Well, it’s New Year’s Eve. And I would imagine that most of us are more than ready to get 2020 in the rear-view mirror. After a year of political in-fighting, unexpected pandemics, and never-ending social distancing, we are all ready for a fresh start.
But before we look forward, I want to take one final moment to look back. Last New Year’s Eve, I began a new tradition of the RTS Charlotte “year in review” where I recap how God has blessed our ministry over the last twelve months. While this year’s been harder than most, there are still plenty of things to be thankful for. Here are a few of them:
1. Our Students. It’s been a tough year to be a grad student. Educational institutions have been disrupted in every conceivable way. But, credit goes to our students who endured all these ups and down with grace and perseverance. Incredibly, our summer enrollment—despite being moved all online—reached an all-time high in 2020. And this past fall, the students returned to the Charlotte campus to resume face-to-face residential education (albeit with masks and social distancing). Credit goes to these students for hanging in there.
2. The Distance Education Team. When COVID hit last March, many seminaries were scrambling to move everything to remote learning. After all, there are a lot of complexities, both technological and pedagogical, in online education. Thankfully, RTS was well-prepared for this transition because of our wonderful distance education platform developed by the RTS Online Campus. RTS was one of the very first seminaries in the United States to do fully-accredited online distance education (we started in the 1980’s if you can believe it), so we’ve been doing this a while. And it showed. Our distance ed team, led by David John, seamlessly transitioned us to online platforms in a remarkably short period of time. Well done!
3. Newest Faculty Member. One of the great blessings of the RTS Charlotte campus is our wonderful faculty. They are some of the best in the country in their respective fields. This year we were able to add yet another outstanding faculty member in Dr. Nate Brooks., making a total of twelve (which is a good biblical number!). For several years, Nate served as the Coordinator of the Christian Counseling program here in Charlotte, and recently completed his Ph.D. dissertation in counseling at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. As of June 1, 2020, Nate is now the Assistant Professor of Christian Counseling and is well-loved by our students in the classroom.
4. Summer-Winter Counseling Program. Speaking of counseling, a highlight of 2020 was the growth of our Summer-Winter MACC (Master of Arts in Christian Counseling). What makes this program unique is that you can get a Masters degree in counseling without relocating, but all the counseling courses are residential (just a few weeks in the summer and winter). Given how relational counseling is, we have made it a priority for all counseling classes to be face-to-face. The new program has been a hit and grown rapidly, especially over 2020. For more info, see here.
5. Women on campus. Over the past several years, we’ve worked hard to get more women on the Charlotte campus. In 2019, God continued to bless our efforts as we launched the new Women in Ministry Scholarship, one of a kind in the RTS system, and finished up two years of my on-campus women’s Bible study through Hebrews. In 2020, the trend continued as we had a great incoming class with many female students. As a result, our women’s community on campus is as vibrant as ever.
6. Faculty Publications. Returning again to the theme of the Charlotte faculty, 2020 was another great year for faculty publications. One area that stood out in particular was covenant theology. Dr. Dick Belcher published The Fulfillment of the Promises of God: An Explanation of Covenant Theology (Christian Focus), which I think is one of the best introductory volumes available. In addition, I am thankful for the multi-authored volume edited by Guy Waters, Nick Reed, and John Muether, entitled, Covenant Theology: Biblical, Theological and Historical Perspectives (Crossway, 2020). This is a massive volume (672 pages) with contributions from 27 different scholars, all of which are professors at Reformed Theological Seminary (spread across our different campuses). See my summary of both of these volumes here.
7. Safety. When the pandemic began in March of this past year, none of us could anticipate what the rest of the year would look like. In Charlotte, we took all the standard precautions—masks, social distancing, cancelling of larger gatherings—in hopes of minimizing health risks as much as possible. To be honest, I kept bracing for an outbreak of COVID among the student body, despite all these steps. But, God was good to us. During the fall term, we made it all the way to the month of December without a single case of COVID among students, staff, or faculty. Although we learned of a few cases after that time, the good news is that classes had already ended. And much of the credit for our safe campus goes to our Vice President of Administration, Stephane Jenrenaud for his tireless and faithful attention to all these details. Well done, Stephane!
8. The Admissions Team. While being a student in 2020 may have been difficult, recruiting new students has been equally challenging. But, our admissions team, under the leadership of Nate Groelsema has done a fantastic job tracking down prospective students, staying optimistic about the upcoming year, and coming up with creative ways to introduce folks to the Charlotte campus. Thanks also goes to Chris Vaughn, Phoebe Pritchett, Ethan Brown, Alayna McFarling, Lindsey Harding, Austin McCann, and Kristen Schonover who have all been part of this team.
In sum, 2020, despite its difficulties and sorrows, was still a blessed year for RTS Charlotte. “Praise him for his mighty deeds” (Ps 150:2)!