachelor's degrees in the annual survey conducted by the U.S. News and World Report. It was also featured as one of the nation's best institutions for undergraduate education in The Princeton Review annual college guide, The Best 357 Colleges.

In its 175th year, the college still stands to "promote the freedom and confidence that a liberal arts education instills in students who leave the college as leaders and life-long learners," having many of its graduates to have made a difference in their communities.

To browse through the history of Randolph-Macon and its special celebrations and events of the past, visit the 175th anniversary Web on the college’s official site. http://www.rmc.edu

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