We thank Texas for sharing his story with us. Shorter students have grown and been nurtured by churches all over Rome. They have shared what they learned at Shorter for the glory of God. Their talents will be sorely missed in the community of believers.
I came to Shorter in the Fall of 2008 after attending the Summer Arts Institute (a Summer music camp) three years in a row. The Hill welcomed me, a budding pianist, with open arms. In September of that same year, Dr. Alan Wingard offered me an internship at Garden Lakes Baptist Church. My duties were primarily focused around the contemporary worship service, but I soon became involved with the sanctuary choir, the Jubilate Ringers (their handbell ensemble), and started working with the children’s choir. Four years later, I look around and can’t help but smile. Garden Lakes has grown tremendously – so much that now we have a total six student interns from Shorter involved in worship regularly. We don’t go to church to get paid, we’re part of the family now.
Garden Lakes isn’t the only church with music interns; in fact, over 80% of the music students at Shorter have regular internships at local churches. It’s a great benefit to the community, and a tremendous opportunity for students. Here’s the thing: most of the students with jobs at local churches have decided to relocate and continue their education elsewhere due to the changes that have been enacted at Shorter this year. The majority of our teachers have found work elsewhere, too. It seems as though the music world, at least that of the college students, is quickly disappearing.
I wasn’t brought up attending church regularly. Typically my family would go on Christmas and Easter, but that’s about it. I didn’t know much about Christ before I came to college, just that he loved me unconditionally. It wasn’t until I became involved at Garden Lakes Baptist Church that I really got to know Him and all the reasons He loved me. I talk to Him everyday now – that’s something I never thought I’d do if you would’ve asked me when I graduated from high school. I can’t imagine what sort of person I’d be now if Dr. Wingard hadn’t approached me four years ago. My life has ever been changed for the better.
I’m graduating this year, and I’m very sad to be leaving this town. Rome couldn’t have fit me better for this first stage of my adult life. Unlike myself, so many young adults are leaving Rome prematurely. In these last few weeks of school, I’m seeing that the changes happening at Shorter aren’t restricted to life on the Hill. Church communities throughout Rome will be weakened by these changes – changes made in God’s name. I disagree with the new direction the Shorter community is taking, and fear that the quality of education the institution offers will take a turn for the worse before there’s any hope of it reestablishing itself as the academic community its been for decades. I gave up on offering my input to the GBC and Dr. Dowless months ago after even our best efforts were not making a difference.
I’m not sad for Shorter anymore; the decisions have been made. Now, I weep for the church families losing treasured members of their choirs. I weep for the children in these churches that are receiving quality music education from their interns. I weep for the loss of so many music ministers, pianists, and organists in the churches of Rome. Worship in these places won’t be the same for a very long time, if ever. If there’s one thing worse than disrupting an academic community, it’s disrupting a church. I hope those in power at Shorter realize how wide these new changes span, and how disappointing and heart wrenching they are.
A student, a musician, and a firm believer in the love of Jesus Christ,
This is a time when many of us non-Baptist Christians in this area are really closely looking at the Baptist Church for the first time. Sure, we’ve sometimes visited Baptist Churches and we’ve known so many Baptists over the years, but we’ve never really thought hard about the exact nature of the Baptist denomination and its organization. And so now we have started doing this as we’ve watched a faction within the Baptist Church eat its own (Shorter). It’s been both repellent and discouraging for those of us who are also Christians (even if not viewed as such in some eyes).
Therefore it’s really heartening to be reminded here by Texas of all that’s so right with the Baptist world in the pews of places like Garden Lakes Baptist. I was interested enough after reading this to check out Garden Lakes’ web site; they talk about God’s love and all His positives. It looks like such a friendly, unjudging place. And then I remember all the other great places in Rome where my friends go, like First Baptist and Second Avenue Baptist. And I remember that there’s so very much that’s right in the Baptist world. I hope that Shorter does get back on track but even if it doesn’t, I hope that Texas, all those other Shorter kids and the churches like Garden Lakes that welcomed them keep on bringing God’s Bright Light into the rest of the world. We don’t need a few old grumpy men distracting us from the brighter, higher path.
My daughter is about to finish her first year at Shorter as a music major. She has been an intern at a Methodist church this year , and has really grown from the experience. She is planning on continuing next year when she is at a different school, but the commute may be too much. What a shame to have to leave Shorter! I just wish the decisions had not been made last fall.