Published on July 21, 2020 by Kristen Padilla and Samuel Hagos  
Darrell and Elaine Cook
Darrell and Elaine Cook

After serving almost six years as the pastor in residence at Beeson Divinity School, Darrell Cook is retiring. 

Darrell Cook retired from a career in retail management when God called him and his wife, Elaine, to the mission field. They served in South Africa for five years before returning home to Birmingham, at which time Darrell enrolled in the M.Div. program at Beeson Divinity School. Darrell is the retired pastor of Dogwood Grove Baptist Church in the Birmingham area. He and Elaine have three daughters, three grandchildren, and one great granddaughter.

Dean Douglas Sweeney said: "We are deeply grateful to Pastor Cook for his almost six years of faithful ministry to the Beeson community. He has been a wonderful pastoral mentor to so many of our people. Wilma and I are also grateful for Darrell's ministry of welcome and encouragement during our first year in Birmingham. He was one of the very first to welcome us and help us get our bearings. This meant so much to Wilma and me. Darrell and Elaine shine a bright gospel light. We're praying that the Lord will bless them richly as they enter the next phase of their walk with Him."

The following is an interview with Darrell. 

When did you begin this role at Beeson?

I began serving as the pastor in residence at Beeson in the fall of 2014. Soon after I graduated with my M.Div. from Beeson, Dr. George invited my wife, Elaine, and me to his office, described this new role and offered me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. Elaine and I have had the wonderful blessing of serving the Beeson community and have hosted many students and faculty in our home.

How did you approach the job?

Since there was no job description, this has always been a matter of relationships. I would often ask the Lord to give me meaningful conversations—and he never failed. I was always looking for an opportunity to engage a student in conversation about classes, calling, or family. I learned a valuable lesson from my friend, Dr. Lyle Dorsett. When a person expresses a need, that may be the right time to pray for the person—whether in the Commons or the hallway.

What have been some of your greatest joys?

One of the greatest joys as the pastor in residence at Beeson is getting to know the students and listening to their stories. I enjoyed discussing matters with students from time management to academic challenges they may be facing. For a struggling Greek or Hebrew student, my encouragement went something like this—“If I could do it, you can too.” 

In my first year, as a recent graduate, I wrote a series of essays for students on Making the Most of Beeson Years. I wrote about the value of chapel, mentor groups, the Global Center, and ministry practicum. These components of the Beeson model all come out of the academic emphasis; at the same time, they enhance the rigors of academic study. To a busy student, this can be missed. Throughout my ministry to the students, I attempted to help them marry the two.

What have you enjoyed most about leading a mentor group?

This has been a particular joy. It started when Melissa Matthews asked if I would take a group for a semester while their professor was on sabbatical. This has continued every semester and has been an opportunity to develop deeper relationships with different groups of students. I always knew that at the end of the semester, these students were just “on loan” from my respected friends like Dr. Ross, Dr. House, Dr. McDermott, and Dr. Malysz, so I held myself to a high standard! Hebrews 10:24 has been the theme verse for many mentor groups. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.” I saw my role with students not as a counselor, but as an encourager. Some of us are not equipped to be counselors, but we are all called to be encouragers.

Any thoughts or reflections about your time as pastor in residence?

First, I am thankful to Dr. George for the invitation to serve. He gave me access to students. I am grateful to the faculty and staff who received me warmly and without reservation, allowing me to sit in classes where I saw students interacting. 

It has been a special privilege to serve at Beeson during the first year of Dean Sweeney's deanship. I am grateful that he has allowed me to continue to serve in this role. As an alumnus, a retiring staff member, and a donor to Beeson, I pray for Dean Sweeney and the years to come as the dean of Beeson Divinity School.

I am convinced that seminary is not a three-year leave-of-absence from church ministry in order to prepare to spend forty years serving the church. Perhaps my favorite question for a student is, “where do you worship on Sunday?” The answers have varied but often allowed me to talk about the importance of being attached to a local congregation during their seminary years.