For half a century, Samford University ministerial students have gained practical experience by preaching in local Baptist churches through a volunteer program called H-Day -- "H" standing for Howard College, former name of Samford.
Now, the program will have a new name and a fresh start which will help it better serve Alabama Baptist churches and nurture ministerial students, according to Dr. James Barnette, Minister to the University.
"For the past 50 years, H-Day has celebrated a long and prosperous history with Alabama Baptist churches," said Dr. Barnette. "Effective this fall, with the input of students, pastors and directors of missions, we are taking the best of H-Day and blessing the program with a new name -- Samford Sunday."
Of 22 Sundays available during the school year, 20 already have been booked as Samford Sundays by Alabama Baptist associations, Barnette noted, "a wonderful indicator of continued support."
The student-directed program was temporarily suspended last April when Samford officials learned that a few churches refused to accept three African divinity students as guest preachers. As a result, a task force was appointed to study the program and make recommendations concerning its future.
In addition to the name change, the program now will be supervised by a Samford official. In the past, a faculty or staff member served only as an advisor. Barnette will serve as the first supervisor temporarily. A student assistant will continue to coordinate the program as in the past.
Another change is the appointment of two Directors of Missions to serve as advisors. The advisors will be responsible for communicating ideas or concerns on behalf of the associations. The Rev. Bob Thornton, director of the Etowah Association, and Dr. Jere Patterson, director of the Morgan Association, will serve in that capacity during the 1999-2000 school year. The advisors will meet on a regular basis with the student coordinator and the Samford supervisor.
In the future, according to Barnette, undergraduate students will be given priority for Samford Sunday placement. Since the founding of Samford's Beeson Divinity School in 1988, divinity students have been participating in the program. "This program is intended to benefit ministerial students with little or no experience preaching or conducting a service," he said. Divinity students already have an undergraduate degree and most have pastoral experience, according to Barnette. If there are not enough undergraduates to fill all the requests for speakers, then divinity students would be used.
All students also will be required to complete a certification process to participate in Samford Sunday. The process will include an application that clarifies denominational background, vocational status, preaching experience, language efficiency and an interview with the supervisor of the program.
Samford will certify students who participate in the program. Students will be assigned without regard to race or ethnicity. Likewise, the director of missions will certify that participating churches agree to accept the students as assigned.
Finally, a Samford Sunday Handbook will be developed which will clarify the goals, procedures and ethics of Samford Sunday participation for students, directors of missions, pastors and churches.
"The student preaching program is larger than it has ever been and our goal is to keep it thriving," Barnette said of the changes. "These improvements will enable us to better serve the students and the churches of Alabama Baptists."