Month: September 2017


Nate Sully 2

Nate Sully teaches atop a five-gallon bucket at the Farminary operated by Princeton Theological Seminary. Sully is director of the farm. Photo courtesy Jacob Snowden


By Jacob Snowden
Director of Christian Education
First Central Presbyterian Church

The seeds of something new in religious education are beginning to take root in the Garden State. The “Farminary” is a budding 21-acre farm connected with Princeton Theological Seminary. Why might a seminary venture out to buy a farm? One person is uniquely and eloquently prepared to answer that question.


Jacob Snowden

Nate Sully, the Farminary director, preaches atop a five-gallon bucket pulpit, clad in a neck-tie and galoshes. Nate draws attention to a compost pile set just aside from a garden patch sprouting with peppers, okra, and cherub tomatoes. “This is the stuff from which sermons should be cultivated,” Nate begins. The stench and look of death cover the pile, but if you were to roll away the top layer, you would see new life teeming throughout the mound. Mill worms, centipedes, and microorganisms are busy turning death into new life; this is surely God’s handiwork, amen?”

The members of Nate’s sunlit sanctuary are 40 Farminary visitors who have just arrived for Princeton’s second annual Just Food Conference. Gathered from Boston, Georgia, North Carolina, and First Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene, the congregation lets out a quiet but contented “Amen.” Nate continues describing the work and goals of Princeton’s new educational endeavor. “We are not trying to turn out as much produce here as possible. Our goal is still cultivating ministers. We just happen to think that the characteristics that produce a good farmer also happen to produce good ministers—patience, attention, disappointment, creativity, and hard work.”

How Princeton came to hold a farm is, in Nate’s words, “enough to make a Mennonite cry ‘Providence!’” Seeking to diversify its holdings, Princeton bought the land, formerly used as a sod farm. When the land was purchased in 2010, students were persistently asking about sustainability, local and organic food in the refectory, ecology, and fair labor practices. Enter Nate and his bosses to pitch their idea. By providence or perseverance, their pitch seemed to answer the several questions that students had been asking. The seed of the Farminary was sown.

The Just Food conference is not a bring-your-own-spade event. In most ways it is standard, professional conference. Most time was spent in the conference rooms of Princeton Seminary’s library. Discussion and note-taking outweighed planting and pruning by a long shot. However, food played just as large a role in the discussion as faith. The benefits of church gardens, the consequences of food deserts, and the connection to a globalized economy, where workers and food products come from around the world, were all hot topics.

What did I take away from my time at the conference? What one eats is complex. In a single bite of a hamburger you may be eating lettuce harvested by undocumented, underpaid migrant workers. You might be eating climate change as massive machines harvest grain for the bun. You might eat cutting edge science in a genetically modified tomato. You might eat new small business ventures in an artisan pickle. You might eat deforestation from cheap Brazilian beef. These things are why we must ask grace for our food. And with grace, these food complexities can be transformed into hospitality, health, and a recognition of what is holy and good. To ask for a blessing for one’s food is a serious business!



By Jay Moore

When Abilene was born on March 15, 1881, there was already a church established. And

by the time the town was 25 years old in 1906, there were 16. That number

had increased to 26 by 1921. And 25 years after that — just after World

War II –there were more than twice that many, with 20 Baptist congregations,

11 Church of Christ and eight Methodist churches. In 2014, it was difficult to even get

an accurate count of the number of Abilene churches but it is near 100,

according to Taylor County records.

Jay Moore

Jay Moore

When a group of Presbyterians gathered for worship near the temporary Texas and

Pacific depot on Sunday, February 27, 1881, the town lot sale, which would create

Abilene, was still two weeks away. It was the Buffalo Gap family of William Adolphus

Minter who saw the promise of Abilene and moved to the Texas and Pacific tracks in

anticipation of Abilene coming into existence. The Minter family and a handful of others

met at the spot along the rails and organized Abilene’s most senior institution – the First

Presbyterian Church. A plaque commemorating their historic gathering is located in

Everman Park.

Initially, the young congregation met at the frame schoolhouse located at North Third

and Cedar streets before moving into its own building in 1884. The 1920s were a period

of growth in Abilene and that population spurt resulted in a new sanctuary for First

Presbyterian that opened for worship on April 6, 1924, and which still stands at the

corner of Orange and North Fourth Street.

A second Presbyterian congregation organized in 1885. Known as Central Presbyterian, it

met at Beech and North Second streets, only blocks away from its Presbyterian brethren.

In a congregational meeting held in December of 1948, this group authorized the

purchase for a new location at North Fifth and Grape and drew up plans for a new

building. The traditional, colonially inspired design presented West Texans much to talk

about. Despite architectural arguments, the group pressed ahead and the 445-seat New

England-style church went up along Grape, with the first services held on October 1,

1950. The Abilene Reporter-News touted the fact that the pews were cushioned with

foam rubber.

In 1970, the congregation of Central Presbyterian united with its kin at First

Presbyterian, resulting in Abilene’s oldest church taking on the unified name of First

Central Presbyterian. The Central congregation opted to move a few blocks east, selling

its Grape Street property to another congregation.

Founder William Adolphus Minter died in 1908. What was described as the longest

funeral procession in Abilene ended with Will Minter’s Christmas Eve funeral held in the

church he established. Descendants of the Minter family remain members of the First

Central Presbyterian congregation more than 130 years later.




By Loretta Fulton

Remy, a precocious shih tzu, playfully walked toward a smiling Father Adam Droll and promptly relieved himself on the priest’s black cassock.

“Are you telling me I need to do the dry cleaning?” Droll, parochial vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church gently asked, still smiling.

Remy quickly got a blessing from Droll, who repeated the blessing to all the dogs gathered in front of Suite Life Pet Resort and Spa Saturday morning. Once Droll had bless about a dozen dogs that owners brought for the special occasion, Droll blessed another 30-plus dogs who were being boarded.

The Blessing of the Animals is a rite in the Catholic Church, and many others, that is held each year in observance of the Oct. 4 Feast Day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals.

Prior to the blessings, Droll read the rite, which began with the words, “Wonderful are all God’s works. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And all responded, “Now and forever.”

Droll gave a short homily and concluded with a prayer for all creation.

“All of God’s creation is good,” Droll said, “and we’re all on the same path toward eternity.”


By Loretta Fulton

In the beginning, God was already God.

And in all of creation, God has made only one version of each person, the speaker for this year’s Cornerstone Lecture Series at Hardin-Simmons University reminded students at a luncheon Sept. 20.

“You are God’s signed original,” said Delvin Atchison, director of the Great Commission Team for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Delvin-Atchison2 (2) (003)

Delvin Atchison

Atchison gave several lectures and held discussions with students and faculty during the lectureship held Sept. 19-21. He spoke on the theme, “God of the Amazing.”

Not only is God amazing, Atchison said at the student luncheon, he wants his people to be amazing, too. And that requires setting a goal and being tenacious enough to reach it. But getting there isn’t a solitary experience, Atchison promised.

“The God who made me fearfully and wonderfully,” Atchison said, “guides me and walks with me on my journey.”

In a question and answer session following his talk, Atchison was asked what he wanted to be when he was younger. He wanted to be an attorney, he said, but also started sensing that God was calling him to ministry when he was 12.

“I figured by the time I was grown, he’d give up,” Atchison  said, but that didn’t happen.

Far from it. Atchison is former pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Waco, where he was vice president of the Waco Ministerial Alliance. He held his first preaching position at age 16. In his job with the BGCT, Atchison considers himself “a pastor’s pastor.” With 5,400 churches in the BGCT, that’s a lot of pastors to pastor.

A student at the luncheon asked Atchison what his best advice would be for a young pastor.

“Genuinely love people,” he said, “and see God in all of them.”

Atchison earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas and a master of divinity degree from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. He also holds an honorary doctorate of divinity degree from St. Thomas Christian College.





File_000 (8)

Cole Bennett, standing, and Scott Self, lead a class at ACU’s Summit 2017 on “The Christian Citizen.” Photo by Loretta Fulton

By Loretta Fulton

Scott Self and Cole Bennett are about as different politically as can be.

This is by their own admission. But, they are best friends, they are united in Christ, and they talk.

“How did this happen?” Self asked.

It happened–and happens–because both men are willing to try to understand where the other is coming from. Bennett knows that Self is a man who loves Christ first, and Self knows that about his friend.

“That makes a difference in who we are,” Bennett said.


Cole Bennett

Bennett is a professor in the Language and Literature Department at Abilene Christian University and Self is director of ACU’s University Access Department.

The two friends took a tag team approach to leading sessions at ACU’s Summit 2017, held Sept. 17-20. The class, taught in two parts, was titled, “The Christian Citizen: Christianity and Public Policy.”

Bennett projected a graphic on a screen from a 2013 book titled, “Three Languages of Politics” by Arnold Kling. The graphic showed three axes, with “Progressive” as the label for the first axis, “Conservative” the second, and “Libertarian” the third.

Each axis had words on each end with opposite meanings. The “Progressive” axis had  “oppressed” and “oppressor” on opposite ends, “Conservative” had “savage” and “civilized,” and “Libertarian” had “coerced” and “free” on the opposite ends of its axis.

Whenever hot button political issues arise, it’s best to be aware of when you aren’t listening to someone on a different axis.

“We need to be able to talk on all three axes,” Bennett said.

Bennett listens to a particular podcast because of the civil conversation, as opposed to the strident voices on one side or the other that are usually heard on talk shows. There is a simple reason that the conversation is civil, Bennett said.

“It’s because they move on all three axes,” he said.


Scott Self

Likewise, Self and Bennett move on each other’s axis when talking about the size and role of government. It would be inappropriate, Self said, for him to say that Bennett doesn’t care for the poor just because their political views differ.

“How he does (care) is very different from how I care,” Self said.

People have the resources needed to try to understand another person’s point of view and to engage in civil discourse, the friends agreed. They are blessed with the capacity for compassion, forgiveness, joy, peace, and patience.

Bennett said that no matter what form the government takes, as a Christian he has duty to live according to the teachings of Jesus.

“I still have a responsibility to the poor,” he said, no matter how the government views assisting the poor. “I can’t ever give up my responsibility to God and my neighbor.”