Beginning Life's Second Chapter
Will Davis confesses that seminary is “the last place in the world I expected to be in my mid-sixties.” But his five years in the M.Div. program at Union Presbyterian Seminary’s Charlotte campus, he says, has helped him “figure out what to do with the second chapter of my life.”
Davis retired in late 2009 after a 40-year career in mass media that included running television stations in four states. An elder at Charlotte’s Myers Park Presbyterian Church, Davis is a relative latecomer to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He grew up in the Baptist church and married a Methodist. About 20 years ago, after moving to Flint, Michigan, he and his wife, Debbie, joined the city’s First Presbyterian Church.
“We were attracted by what they were doing in the community,” Davis says. He and Debbie soon felt at home in their new denomination. “A lot of things I’ve always believed about the church turned out to be Reformed theology,” he explains. “We were Presbyterians and just didn’t know it.”
Davis learned about Union’s Charlotte program after he and Debbie moved to Charlotte in 2002. He was drawn to seminary by his interest in the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew. “I tried to learn them on my own,” he says, “but realized I needed help.”
He expected to work hard at UPSem. What he didn’t expect was how much he would enjoy the experience. “I thought of seminary as a place that was austere, solemn, humorless,” he says. “It’s proven to be the exact opposite. There’s a lot of joy. We have a good time.”
Second-career students contribute a wealth of life and business experience to the classroom, Davis says. The student body on the Charlotte campus includes “some pretty distinguished and accomplished people,” leading to “a great exchange among students and professors. Students bring a lot to the educational process—and that’s stimulating.”
Davis did seven months of field education in a multicultural congregation that he describes as “a vision of God’s kingdom.” He also served as student chaplain at a large urban hospital. “The field education has been enormously beneficial in affirming my call,” he says.
Being retired frees Davis from concerns about financial and career advancement as he seeks a congregation to shepherd in the faith. “I’m not looking to move up in the way you do in the business world,” he says. “I’ve done that.”
He’s ready to take on the challenges posed to Christians by a changing world. “We live in a culture now that doesn’t support the institutional church the way it once did,” he observes. “And that’s not a bad thing. I think the church needs to stop chasing the culture. Our job is to tell the story of Jesus and his love, to care for each other and the community.”
In other words, he adds, “Be the church, and don’t be apologetic.”