“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

As I scribe this letter, bittersweet is one word that continues to come to mind. As President Dr. Frank A. James passes the proverbial torch to President-elect Dr. Clarence E. Wright tomorrow, July 1, 2023, I cannot help but reflect on these two giants on whose shoulders I stand.

Dr. J, as he is affectionately known, is as grounded and humble as it gets. He is a strategic visionary and is passionate about getting to know students, teaching, working hard for the Lord, and enjoying his family. I experienced Dr. J as a student in the classroom where he taught World Christian History. I also got to know him as a staff member where I served as the Director of Events and Communication.

He was consistently the same no matter what scenario brought us together. One of the things I appreciated the most was his attention and dedication to the students. Before Zoom and COVID, I would wear a baseball cap to every class at Missio and I remember there was just one time I did not. As I headed to the classroom of another professor, I ran into Dr. J and he looked at me quizzically and asked, “Nicole, where is your hat?” I thought, ‘…wow, he doesn’t miss a thing! How could someone so busy and focused on running the seminary recognize a student missing her cap?’ It really meant a lot to me that he was so keenly aware of the students and it also spoke volumes to how much he cares.

Dr. Wright is an emblazoned leader in and out of the classroom. Even on Zoom, he commands the audience. I experienced Dr. Wright as a colleague and professor and quickly learned of the burning fire that was shut up in his bones. I remember sitting in class wanting to know everything he knew and wondering if I ever could. He brought gifts out of me that I didn’t know I had and made me feel confident in my ability to share God’s Word.

In Dr. Wright’s classroom, we embraced topics that would help us not just be better preachers and pastors, but better human beings. He was a stickler for following protocols, and we needed him to be. Dr. Wright took us to new levels…into areas that had previously been unknown and opened our eyes to the truth. I am a better theologian and person because of him.

Collectively, Drs. James and Wright prompted me to always remember humility and authenticity. The love they both demonstrated at all times and for all people revealed a very critical leadership quality and, as a staff member, it made Missio one of the best places to work. In addition, they are absolute experts in their respective areas and that translated to students being beyond prepared for life after seminary. Last but not least, they were both deliberate in their commitment to be an advocate for social justice which encouraged me to use every opportunity available to follow Jesus into the world and create positive change.

Thank you so very much for making such a profound difference in my life as well as every single person who crossed both of your paths. Farewell President James and welcome President Wright…I love you both dearly.

Continue to press,

Nicole

Nicole Showell, MA, MDiv