Saint Paul bids farewell to Historic Northeast

Posted November 14, 2012 at 12:00 am

By LESLIE COLLINS
Northeast News
November 14, 2012 


For 47 years, Saint Paul School of Theology has called Historic Northeast home.

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Bidding farewell. Saint Paul School of Theology, pictured above, is leaving the Northeast to relocate inside the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan. School officials cited decreased enrollment and dwindling finances as the reasons for the move. Leslie Collins

Tucked away along Truman Road, the 217,000 square-foot campus overlooks the downtown Kansas City skyline. Now, the school is leaving behind its red brick buildings and trading in its view to relocate across the state line to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan.

“We want to continue to be a seminary. It’s just going to be at another location.,” said Saint Paul School of Theology Director of Communications Heather Chamberlin. “We’re not closing the doors.”

Chamberlin said the top two reasons for the move are a dwindling budget and decreased student enrollment.

During the 2008 recession, the school’s endowment “took a hard hit,” she said, and ministerial education funding from the United Methodist Church has decreased by about 25 percent.

To find savings, the school closed one of its residence halls, contracted out maintenance and catering services and cut back on advertising, among other areas.

“Our main concern is for our students,” Chamberlin said. “We want to continue to offer the classes that they need. We’re continuing to focus on the academics and on the students and that they are getting the best education that they can from this institution.”

Saint Paul also operates a campus on the Oklahoma City University campus, which will not be affected.

Shandra Yost, student council president, is keeping positive about the move.

“Ministry is always changing and moving, and that’s what we are called to do,” Yost said. “I’m continuing to look forward and find hope in what’s next for us.”

Saint Paul plans to begin offering classes in its new location in the fall of 2013 and will use the church’s classrooms, worship space, library and common areas. Student housing, as well as faculty, staff and administrative offices will be located off-site. Laity and staff of the Church of the Resurrection are welcome to participate in Saint Paul’s class offerings, Chamberlin said.

“In some ways, we’ve already been doing some collaborating,” Saint Paul School of Theology President Dr. Myron F. McCoy said of Church of the Resurrection.

Two staff members recently taught at the church’s Wesley Academy and a number of church members have taken classes through the Laity School of Theology, he said. In addition, some of the church’s staff members teach as adjuncts at the seminary, he said.

“These have been positive experiences for all involved and we look forward to exploring more ways of expanding this partnership,” McCoy said.

Saint Paul’s Academic Dean Harold C. Washington said the transition signals a new vision for the seminary.

“Saint Paul School of Theology collaborating with the Church of the Resurrection signals a new vision for the seminary, a new era in theological education and new opportunities for seminary students, clergy and laity to immerse themselves in theological learning informed by excellent ministry practices,” Washington said.

Asked what will happen to the campus buildings in Northeast, Chamberlin said a committee has been assigned to search for organizations that could take over the buildings. To date, about three groups have toured the campus, she said. Saint Paul is open to suggestions for re-use strategies and ideas can be emailed to evangelism professor Dr. F. Douglas Powe, Jr. at dpowe@spst.edu.

Over the years, Saint Paul students have done practicums through organizations in the Historic Northeast, and Chamberlin said the school plans to continue its partnerships with the Northeast organizations.

“It’s not easy moving a 54-year-old campus. There will be some growing pains for sure,” Chamberlin said. “Things have to change when you’re looking at keeping a strong, healthy program.

“We’re just excited about the possibilities, what can happen for our students and expanding education.”