Union Presbyterian Seminary marks 200 years

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Union Presbyterian Seminary is celebrating its bicentennial this year, that is 200 years of service. The Union has a lot to celebrate, but its mission is not that well known beyond its borders in north Richmond. Most of us know Union is there, but most of us do not know what makes it so special.

Union Presbyterian Seminary sits elegantly as the anchor of the Ginter Park neighborhood. One doesn't notice a lot of bustle about campus, but fewer than 200 students can only cause so much bustle.

Although Presbyterian in name, the seminary comes from, is, and goes to several branches of the Greater Christian Church.

"Fully 40% of our students are not Presbyterian. So we have an ecumenical student body. We also have an ecumenical faculty and an ecumenical staff.  So that's been one of the hallmarks of this seminary, and of the Presbyterian Church, actually. We're ecumenical," said Brian K. Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Indeed, just across the street is the Baptist Theological Seminary, and the religion department at nearby Union University is also part of the mix. But, this unique campus is the focal point because, among other things, it has a library that is the envy of schools everywhere. Bound volumes dating back to 1454, about the time of the Gutenberg press. You don't find that just anywhere.

"We have a fantastic theological library that's here," said Blount.

And a beautiful library it is. In the main entrance, historic photographs display the lives of those who came before, many years ago, and gained guidance from Union. But it's not just for the students.

"We welcome people to come by and visit our campus, because we know that many people haven't had an opportunity to be here on Brook Road where are. It's a beautiful place where you can come and sit and just enjoy the beauty of the quad, or you can come and take a class.  We invite people to come and see us where we are," said Blount.

"I am absolutely pleased that I came here. I came here for summer school. I was here for greek in the summer, and this is just the beginning of our second week, but I'm already entranced and very excited that I made the choice to come here," said Christopher Tweel.

"When I came to Union and met with them before, it was very much family-oriented. Right away, I came, I was welcomed.  I actually came for Community Break Day, and everybody ran up and they were ready to be my best friend. And, when I left, I felt like I had left a family behind and wanted to come back right away. So, I knew right then that this was where I needed to be," said Jordan Buck.

GENE: "What have you learned in 200 years?"

BLOUNT: "Well, we learned that it's an immensely gratifying task to be able to train leaders of the church. What we're thinking now is that we know we need to train them differently in the 21st century then they trained them back in the 1800s. We need to be more entrepreneurial. We need to think about how our ministers are going to be able to have the gifts to help us revitalize old churches and existing churches and build new churches."

Union also has a branch in Charlotte, but the campus on Brooke Road is the main event. One can drop by on a pretty day and sit on a campus bench for a few moments. It will be a pleasant few moments, time well spent.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.