A group of undergraduate Christian ministry students, seminary students and faculty are working to renovate the lounge in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry.
They have the opportunity to work with Gloria Gaither who is contributing to the renovation after the closing of the Gaither’s store Gaither Family Resources.
Kelsi Allen, a current seminary student working toward a Master of Divinity, said that her desire to help came out of the frustration that seminary students don’t really have a place of their own on campus.
“While technically the lounge is for the SOTCM students, it is not exactly a comfortable and inviting space that we could make our own for studying or promoting community among our department,” Allen said. “The hope and the goal is that this renovation will give us our own place on campus and will function as a great space for studying and discussion among all of the students and professors in the SOTCM.”
Allen said that she was a little concerned about working with the undergraduate students on this process.
“I was worried that bringing the undergraduates in on the process would drown out the voices of the seminary students who originally advocated for this space’s renovation because we are a minority group in the department,” Allen said. “We had already had multiple meetings around the topic and had a vision for the space that we didn’t want to lose.”
After working together, she found that the undergraduate students were a great team to collaborate with.
“So far they have been really great to work alongside and have been on board with the vision,” Allen said. “As a whole, our group has been on the same page throughout the process. We all desire this space and have a need for this space, and it will be rewarding to see it through together.”
She hopes that this is just the beginning of bringing the undergraduate and seminary students together.
Allen has had the opportunity to work with Gloria Gaither closely in the renovation process.
“Gloria Gaither is a gem,” she said. “I have only had the privilege of meeting her once in this process. She invited me and Dr. Hawkins to stop by and walk through her store after its closing so that we could pick out items for the space. She loves to decorate, so she was excited and ready to help the minute we shared our desire and intentions for the renovation; she even immediately tried to pull out her color swatch to discuss possible paint colors.”
Allen is excited for Gloria’s willingness to help and thinks that she is a great person to have in the process.
Sophomore Christian ministry major Abby White is part of the group of undergraduate students helping with the renovation. The students were asked to be part of the committee earlier this year.
“At the beginning of the year we had an SOT chapel where they asked if any students would want to be on a committee to help renovate the lounge,” White said. “Dr. Varner invited me to a meeting, and we started pointing out things to change and how we wanted it to look.”
White said that it was already in the works that Gaither would contribute to the lounge.
“This last meeting, Gloria came to see it for herself to start looking at structural things that needed to be fixed,” White said. “She said that she is giving us a lot of room to design it how we would like.”
The students in the SOT have noticed that the room hasn’t been renovated in a while, and it’s not very inviting.
“It just smells really musty,” White said. “A long time ago it was a really popular place for people to study and a place for community within the major, but since it’s outdated, people have kind of stopped using it.”
The Bible museum located next to the lounge is moving, so they plan to use that room to add on to the lounge.
“Depending on how much money we get, we’re hoping to use the other room to help revitalize that community aspect,” White said. “We want to add tables to the side that has a kitchen so there can be a place where people can eat together or work on projects together. We want the other room to be more of a study space.”
As a student who will be using the lounge, White said that it will benefit the department as a whole.
“It will be a really great space to get to know other people in your major and work on things together,” White said. “A lot of the other departments on campus have their own space, so we don’t want our lounge to not be utilized.”
Dr. MaryAnn Hawkins, dean of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry, said that the lounge hasn’t been renovated in more than 15 years, so they’re very excited about Gaither’s contribution.
“As the Gaithers were closing Gaither Family Resources, they shared a variety of things with several different ministries in the Anderson area,” Hawkins said. “Gloria had some things she wanted the seminary to have. When she found out that we were renovating the lounge, she asked if she could participate. Of course we agreed.”
Hawkins said that Gaither has already provided some decorative tables, wall hangings, books and other decorations. She also provided names of craftsmen who could help with the design.
Hawkins also said that this lounge was a perfect way to bring undergraduate and seminary students together.
“We continue to look for ways to foster interaction and partnership between seminary students and undergraduate students, especially those who are Christian ministry and Bible studies majors and minors,” Hawkins said. “The renovated lounge will provide a new gathering place in the School of Theology and Christian Ministry.”