On April 13, Southern Wesleyan University dedicated a place on its Central, S.C., campus that will prepare future ministry leaders.
Southern Wesleyan’s administration and board of trustees joined Wesleyan denominational officials, church pastors from several Wesleyan districts, faculty, staff, students, and the surrounding community to fill the ALIVE chapel of the Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center for a dedication ceremony.
Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center represents a rebirth for the historic granite-sided Wesleyan church, affectionately known over the years to the university community as the “college church.”
When ALIVE Wesleyan Church began planning a move from its older building to a new facility a couple miles away, SWU launched a $1.4 million campaign to purchase the church and renovate it to house its division of religion.
The Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center is named in memory of two men who distinguished themselves for their contributions to Southern Wesleyan University and The Wesleyan Church: Dr. Roy Nicholson of Walhalla and Dr. Virgil Mitchell of Six Mile.
Dr. Mari Gonlag, chair of the university’s division of religion, praised the efforts of Southern Wesleyan University President Dr. Todd Voss and his wife, Julie, as well as Jonathan Catron and the university’s physical plant staff; Mike Preusz and the university’s information technology staff; and the division’s faculty members.
Gonlag gave special recognition to Dr. Robert Black, professor of religion, as the person “in whose mind and heart this dream was born.”
“As soon as Dr. Voss became president, Dr. Black went to see him about the dream of the religion division to be in this building. At every level in countless decisions, much hard work, many late nights, he worked so hard for this project. We owe to Bob a debt we can never repay,” Gonlag said.
Voss called the transformation of the old stone church into the Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center a “movement of God’s hand” that will impact future generations through religion students who will be prepared for ministry in the facility “that’s not only taught them how to preach, but how to reach.”
Members of the Nicholson and Mitchell families were recognized, as were families of donors whose names appear throughout the center, and individuals and groups who donated. Nearly 500 donors gave over 1,500 gifts to fulfill the $1.4 million fundraising campaign.
Through a video message, Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, general superintendent of The Wesleyan Church, conveyed denominational greetings and gave tribute to Nicholson and Mitchell as godly men whose dreams were realized.
“We in The Wesleyan Church welcome and rejoice with what’s taking place on the campus of Southern Wesleyan University and the new Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center,” Lyon said.
The center features classrooms and other learning spaces made possible by the generosity of the many campaign donors, including the Youth Ministry Lab in memory of Dr. Jimmy Johnson and the Children’s Ministry Lab in honor of Rev. and Mrs. David and Shirley Duncan. The Children’s Ministry Lab is supplied with state-of-the-art curriculum, learning toys, music, videos, and other resources for cutting edge children’s ministry. Additional areas are devoted to training in technology used in worship services.
The goal of the center is to provide relevant and innovative approaches to ministry with the timeless values of The Wesleyan Church’s spiritual heritage, prepare the next generation of servant-leaders for a breadth of ministry essential in today’s rapidly-changing culture, become the “go-to” institution for academics with practical application, and to mobilize hundreds of new ministers by 2025.
Editor’s note: The WesLife Webcast team interviewed Dr. Bob Black, Buddy Rampey, and Don Milstead during the dedication. Watch the interviews on YouTube.
Photos: Dr. Robert Black gives remarks during dedication ceremonies for Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center. Black is a co-chair of the center’s fundraising campaign with Rev. James Wiggins (seated right of Black). Pictured on the platform from left are Black, Wiggins, Dr. Mari Gonlag, chair of the university’s Division of Religion; Dr. Don Campbell, professor of music; Dr. Todd Voss, university president, Dr. Lisa McWherter, vice president for advancement; and Rev. Ken Dill, associate vice president for spiritual life and university chaplain.
Those assembled for the dedication of Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center April 13 at Southern Wesleyan University sing the hymn “How Firm a Foundation,” which was sung during the first chapel service on the first day of class 110 years ago.