World Outreach Church pastor Allen Jackson and MTSU first lady Elizabeth McPhee chat before the Jan. 12, 2013, "Building Community: An Event for MTSU" held at his church in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of MTSU)
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Churches from across the area gathered Sunday at World Outreach Church to 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. The event was also connected to the True Blue Community Initiative, a grassroots effort launched by the Rev. James McCarroll in September 2013 to deepen support for MTSU academics and athletics across all segments of the community.
McCarroll, the pastor of First Baptist Church, welcomed the estimated 1,500 attendees, 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.”
His overall message, however 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 among six area pastors who delivered messages of community during the program.
Also speaking was the Brady Cooper, of New Vision Baptist Church, the Craig Goff, of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Allen Jackson, World Outreach Church, Dean Sisk, of Belle Aire Baptist Church, and Vincent Windrow, of Olive Branch Baptist Church. Windrow also serves as the 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 the university-backed Quest for Student Success, a plan advanced by 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.
Elizabeth 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.”
Sidney 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,” he said. “This is a fine beginning.”
Anyone wishing to contribute toward this effort can make out a check to the MTSU Foundation, and mail it to the Office of Development, MTSU P.O. Box 109, Murfreesboro, TN 37132. Be sure to designate the gift to the “MTSU Student Assistance Fund” on the memo line of the check. Gifts without designation will be placed into the annual fund.