JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Historical Commissioners met at the Baptist Building on April 19th. They awarded the Baptist Heritage scholarship to Southwest Baptist University student Hannah Roy of Raymore. The scholarship is for $2,000 and is provided by funds from the Cooperative Program and matching monies from Southwest Baptist University.
There were two honorable mention awards also. Alexis Royal and BreAnne Hamby were each awarded $100 scholarship gifts. They are both students at Southwest Baptist University. Royal is from Marthasville and Hamby is from Nixa.
The Historical Commission chairman, Tony Jones, said as he announced the awards, “I think more students should apply for the scholarship because studying our history gives us a greater appreciation for the sacrifices our predecessors made to pass down their faith to the next generation. It also should motivate us to pass on our faith.” Jones is the pastor of First Baptist Church, Rich Hill.
Students were to apply for the scholarship by submitting a research paper on a topic of Missouri Baptist history which were judged by the Historical Commission members.
They chose Hannah Roy’s paper which was titled “The Importance of Sunday School for Missouri Baptists in the Antebellum Era.” It was a survey of the early work of the Sunday school movement in Missouri in the years generally from 1812 to 1861.
During those years Missouri was being settled as a state with westward migration coming across the Mississippi River from the east. Towns, counties and churches were being established. Sunday schools were also established but were not immediately being embraced by local churches. Sometimes they were considered something separate from the church and their purposes were sometimes more of an educational endeavor and a spiritual discipleship effort secondarily. Later churches begin to embrace Sunday schools and they became part of the church’s ministries.
Roy said early Missouri Baptist churches relied primarily on the spoken word to build churches. Revivals, worship services and preaching points were the early methods of gathering people into pioneer churches. Many pastors did not read well, nor did the pioneers on the frontiers. Later as the state became more settled Sunday schools began to be established alongside the churches.
And there was some opposition. She mentioned a confession of faith statement recorded in the 1838 minutes of the annual meeting of the Big Piney Baptist Association in Crawford and Pulaski Counties specifically encouraged churches to avoid Sunday school unions as well as temperance unions, missionary societies and any other “man made” organizations. The Bible was to be the only influence on the local church. Their primary means of evangelism and church planting was to establish preaching points and deliver sermons, often by circuit-riding preachers.
Later attitudes began to soften regarding Sunday school ministry. She mentioned the value that the Shoal Creek Baptist Association near Neosho placed upon Sunday school ministry as key to their evangelistic efforts in the middle of the 18th century. The Blue River Association in the Kansas City area also actively promoted Sunday schools during this time frame. By the late 1850’s Roy said many Baptists in Missouri were embracing Sunday schools as a part of their ministry and evangelism efforts.
She concluded that “Missouri Baptists in the pre-Civil War era deemed Sunday Schools and Sunday School literature as key strategies for further propagating the evangelical faith in frontier Missouri. Certainly, God used other means in addition to the early Missouri Baptist Sunday Schools, such as worship services and revival meetings, to advance the Kingdom of Christ in the antebellum period. The establishment of Sunday Schools faced challenges from some Baptists, who opposed on theological grounds, and from economic factors. Yet, early Missouri Baptist pioneers clearly valued Sunday School as a key strategy for ministry and evangelism due to God’s use of it to add people to His Kingdom.”
Roy is a freshman at Southwest Baptist University, Bolivar, majoring in biology with hopes of pursing a career in physical therapy. She graduated from Raymore-Peculiar High School and attends Pathway Church, Raymore where her father, Mike Roy, is the pastor.
She said she likes history “because I am encouraged by the way God led and provided for Christians with similar struggles through the years.” Asked if she values Sunday school, she said, “I enjoy fellowship with Christians my own age. Bible discussion has encouraged me and deepened my walk with Christ.”
She expressed appreciation to Missouri Baptists for the scholarship, as she said, “I deeply appreciate the scholarship and this opportunity. I learned much through this.”
The Baptist Heritage scholarship is promoted each year with applications and research papers being due April 1 each year. Scholarship information as well as a copy of Hannah Roy’s research paper is located on on the Historical Commission website www.baptistparchments.org. Click on the Scholarship link.