Faith Matters: Beeson’s BR Bible school to recognize first grads

A longtime teacher in Baton Rouge and a student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Linda Johnson relishes the opportunity to enhance her learning, particularly in the area of ministry.

Two years ago, Johnson was among the first group of students to register for the Southeast Regional Biblical Institute in Baton Rouge, an extension of the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.

The weekly institute, which offers certificates in various Christian studies, is led by the Rev. Mary Moss, Beeson alum and pastor of St. Alma Baptist Church in Lakeland.

Johnson also will be among the first group to complete the certificate program.

“Even though I was in seminary, there was some fundamental stuff I needed,” said Johnson, an associate minister at New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Zachary.

“In seminary, there’s the book (knowledge) that you get and even though it’s given in a spiritual manner, there is heart stuff you need and this was the culmination of that.”

SRBI will hold its first recognition/graduation service for Johnson and 18 other students at 4 p.m. June 9 at Elm Grove Baptist Church, 1069 N. 38th St. Guest speaker for the event will be the Rev. Patricia Outlaw, an associate professor at Beeson.

Jim Pounds, the director of the extension division from Birmingham, will confer the certificates.

“God placed in me an unfeigned passion for teaching and preaching that changes lives and empower people,” Moss said. “This passion has found a home at SRBI. Consequently, God is working through this institute to prepare ministers and leaders to serve this present age.”

Johnson, who has been in the ministry for 10 years, said the certificate is more than words on a piece of paper.

“The certificate means to me that that’s the first steppingstone of where God is trying to take me,” she said. “It seems strange to say the first (step) since I’ve been in the ministry for quite some time; you have to get to a point where he could use you.”

Another graduate, the Rev. Anthony Royal, pastor of New Mount Olive Baptist Church for 20 years, said the program helped him redefine the calling God has on his life.

“You always need refreshing in your ministry and the class with Dr. Moss was a very, very tremendous help in updating and reinforcing a lot of things that can help you with the ministry,” the former postmaster said.

Royal, 73, is a graduate and former teacher at Christian Bible College.

“I realized I needed to go back to learn to some more,” he said. “When you get more knowledge, you get more to share with your people.”

The certificate program of biblical and theological education is offered to ministers and laypersons, with or without college degrees. Courses are taught by seminary-trained instructors and experienced pastors. Courses have included Survey of the Old Testament, Interpreting the Bible, Introduction to the New Testament and Spiritual Leadership. The fall semester begins Aug. 19.

For more information, call (225) 772-0307 or go to

Baptists at study, worship

“Solidarity with the Savior Through Worship” will be the theme for the Fourth District Baptist Association’s Congress of Christian Education set for Monday through Friday at Scotlandville Magnet High School.

The congress will offer classes for children and adults as well as opportunities to hear talented singers, musicians and preachers.

“It’s really about equipping congregants to be better believers and to be more efficient in what we do for Christ,” said the Rev. Thomas Bessix, president of the congress and the pastor of New Gideon Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “It helps to bring our organizations to whatever thought and work God has given us to work.”

The classes for children and youth will be held 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday at Scotlandville High, 9870 Scotland Ave. Breakfast and lunch will be available.

Thirty-nine courses will be offered for adults — as well as a division for pastor and ministers — who will meet from 6:15 p.m. to 7:55 p.m. Monday through Friday at the school.

“Our courses are specifically geared to help the local churches in various ways,” Bessix said. “The Church and the IRS is one of the courses. Being An Effective deacon is another. We really try to gear everything around the needs of the churches.”

The evening classes will be followed nightly by worship. Scheduled speakers include the Rev. Jesse Bilberry, Fourth District Baptist Association president and pastor of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, on Monday; the Rev. Melvin Rushing, congress dean and pastor of Progressive and Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist churches, Tuesday; the Rev. Geoffrey Sykes, pastor of Greater St. Mary Baptist Church in Plaquemine, Wednesday; and Bessix, Thursday. Wednesday is young adult night. Friday’s speaker has not been determined, Bessix said.

‘Has to be God’

On the night Tarolyn Otis, 18, graduated high school, she also won a new car.

“I was just thinking about how I was going to get a car ... I said this has to be God,” the 2013 Glen Oaks High School graduate said.

Otis was the recipient of a 2014 Nissan Versa given by the Ministry of Love’s MEAD (Motivating Excellence, Academics and Divinity) Program. It is the fourth year the program has given a car to an exceptional student from a low-performing or low-income school.

“It was amazing and shocking at the same time. I’m still in shock,” said Otis, who attends Greater King David Baptist Church in north Baton Rouge.

MEAD reached out this school year to Glen Oaks students. Applicants had to have at least a 3.0 grade-point average, minimum absences and submit letters of recommendation and an essay. They had to be actively involved in school and church activities and had to have been accepted by an accredited two- or four-year college or university.

“We’re ecstatic to be helping a child to get to the next level because that’s what the organization is all about,” said the Rev. Bridget Steib, MEAD program director and pastor at Ministry of Love.

Otis had a 3.4 grade-point average, was the senior class treasurer and participated in cross country and JROTC while at Glen Oaks.

She plans to major in fashion merchandise at Southern University.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was changed on July 12 to correct where Tarolyn Otis was when she won a new car.