Ministry at a distance: Transylvania student to participate in virtual church internship this summer

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Transylvania University religion major Jackson Campbell was asked if he still wanted to intern for a prominent Arkansas church this summer.

The rising junior was undaunted. “This is a historic moment in our country’s history,” he said. “Why not now jump in and learn how to do congregational ministry? It’s probably one of the best times to do it — I’ll be ready for anything.”

These unusual times call for an unusual church internship. Staying in Lexington, Campbell will minister virtually, mostly to youths through a lot of Zoom calls.

He’s excited about the church where he’ll be working: Little Rock’s Second Baptist, an early leader in the civil rights movement that continues to be “bold in their beliefs and what they stand for,” Campbell said.

The churches he gets involved with align with his own ministry, which focuses on diversity and inclusion — especially when it comes to LGBTQ equality.

At Second Baptist, part of his job will be leading activities, devotionals and conversations on rethinking what certain Bible stories mean and how we can use them to “serve those who don’t look like us, those who don’t love like us,” he said. “Essentially I want to be able to allow young people to rethink a lot of their theology and how we can understand Bible stories to be more driven toward social justice.”

Campbell will participate in Second Baptist’s summer camp at Lake Nixon, which the church bought and desegregated in the 1960s. “The students will be physically present six feet apart doing their stuff with PPE, and I will be virtually present,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to be a part of that.”

He found the congregational internship, which begins this week, through the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s Student.Church program. Previously an intern for Louisville’s Buechel Park Baptist, Campbell noted the experimental nature of the one this summer. He’ll have to learn how to interact with families more than 500 miles away during a challenging time in our nation’s history.

“This is a really big learning experience for me — and really for the ministers that work there on a daily basis,” Campbell said. “We’re learning right now how to be the church without being at the church.”