As a newlywed in the late 1950s, I enrolled at Southern Theological Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in order to become a good “pew person” as my minister husband became a pastor. His income from serving a country church and our meager expenses allowed me the luxury of going to seminary with him. For the first time in my life I was going to school for the sheer joy of learning. And I decided that while my husband studied I would study too and be trained to be a good Sunday School teacher and church leader. It would be smart to get a degree while I was learning, I concluded.
For two years I learned from some of the best professors in Baptist life. By the time my husband graduated he had decided to become a professor instead of a pastor. Still I knew that I would be a good pew person wherever we went to church—no problem.
Fifteen stay-at-home-with-four-children years later I got a call one warm August afternoon asking if I would teach a religion class at the college where my husband taught. It seems the school had more freshmen enrolling than available classes. “No” I replied, explaining that I had not looked at my seminary notes in fifteen years. The voice on the other end of the line replied that my class would be meeting on Tuesday and Thursday, and he hung up!!
I panicked. I grabbed the old files and prepared like crazy. Thirty years later I retired after teaching full time in that same religion department.
My seminary learning has been useful to me as a “pew person.” However, the way I used my education most was not at all what I had planned. I hardly think my story is unique.
(Note from Pam Durso: Carolyn Blevins, through her teaching career, influenced thousands of students, and through her research and writing, especially her writing on the history of Baptist women, she inspired and encouraged the next generation of scholars to continue and expand that research. The point of greatest disagreement I have had with Carolyn over the years is that I think her story is wonderfully unique! And yes, I pestered her until she wrote this blog post.)
Carolyn Blevins served for thirty years on faculty at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.