I prepared a biographical presentation on Adoniram Judson for our recent church family camp. As is usually the case, I get far more out of these preparations than I am sure the listeners do, and some of the best lessons are the things I am not looking to learn.
One of those was in reading of the founding of Andover Seminary, where Judson enrolled as a special student (since his conversion was not settled at the time) shortly after its founding. Courtney Anderson describes the “campus“:
Phillips Hall had been erected just before Adoniram arrived. It was without ornament, spare, of red brick with a slate roof. One room was set aside as a chapel, another for a reading room, and thirty rooms were used for dormitory purposes…. Life at the seminary had a Spartan simplicity. The students heated their rooms with firewood they chopped for themselves and drew water in pitchers from nearby wells…. The members of the faculty [they had two well-qualified, full-time professors at the time–one of Literature and Languages and the other of Theology] lived like country ministers anywhere in New England, hoeing their own gardens, milking their own cows, and cutting their own hay…. So far as Adoniram was concerned, however, the two-man faculty served as well as a score (To the Golden Shore, p. 49).
In a day when students are looking for a seminary so long as there is a coffee house, rec center, scores of faculty, and, hopefully, solid doctrinal convictions, it is good to be reminded of Andover. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for what the big schools are doing and some have been a great blessing in my life. However, a smaller school can focus on the main mission for their founding so long as they are content to be what they are.
A couple of years after its beginning as an obscure, conservative counterpart to larger, more progressive schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Brown, Andover actually became a gathering place for the thrusting out of America’s first and best missionaries. Adoniram Judson, Samuel Newell, Samuel Nott, Samuel Mills, James Richards, and Luther Rice soon departed as Andover grads for the sake of the Gospel.
God continues to do such a work here at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. Here you will find: a focused purpose (training pastors and teachers for local church ministry here and on the mission field), a relatively small, but highly qualified faculty (who mow their own yards, though not their own hay); very nice, functional facilities (with lower tuition costs because facilities are kept in check); a local mission field in which to practice (Metro Detroit is home to over 4 million people with hundreds of people groups, with the largest concentration of Arab-speaking Muslims outside the Middle-East we are glad to have as neighbors) and a huge heart for the Church and Mission of God. God has seen fit to continue to help us see men leaving here for fields around the world. We pray that He continues to do great things for his glory, which seems uniquely displayed in smaller places.