Churches from across the Murfreesboro area gathered at World Outreach Church Sunday evening to provide fellowship in a unified effort to help Middle Tennessee State University students stay on the path to getting their degrees.
Coordinated by MTSU first lady Elizabeth McPhee, “Building Community: An Event for MTSU” was organized by a committee of local church leaders to assist MTSU students needing emergency financial assistance.
Sunday’s event was also connected to the True Blue Community Initiative, a grassroots effort launched by the Rev. James McCarroll last September to deepen support for MTSU academics and athletics across all segments of the community.
McCarroll, pastor of First Baptist Church on Castle Street, welcomed the estimated 1,500 attendees to Sunday’s event, drawing laughter by telling them: “You’re going to see a miracle. You’re going to see five pastors all preach within five minutes each.”
But his overall message was more serious, challenging those in attendance to put their faith to action by investing their financial resources into the future leaders of the community.
“The truth is, there are some levels of success that we can only achieve as a community, when we put aside our individual efforts and work collaboratively for the kingdom of God,” McCarroll said.
“We may be operating from different parts of the vineyard of God, but we’re all on the same team. … We come together as faith communities to be a blessing to the students of our academic community. To let them know that we believe in education, and we believe in their success.”
McCarroll was one of six area pastors who delivered “messages of community” during the program. Also speaking were the Rev. Brady Cooper of New Vision Baptist Church, the Rev. Craig Goff of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, the Rev. Allen Jackson of host World Outreach Church, the Rev. Dean Sisk of Belle Aire Baptist Church and the Rev. Vincent Windrow of Olive Branch Baptist Church. Windrow also is MTSU director of intercultural and diversity affairs and interim assistant vice provost for student success.
Jackson said his church was “delighted” to host the event and challenged those attending to look past any denominational differences to come together for a collective good.
“I think we are too often divided … I believe we can honor our Lord by learning to honor one another,” he said. “Your faith is on display. … You are difference makers in so many ways and in so many places.”
Windrow pointed to the university’s True Blue Pledge, which outlines the university’s core values and commitment to making a positive impact on the world.
“In the True Blue Pledge, there is a line that says ‘I am a recipient and I am a giver.’ We have a wonderful opportunity tonight to move from ‘I’ve got to give,’ to ‘I get to give!’ All of us can play a part,” Windrow said.
Among the recommendations in MTSU’s Quest for Student Success, a plan advanced by University Provost Brad Bartel and approved by President Sidney A. McPhee, was for more short-term emergency aid to help students set back by small, unexpected debts.
Mrs. McPhee is working to raise awareness about how such “micro-aid” can help some students remain on track to reaching their dreams.
“Can you imagine a student who can’t afford to buy textbooks that are used?” she asked Sunday’s attendees. “Can you imagine a student not having enough money to buy lunch, so they skip it? Can you imagine an MTSU student having to sleep in his car because he doesn’t have a place to lay his head?
“Imagine with me, all of you, making a difference … changing someone’s life. I ask you to imagine with me a community of people working together.”
President McPhee praised his wife for her efforts and thanked those who attended in support of MTSU.
“In many ways, this evening’s gathering is a celebration of this community and the good that can come when we all work together,” McPhee said. “This is a fine beginning.”
Contributions can be made to the effort by sending a check to the MTSU Foundation in care of the Office of Development, MTSU PO Box 109, Murfreesboro, Tenn., 37132. Donors should be sure to designate the gift to the “MTSU Student Assistance Fund” on the memo line. Gifts without designation will be placed into the university’s Annual Fund.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)