NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Calling it a great day of triumph and victory, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley welcomed students back to the main campus Jan. 23.
By Gary Myers
New Orleans Seminary
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Calling it a great day of triumph
and victory, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck
Kelley welcomed students back to the main campus Jan. 23.
After five long months away, about 200 students
participated in a “welcome back” lunch on the first day of classes.
Also among those in attendance were 17 new NOBTS students.
The return of classes to New Orleans marked the most
significant milestone to date in the seminary’s efforts to recover from
Hurricane Katrina. The storm and subsequent levee failures inundated
much of the campus with water in late August, forcing a complete
“It’s good to have you back,” Kelley told the
commuter students at a special red beans and rice lunch. “Welcome to
‘Camp New Orleans’ – lots of uncertainty, lots of limitations – but God
“People literally all over the world know your challenges and they are praying for you,” he said.
Kelley recounted the sadness of driving through the
campus following the move-out and salvage days in October. The campus
was empty and desolate. That emptiness has given way to life and
activity, Kelley said with joy.
“We are thankful for your passion for Jesus that has
kept you preparing for ministry in the midst of this incredible
circumstance called Hurricane Katrina,” he said. “It is your passion
for Jesus that has led you here and we want to do everything we can to
feed that passion.”
Kelley called the seminary family a “living
illustration” of what Jesus does with human lives and human history. No
matter what difficult circumstances believers face, he said Christians
“overwhelmingly conquer” in Jesus Christ.
Most of the returning students continued their
studies during the fall semester through Internet-assisted courses or
workshops. Many of them, like master of divinity
student Kimberly Moynahan, expressed joy in returning to the classroom
“I’m very excited, beyond excited,” she said. “I’ve
been waiting and taking classes online. I’m a big ‘classroom
participation’ person, so coming back today was overwhelmingly
Moynahan, who returned to the New Orleans area with
her husband shortly after the storm, said she missed the interaction
with students and professors during the fall. The Dayton, Ohio, native
said she has developed a love for the city of New Orleans and called
her seminary experience a “gift from God.”
Like many of the students in attendance, Moynahan
has been busy ministering in the city during the months following
Hurricane Katrina. Through her work with Louisiana Baptist disaster
relief, she is doing her part to offer the hope of Jesus to hurting
Moynahan said the disaster relief efforts of the
Southern Baptist Convention and local SBC churches have been a great
witness. This love and kindness is making an impact on the way New
Orleanians view Baptists.
In an interview following the lunch, Kelley echoed
her thoughts, believing that the seminary can help make New Orleans a
city of hope rather than a city of despair -– hope that comes only from
a relationship with Jesus Christ. Having students return is the first
step in offering that hope, he noted.
The return to campus is an illustration of God’s
grace and His redemptive power that provide confidence and security to
face the future, Kelley said.
Spring classes on the main campus will be held
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Many students will be
able to carry a fulltime course load by commuting to campus only one or
two days a week. The seminary also has offered a full schedule of
Internet-assisted courses for students who are unable to commute to
The first signs of normalcy returned to the main
campus earlier in January when a number of seminary offices reopened.
The president’s office, library, dean of students/campus life office
and clinic were among the offices reopening Jan. 11 in New Orleans.
The remaining offices, temporarily housed at the
seminary’s Atlanta-area campus, are expected to return to New Orleans
later this spring when telephone and Internet services are more stable.
Normal campus operations and classes will resume on
the main campus in August. However, seminary officials remain
optimistic that student housing will be ready for the start of summer
workshop classes in May.