Coming Full Circle
Dr. Jeremy Pridgeon was a recipient of gifts from what later came to be known as the Stegall Foundation. Now the Pensacola District Superintendent of the AWF Conference, he is a testament to the return on investments made through the Stegall Foundation.
Guyton and Barbara Parks will always hold a special place in my heart. I first learned of their love and support as a seminary student in 1999, when I enrolled at the Candler School of Theology. I received a letter from Dr. Karl Stegall informing me that they were sponsoring me for the upcoming academic year. Their contribution each month helped to provide books and pay for expenses traveling between my student appointment and Emory. Most importantly, their partnership in my education helped me to know there were others who were willing to walk in this new, unexpected journey with me.
Each month the checks would arrive in the mail. Even amid the busyness of seminary, I would write to them and thank them for their sacrifice, while sharing of what was going on with my studies and in my two congregations. They were my sponsors for all three years of seminary.
In 2002, I was appointed to First United Methodist Church, Montgomery as an associate minister. On my first Sunday, a reception was held. As I was welcomed by members of the congregation, a woman that I did not know came up to me, beaming from ear to ear. In her hand, she held every letter in her hand that I had written during my days at Candler. I knew it was Barbara Parks. Guyton was with her as well, and the three of us had the opportunity to meet for the first time. The Parks had been my seminary sponsors, and as the Lord would have it, I was now their associate pastor.
I had the privilege of getting to know Guyton and Barbara during my time at First United Methodist Church of Montgomery. I came to know of their life story and met members of their family over those years. Guyton and Barbara have since passed away. I had the privilege of officiating at their funeral services. But their legacy of giving in support of seminary students lives on.
Because of their generous support during those most formative days, early on in my ministry, Abigail and I have made it a priority to continue to invest in the lives of seminary students through what is now the Stegall Seminary Scholarship Foundation. I am grateful to God for Guyton and Barbara Parks. They will truly never know what their contributions did for me as I sought to be faithful to God’s call on my life.