First recipients of MC's Anderson Fellowship contemplate church ministry

Dec. 18, 2002

Years ago, top students at colleges and universities across the United States entered the field of ministry. Today, data shows the “brightest of the bright” pursue vocations in medicine, law or business.

With the newly instituted Isaac Anderson Fellowship for Church Leadership, Maryville College is encouraging top students to explore vocations in church ministry – and making the exploration financially feasible.

With two fellowship recipients among the Class of 2006, the goal of the Isaac Anderson Fellowship for Church Leadership is being met. Andrew Masterson of Knoxville and Meghan Large of Maryville aren’t only thinking about the ministry – they’re talking to and observing ministers and chaplains, as well as others engaged in ministries beyond the local church. Already, they have participated in shadowing experiences with a college chaplain and a non-profit, faith-based organization. Next semester, they will spend a day with the director of a local church camp and with a parish minister.

“Over the next four years, I want to explore possibilities of vocation and calling in my life,” Masterson said. “I know I will participate in many church leadership activities both on and off campus.”

The Isaac Anderson Fellowship for Church Leadership is part of the College’s Initiative on Vocation. Funded by a $2 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Initiative has two focuses: vocation and the college experience, and ministry and church leadership. The fellowship is an extension of the latter.

“The intended purpose of the fellowship is to get more bright students to think about ministry for their lives,” said Dr. Bill Meyer, executive director of the Initiative on Vocation and associate professor of religion and philosophy. “There is a shortage of clergy in the mainline denominational churches.”

To apply for the fellowship, a student must have maintained at least a 3.5 GPA in high school and scored at least a 1200 on the SAT and/or 27 on the ACT. Applicants must also have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and show interest in and promise for leadership in the church.

Valued at $16,500 annually, the fellowship is among the largest financial aid awards given to students and similar to the Presidential Scholarship in application and selection process, total money awarded, academic and leadership requirements and expectations. But the Isaac Anderson Fellowship for Church Leadership offers fellows additional and unique opportunities to experience various ministry settings over the course of four years.

As sophomores, Masterson and Large may serve part-time in a local church working with youth or teaching Sunday School classes. Internships in a parish setting will be arranged during the summers following their sophomore and junior years, and during their junior and senior years, they will have ample opportunities to investigate, visit and apply to seminaries and divinity schools.

“I’m really excited about some of the requirements for the scholarship,” Large said. “I have tons of expectations for myself, my classes and my professors – just everything. I expect that I will grow as a person, and that I will have lots of fun!”

Students who accept this fellowship can major in any of the College’s 33 majors, and they are not required to go into the ministry. And although Maryville College is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), students do not have to be Presbyterian to apply. Both Masterson and Large are members of Methodist churches.

Masterson, the son of Gary and Martha Masterson of Knoxville and a 2002 graduate of Central High School, is an active member of Fountain City United Methodist Church, where he has participated in the church’s youth group and youth choir. Large, the daughter of Phil and Amy Large of Maryville and a 2002 graduate of Maryville High School, is a member of First United Methodist Church of Maryville, where she has been a member of the choir.

Neither Masterson nor Large are sure about what form of ministry they will pursue – just that their future lives will involve the ministry.

Said Large: “I definitely plan to be in the ministry. I’m still not sure exactly how. I probably don’t want to be a pastor, but I’m interested in youth and children’s ministry.”

“The great thing about the Isaac Anderson Fellowship for Church Leadership is that it will give me the opportunity to explore many different areas of ministry and hopefully help me discern my calling,” Masterson said.

Meyer said the College is pleased to offer the new fellowship because it connects church leadership and high academic standards to the College’s history and founder, the Rev. Isaac Anderson. Anderson opened the Southern and Western Theological Seminary in 1819 to educate more church leaders for the territory. In 1842, the seminary took the name “Maryville College.”