The First Word: Walking Alongside Our Students
Recently I visited with the worshipping community
at Second Baptist Church in Evanston.
North Park and Second Baptist live side-by-side.
The church’s senior pastor, Rev. Mark Dennis, is
a recent trustee at the University; the director of
music is on the faculty in our School of Music;
the director of the children’s choir is a North
Park graduate; one of the staff members in North
Park’s Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural
Learning leads a wonderful collaboration between
the young people of this African American church
and those of Beth Emet congregation to be markers of reconciliation in the city of Evanston;
and many others in the congregation have ties to the University.
On that Sunday I visited to hear Dr. Allan Boesak preach, as he was to be a guest in our
home for dinner that evening and then present on North Park’s campus for the next two
days. Much more than this, however, I met a wonderful group of teenagers who were
recognized for completing the church’s Rite of Passage Experience. Some churches call this
confirmation, others carry differing nomenclature.
At Second Baptist, the Rite of Passage program “is designed to provide an Afri-centric,
Christian foundation for youth…[giving them] the tools to become successful in life and to
be the best that they can be while following in God’s footsteps.”
We often refer to this kind of care between generations as “mentoring.” At North Park I like
to describe it as “walking alongside our students.”
The feature article of this issue of the North Parker picks up on this theme. Here we describe,
largely through photographs with just a bit of text, what it means to walk alongside our
students. What is presented is only an illustration, a small number of examples taken from
a large number of cases.
Ask any student today to describe what is special about their North Park experience and
they will quickly tell you about an out-of-the-ordinary relationship. The same is true, I’ve
discovered, with our graduates—both recent and more distant. North Park is a place of
relationships, a place of mentoring, a place of walking alongside.
I’m confident that in reading this issue of the North Parker you will identify closely with
one or more of these stories, and in doing so you will recall those who walked alongside you
during your days at North Park.