In recent times the seminary of the FPCNA (GRS) has had to adjust and adapt to some changes. I caught up with the Chairman of the Seminary Committee, Rev. Geoff Banister (Minister of Indianapolis FPC), to get a brief update. Editor.
How did you first get involved in the Seminary Committee?
My involvement with the Seminary Committee goes back a long way. When I was ordained as the minister of the Indianapolis church in August 2001 (just a couple of weeks before 9/11) I began attending presbytery meetings again following a 7-year period in which I served in the church as a layman. It doesn’t take long for men in the presbytery to notice anyone who isn’t serving on a committee. Since the presbytery was interested in men who weren’t teaching in the seminary to have oversight of the seminary, I became a natural pick to serve on the committee.
We’ve all been praying for Dr. Allison, Seminary President and are very thankful for answered prayers. How did his illness impact the running of the seminary?
There have been a number of things through the years that have had a strong impact on the seminary, but none so profound as Dr. Allison’s illness. Dr. Allison had been handling the lion’s share of the teaching, as well as all of the administrative and planning functions of the seminary. The committee had to shift gears and go from oversight duties to administrative duties.
What measures were taken to work through these challenges?
Plans were mapped out and presented to the presbytery which took stock of what we had and what we needed. This was done not knowing how or to what extent Dr. Allison would be able to be involved. We weren’t even sure in those days as to whether or not Dr. Allison would still be with us or would be called home to glory. We were fortunate to have on hand recorded lectures that were being used by online students, so those lectures became our bread and butter, so to speak. Since then we’ve been transitioning into more of a digital classroom and we’ve been able to get more of our ministers involved with the use of tools such as Zoom.
How many students are presently enrolled in courses?
Currently, there are two students in residence in Greenville and two that join the classes remotely. We also have two men under care from Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Rev. Jason Boyle, our minister in Mexico City, oversees their training and has been very busy having materials translated into Spanish as well as sub-captioning videotaped lectures into Spanish. In addition to these men, there are at least two others pursuing the Minister of Religious Education degree online. Dr. Allison’s health has improved sufficiently to facilitate those courses.
The Lord’s work is never without its difficulties, but no one saw coronavirus coming! How has the seminary dealt with this crisis?
Compared to the crisis of Dr. Allison’s health, the coronavirus seems almost insignificant in comparison. I’m speaking now in terms of Geneva Reformed Seminary (GRS) operations, not in terms of the seriousness of the pandemic. The impact has been felt much more keenly by our churches than it has been felt by GRS. I think it would be fair to say that the virus has had no significant impact on GRS since we were ahead of the game with the use of digital technology.
How should we pray for the seminary going forward?
First and foremost, please continue to pray for Dr. Allison. He has improved significantly but has not recovered fully. When reports started reaching us about his miraculous comeback, we were probably too optimistic that things could simply resume the way they were before his brain cancer. He is able to be involved with GRS to a limited degree, compared to what he used to do. Next, please pray for the students. They’ve been caught in the middle of all the adjustments that have been made and in addition to everything, they need to prepare for the ministry. They also need strong doses of patience as we continue to adjust and improve the operations of GRS.