God’s enduring faithfulness throughout New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s 100-year history is the inspiration for a musical commissioned for its centennial celebration.
While record enrollments, rapid growth and cutting-edge integration of ministry and education mark the school’s history, so also do struggles brought on by an influenza outbreak, economic downturns and hurricanes.
“Our Faithful God,” written by NOBTS alumni Mike Harland and Chris and Diane Machen, debuted March 8 at NOBTS’ Leavell Chapel. Musicians from a dozen congregations in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana made up the 150-member choir and orchestra featured in the evening presentation.
Harland directs LifeWay Worship, while the Machens, lead a worship and evangelism ministry, The Master’s Music Company, and have recorded 11 albums.
The musical’s arrangement was provided by Cliff Duren, a five-time Dove Award nominee, and the narration was written by Pamela Vandewalker, the 2014 Dove Award winner for Children’s Musical of the Year. Scott White, music minister at Woodstock Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., led the evening’s worship.
Chuck Kelley, NOBTS president, pointed to the seminary’s founding to highlight God’s faithfulness.
“One hundred years ago, the Southern Baptist Convention decided to create a seminary from scratch and to put it in the city of New Orleans, a city that had very few Baptists,” Kelley said in opening remarks. “They knew New Orleans would be a great laboratory to train people God was calling into ministry and service.”
Founded as the Baptist Bible Institute, its first president called the school “a child of providence and prayer.” An influenza outbreak closed the school for weeks in 1918, days after opening, proving to be the first of many struggles as the seminary weathered war, economic downturns and storms.
Fred Luter, former SBC president and pastor of New Orleans’ Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, gave a theme interpretation as the musical’s narrator.
“We’re here tonight to let you know no matter your plight, no matter your situation, no matter your circumstance, God has promised that He will be with you,” Luter said. “He will never leave you nor will He ever forsake you because He’s our Faithful God.”
A prerecorded testimony from Quell Jenkins, NOBTS/Leavell College student who was paralyzed as a teen, was part of the theme song, “Our Faithful God.” Shot three times at age 17, Jenkins forgave those who had hurt her after coming to faith in Christ.
“I know I have Jesus and I know that no matter where I may go, or where life may take me, that He is going to be there with me,” Jenkins said. “I’d rather be in this wheelchair with Christ than to walk without Him, any day.”
Kelley spoke also in a prerecorded testimony of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He told of watching from a hotel in Birmingham as pictures of the flooded NOBTS campus crossed the TV screen.
“As I sat there watching these unforgettable scenes, old words, ancient words from Psalm 46 began to fill my mind and my heart as God began speaking into me,” Kelley recounted, saying, “‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear….'”
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Source: Baptist Press