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Local church offers alternative seminary certificate

By Cait Shields
Feb. 1, 2013 at 10 p.m.

<p>Rev. C.D. Hollins</p>

A local church is set to host an alternative seminary program so any community member that wants to study can have access.

"This is an alternative seminary," said Rev. C.D. Hollins, pastor at New Mount Moriah Baptist Church and instructor for the Certificate in Theology course offered at the church. "You can have a college degree or not and still do the program. This gives them an opportunity to be in ministry, to be in leadership in a church, to be involved in whatever mission they are called to."

This satellite program is offered by the Morehouse School of Religion of the Interdenominational Theological Center, ITC, in Atlanta Ga. ITC "is the world's premier resource for black church scholarship and faith-based solutions to the spiritual and socio-economic challenges confronting the African American community," according to the institution's website, ITC.edu.

Students will complete eight basic courses, each course being four weeks long, and the entire program taking eight to nine months.

Courses will cover topics including the New Testament, pastoral care, church administration, history of the African American church, Christian education, philosophy and theology, Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and preaching and missiology. Student will receive continuing education credits in addition to their certificate and can participate in a formal graduation ceremony at ITC's campus in Georgia.

"Our reason for offering an alternative seminary, we wanted to design a structured course in seminary for lay persons to build on their Christian experience," Rev. Hollins said.

Hollins is the site administrator for not just Marshall, but Texarkana and Monroe, La., as well.

"This program is throughout the US and Canada. This will be the first program in East Texas for laypeople and clergy. Several other communities have reached out," he said. "I'm the instructor for the course, as well as recorded lectures from ITC lecturers."

Hollins and his family recently moved from Georgia, where he was a student at ITC, back to East Texas.

"I'm a 2002 graduate of Wiley," he said. "My wife is from Marshall. When her grandfather got sick we came back to Marshall.

Hollins said a program that allows lay people to study divinity fits in perfectly with New Mount Moriah's church vision.

"The vision of the church is to make disciples for Jesus Christ. Our mission is to go therefore and teach all nations, to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.," he said. "Our hope is that (the program) will grow so we don't have enough room and will have to host it at the Texas and Louisiana Baptist Association where Rev. Paul Todd is Moderator."

Registration for the first course is open today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at New Mount Moriah, 501 Middle St. Classes are each Thursday at 6 p.m. beginning Feb. 21. Tuition is $200 per course.

"My hopes for the program is that it will grow in leaps and bounds," Rev. Hollins said. "We've already had some people to inquire and I have some registration forms."

For information call the church at (903) 938-8563.

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