Wilson to serve as Crucifer at Bethel Commencement


Bethel ministerial student James Wilson

This Saturday, May 9, Bethel student James Wilson of Dresden will serve as Crucifer during the school’s spring 2009 commencement ceremony. What’s interesting about Wilson’s role is that, while he is enrolled in Bethel’s traditional undergraduate ministerial program, the father of four and grandfather of three certainly isn’t the typical ministerial candidate. Wilson came to be the Crucifer (a role he’ll serve for one year) after it was determined that he was the Cumberland Presbyterian ministerial student with the highest grade point average. The Crucifer carries the cross during ceremonial events at the school. Wilson has a little higher than a 3.7 G.P.A.
     “I’m somewhat introverted,” said Wilson. “So I felt humbled by it. I’m not working for grades or doing anything within my work at Bethel to earn recognition. This is what the Lord wants me to do.”
     Wilson, who spent 34 years as an ordained Baptist minister, was given an opportunity to serve a Cumberland Presbyterian congregation in early 2007.
     “My wife was attending UT Martin, so I decided to turn in my resume for this position at Dresden Cumberland Presbyterian Church,” Wilson said. “It was actually about a year and a half before we heard anything. My wife and I had actually been talking about becoming Cumberland Presbyterian for a while. Then I got the position, and we just felt like we really connected. I truly felt the Lord was in this move.”    
     Wilson is still serving the role as pastor at that church.
     “A lot of people ask me if it was difficult moving from a Baptist theology to a Cumberland Presbyterian theology,” Wilson said. “But I’ve only found one really big difference and that’s with the two denominations’ thoughts on Baptism. In every other respect, I’ve found the two to be similar in many ways.”
     The ministerial degree on which Wilson is currently working is not necessarily required for Wilson to serve as a C.P. pastor.
     “There are certain educational elements I am required to take to be an ordained C.P. minister,” Wilson said. “A lot of those courses are through Bethel’s Program of Alternate Studies (PAS) which takes place every summer.
     “A ministerial degree from Bethel was actually my idea,” he said. “I felt that if I was going to be a C.P. minister, then I needed a degree from a C.P. school.”
     When asked what his perspective was on being an older student within Bethel’s traditional undergraduate program, Wilson says it’s actually a good situation for him.
     “I don’t have any problem being the oldest one in most of my classes,” he said. “I love kids of all ages, and being older I think I can get by with a little more than the average 20-year-olds in my classes. I’m talking about in voicing my opinions during discussions in class. But I know my place, and I know how and when it’s time to be quiet.”
     Wilson has attended other schools prior to Bethel, and he says there are many things he really loves about Bethel.
     “I like the class sizes here. They’re smaller, and I actually get a lot of individual time with professors. There just seems to be more camaraderie between professors and students at Bethel.”
     Wilson is scheduled to become ordained at the West Tennessee Presbytery of the C.P. denomination this June.
     “They’re actually just adding to my ordination within the Baptist church back in 1975,” he said.
     Wilson is scheduled to graduate from Bethel’s Program of Alternate Studies in June 2010, and from Bethel in 2011. He is married to Glinda, and they have four adult children: Jennifer, James Jr., Jon and Jessica.
     Bethel’s spring 2009 commencement exercises will be at 7 p.m. at Wildcat Stadium on Saturday, May 9. In the event of rain, commencement exercises will move to Bouldin Auditorium in the Dickey Fine Arts Building.
     For more information about spring commencement, contact Clara Weatherford at (731) 352-4002.