The North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP), offered through Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) had its first convocation service at the Nash Correctional Institution in Nashville, North Carolina Aug. 21.
“Welcome to The College at Southeastern,” Dr. Danny Akin, President of SEBTS and The College at Southeastern, said to the NCFMP inaugural class. “Words are not adequate to express how glad I am that you are students at our school.”
Jamie Dew, dean of The College at Southeastern, led in a time of prayer at the beginning of the service.
“We come to this moment with incredible amounts of excitement and joy for what you have done,” said Dew.
SEBTS started the program in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and Game Plan for Life to offer a Bachelor of Arts degree in pastoral ministry with a secondary emphasis in counseling and psychology through The College at Southeastern. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is also using its funding to support the NCFMP for the first five years in order to cover the capital costs of the program.
The program is offered to inmates who have a minimum of 15 years on their sentence in order to theologically train them to minister in the context of the North Carolina prison system.
Seth Bible, director of prison programs at SEBTS, noted the importance of this particular convocation service.
“Today we are not just gathered here to meet for the sake of meeting; we are meeting in a very ceremonial way to ring in the beginning of this academic school year and the start of this very important program,” said Bible.
Joe Gibbs, founder and part-funder of Game Plan for Life, sees NCFMP as a personal milestone and reflection of God's character.
“I consider the field minister program to be one of the most important things I'll do in my life," said Gibbs. “The great thing about our God is our God is a God of second chances.”
Jane Gilchrist, general counsel for the Department of Public Safety, drew a spiritual metaphor of light and darkness in regard to the recent solar eclipse.
“Today is a unique day,” said Gilchrist. “Most people are paying attention to an event that brings darkness to parts of North Carolina; however, there is no eclipse here at Nash Correctional.
There is nothing but light and brightness as we begin the North Carolina Field Minister Program.”
Classes will be taught in person at the Nash County Extension Center and SEBTS is planning to admit 30 students into NCFMP each year, allowing for a 120 capacity within four years of the program’s existence.
The NCFMP was modeled after the programs at Angola Prison in Louisiana and Darrington Prison in Texas.