The Grimké Brotherhood: A Seminary Family

By Justin Honaker    |    October 3, 2022

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A typical Grimké intensive week started with my five-hour drive from the beautiful mountains of Southwest Virginia up the I-81 corridor and on into Richmond. I always left in time to make it into the city the night before the intensive began, a chance to have dinner with the family that hosted me during my time in seminary. The meal, along with stories of family, ministry, struggles, and joys, marked that first evening of intensives as one of beauty and welcome. These dear people became family to me; we prayed together, laughed together, cried together, and rejoiced at all that God was doing in our lives. Though this wasn’t a part of the formal structure of the intensive, it was vital to my time as a seminary student.

The following morning, the intensive began in earnest with time for me to reconnect with current students as well as an opportunity to meet the incoming students. As I shared in previous posts, my education at Grimké was marked by rich theological depth; however, that depth was enhanced by the conversations during breaks or at dinner after a long day. The conversation may start with the question, “What did you cover in Old Testament class today?” but would eventually lead to deep discussions with fellow students experiencing the same things that I was in ministry. There is a camaraderie among those who share struggles together. This kind of camaraderie was exactly what I experienced with my fellow students as we shared stories of ministry in the local church, the highs and lows of the past few weeks or months, and those areas of our lives that needed prayer. The added benefit of the Grimké model, a benefit difficult to put on a website or on a syllabus, was this: I came for a rich theological education, and I left with not only that education but also friends who know me, love me, and care about the health of my church and the health of my soul.

‘The Grimké Fellows,’ as they are aptly named in my phone, serve me as a listening ear to the hardships, joys, and confusion of ministry life.”

—Justin Honaker

One consistent dissatisfaction voiced by many from the traditional seminary model is a classroom full of students with different interests. Some seminary students, who learn in the traditional seminary model, struggle to connect with their fellow students when there is diversity among the student body as to their future vocations and how a seminary degree might serve them in the future. The benefit of a seminary education at Grimké Seminary is that the student body is solely comprised of pastors, planters, and those aspiring to be such. The common calling to pastoral ministry also gives our student body common questions, pains, struggles, joys, challenges, and successes. When you are part of a school where the student body shares a common ministerial calling, you can confidently say, “I’m not in this alone.”

Not only did the Grimké brotherhood create a sense of shared camaraderie, but they also created an “Inklings” group of sorts. These men are the type of fellows that can share a dinner together and then ruminate for hours on the complexity of God’s sovereignty, the Trinity, human responsibility, and other theological derivatives. The type of relationships that grow in this environment form deep roots because of the shared foundation we have in Christ. Therefore, with Christ as the center and telos of all theology, these conversations were consistently enriching. Just like the Scriptures promised (Prov. 27:17), I have been sharpened and shaped by these brothers in the best of ways.

Pastoring is one of the most challenging and rewarding callings. The rigorous schedule, the emotional toll, the relational pain, and the spiritual weight all coalesce into a glorious and demanding calling unlike anything else. Often pastoring is lonely, and it is in those seasons of loneliness that I am most thankful for my brothers from Grimké Seminary. “The Grimké Fellows,” as they are aptly named in my phone, serve me as a listening ear to the hardships, joys, and confusion of ministry life. At the time of this writing, we have recently laughed at the craziness of cars running into houses, prayed for healing from cancer diagnoses, talked about the beauty of Jesus building His Church, and spoke of the hopeful expectation of when we will be together again. These are men that will call me out when I am talking crazy, cry with me when I am broken, and pray with me for the Lord of Lords to speak and move and show mercy. Grimké Seminary is a unique place with a beautiful vision that has brought about some of the best relationships that I have ever been blessed with. The education that I have received is rigorous, the mentorship is priceless, and my friendships are just getting started.

Justin Honaker

Justin Honaker is pastor of Lebanon Community Fellowship in Lebanon, Va.

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