05/28/17 — University of Mount Olive to expand Rodgers Chapel on campus

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University of Mount Olive to expand Rodgers Chapel on campus

By From staff reports
Published in News on May 28, 2017 12:25 AM

Submitted photo

The University of Mount Olive held a ground breaking last week for an expansion of Rodgers Chapel. Pictured from left are representatives from the University of Mount, the Original Free Will Baptist denomination, and major donors to the Rodgers Chapel expansion project: UMO President Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter, Cole Baxley, representing donor W.C. Martin and family, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Teresa Hines, Vice President of the Woman's Auxiliary Convention of OFWB Dianne Riley-Gray, donor Linda Lassiter, donor Donnie Lassiter, Gary F. Barefoot, representing donor Dr. E. Lee Glover, Director Emerita of Church Support Jean F. Ackiss, Barrow Chair of Biblical Studies Dr. John Blackwell, Campus Chaplain Carla Williamson, President of the Original Free Will Baptist Convention the Reverend Ronnie Hobgood and UMO Board Chairman Earl Worley.

MOUNT OLIVE -- A ground-breaking ceremony for a $2 million expansion for the University of Mount Olive's Rodgers Chapel had to be moved inside Wednesday because of threatening weather.

But the weather failed to dampen the enthusiasm of those gathered for the event.

University President Dr. Philip P. Kerstetter welcomed guests and shared the building's history.

"Since 1974, Rodgers Chapel has been used for worship services, special performances, lectures, and certainly as a place for reflection and prayer," Kerstetter said. "Rodgers Chapel stands at the very heart of this beautiful campus, and its physical location was certainly not accidental, since faith is at the heart of our university mission."

In January 2013, the university, publicly announced a $20 million capital campaign, "Realizing the Dream; Securing the Future," he said.

The campaign focused on six major projects, including the expansion and renovation of Rodgers Chapel.

Although the campaign actually exceeded its $20 million goal, sufficient funds specifically for the chapel were not raised, so the university extended the campaign.

"I am delighted to announce that we have achieved our fundraising goal," Kerstetter said. "I wish to express my appreciation and gratitude to all of the individuals, congregations, and other groups who believed in this project, who worked hard to develop this project, and who made the financial commitments necessary to allow us to proceed with this project.

"Together, all of you made it possible by realizing this dream."

The role of the board of trustees is to keep the university's mission "in trust," board chairman Earl Worley said.

"We are a Christian faith-based, values-centered institution -- one that serves our students, our founding church, and our communities," he said. "Given all that is happening in the world around us, this certainly is the right project, at the right time, for all of the right reasons."

More than 250 donors collectively contributed over $2 million to the chapel expansion project with 83 percent of those donations from members of the Original Free Will Baptist denomination.

Original Free Will Baptists believe worship is the center of their spiritual walk with Christ, said the Rev. Ronnie Hobgood, president of the Original Free Will Baptist Convention. This belief continued with the vision of the University of Mount Olive.

"Rodgers Chapel was planned for the center of this campus," he said. "With this expansion, Rodgers Chapel will continue to be the heart of the campus for staff, faculty, and students, and a daily reminder that Christ and His Word are to be at the center of all our lives."

Once completed, the 6,000-square-foot chapel expansion will form a pivotal campus landmark, enhancing student life while serving as a powerful symbol of the University of Mount Olive's identity.

New construction will add classrooms, faculty and staff offices, for the department of religion, including the Barrow Chair and the campus chaplain, and the office of church relations.

There will also be two classrooms, a seminar room, a multi-purpose room, and a small kitchen/coffee bar.

A prayer garden in the center of the new space will provide a place for mediation and reflection.

"A university education always involves academic preparation in the liberal arts for both the student's vocation as well as the capacity for a lifetime of learning," said Barrow Chair of Biblical Studies Dr. John Blackwell. "The University of Mount Olive takes the additional step of helping our students develop a robust faith in Christ that they can call their own. The expansion of Rodgers Chapel into a religious life complex will help to forge our faith into action."