Union Presbyterian Seminary opens today in its first permanent home in Charlotte – initially welcoming 75 students and then the entire community to what will be a gathering place of faith and learning.
Union Presbyterian Seminary’s new 22,000-square-foot, red-brick building is located on three acres on the campus of Sharon Presbyterian Church in the SouthPark area of south Charlotte. Designed to fit in with the pastoral setting, it features classrooms; worship and gathering space for up to 100; a library that can hold 50,000 volumes; two indoor fireplaces; and a two courtyards, one with an outdoor fireplace. Stained glass throughout provides a distinctly spiritual feel. Sure to be a centerpiece: An eight-foot, concrete cross commissioned by the seminary and created by a mother/daughter team of artists from Kerrville, TX, to go in the front courtyard – at the heart of a campus where students, pastors, Christian educators and others will come together in pursuit of Christian theological education.
Ten years after starting classes in leased space at Queens University of Charlotte, Union Presbyterian Seminary celebrates a $7 1/4 million building campaign and campus of its own. Key dates (details later in this release): classes start Sept. 11; convocation Sept. 15; and a service of dedication and celebration open to the community at 11 a.m. Nov. 3.
The Charlotte campus is an extension of Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA, and was established at the invitation of five area presbyteries to open a Charlotte campus. With many Charlotte students pursuing a second career in ministry, the weekend program suits their life situation and allows them to continue working. Since its 2002 opening, 85 students have graduated in one of two advanced degree tracks – Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Education – or with a dual degree, and are serving more than 50 churches in eight states. In January of 2012, the Charlotte Campus was approved by the United Methodist Church to train pastors for this denomination. The new home takes Union Presbyterian to a new level.
“This concretizes our commitment to Charlotte, literally and figuratively,” said the Rev. Dr. Brian Blount, president of Union Presbyterian Seminary. “This new campus gives a sense of stability to the vision of doing theological education in Charlotte.”
Amid oaks and pines, with plenty of parking, the new campus will allow the seminary to schedule weekday classes and other offerings for the first time. Church groups will be welcome to hold retreats and meetings on campus. Lectures and other theological offerings open to the community are envisioned. Its proximity to Sharon Presbyterian, Samaritan Counseling Center, and Sharon Towers retirement community across Sharon Road brings together a wide community of Presbyterian institutions. With a half-dozen or so seminaries in and around Charlotte, Union Presbyterian has carved out a meaningful niche offering a Reformed theological education in a region rich in Presbyterian heritage. Some 133,000 Presbyterians live within a 100-mile radius of Charlotte.
Charlotte lawyer William Rikard Jr., chairman of the seminary Board of Trustees and a member of First Presbyterian Church in uptown Charlotte, said this new home “absolutely confirms that the Charlotte campus and program is more than an experiment. It is, in fact, an everyday contributor to the life of the Presbyterian church and the Charlotte community.” Opening the campus to lectures and other community offerings, he said, will be a “lasting and important” reflection of the seminary’s commitment to Presbyterian theological education.
Union Presbyterian has raised $5.2 million of the $7 1/4 million needed to complete the building campaign. Long-time Presbyterian Church U.S.A. leaders Elizabeth Harkey and Price Gwynn are honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign. William White Jr., a Life Trustee on the Union board and a driving force in establishing the seminary in Charlotte, is chairman.
• United Methodist students will begin receiving Master of Divinity training at Union this Fall under a plan approved by The United Methodist Church. These students will receive the Methodist portion of their degree at Wesley Theological Seminary at Pfeiffer University while attending Union Presbyterian for the rest of their advanced work. Besides the Presbyterian, and now Methodist denominations, Union Presbyterian students represent A.M.E. Zion, Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, nondenominational and other church backgrounds.
• The new seminary home on the campus of Sharon Presbyterian Church is a win-win situation. The church, founded in 1831, will be able to use seminary classrooms at no cost for Sunday School and other programs on that busy day. Union Presbyterian’s 50-year lease is for $1 a year with the possibility of two 10-year extensions.
• The Architect was Charlotte-based Shook Kelley; JE Dunn Construction in Charlotte was the builder; Kevin Dagenhart of Charlotte-based Binswanger was project manager.
Dean Thomas W. Currie, the Charlotte campus’s dean since it opened a decade ago, celebrates this new day: “A theological seminary is more than an educational institution. It is also a community whose life together makes its own witness. For the first time, this new building will enable the students and faculty on the Charlotte campus to study, worship and share in a life together in one place.”
Sept. 11. Classes begin.
Sept 15. Opening Convocation at 11:30 a.m. in the sanctuary of Sharon Presbyterian Church. This will be the final event marking the seminary’s 200th anniversary of the whole school, and 10th for the Charlotte program. President Brian Blount and Board Chairman William Rikard Jr. will preside. Dean Tom Currie will preach. Students from the Richmond and Charlotte campuses will participate in the service.
Oct. 16. The Presbytery of Charlotte will meet at 10 a.m. in the sanctuary of Sharon Presbyterian Church. Those attending the meeting will be able to tour the seminary and enjoy an open house. The Presbytery is home to nearly 40,000 members in 125 churches in Mecklenburg and six nearby counties.
Nov. 3. The public is invited to the Service of Dedication and Celebration marking the opening of the seminary building and campus, at 11 a.m. in the Sharon Presbyterian sanctuary. President Brian Blount will preach. Faculty, staff, students, board members, Dean’s Advisory Council members, Sharon Presbyterian members, donors and friends will participate.