Today finds Norma Jean and me in Temple Terrace, Florida, where we will be attending the Florida College Lectures this week.
It’s been an annual tradition for me. This is the 50th consecutive year I’ve attended what we fondly just call “The Lectures.” Yes, I was only 5 when I attended the first time!
I was a Senior in High School and came to visit the school for the first time. I already knew that I was going to attend FC. This was before camps and massive recruitment tools that the College has today.
But I had heard the chorus. And met Buddy Payne who was then a student. James R. Cope was the President and he had been to Indianapolis speaking at a Booster Club.
I knew I wanted to preach the gospel. So, Florida College was a natural place to continue my education and earn a degree in Biblical Studies. Plus, I learned that I could receive a scholarship to play basketball. In fact, the 1966-67 team was FC’s first scholarship team.
I was in. All in.
For a 17 year old kid who had only been to 3 states in his life, the trip to Florida and The Lectures was a big deal.
It was winter. And it was warm. Palm trees were swaying in the breeze. The moss covered trees adorning the Hillsborough River looked like a picture post card. And the quaint campus with the impressive Hutchinson auditorium, where the lectures were presented in those days, seemed like the promised land to this kid.
Some men I had heard in meetings growing up in central Indiana. Cecil Willis. Ferrell Jenkins and Roy Cogdill. They were speaking on the 1966 Lecture program.
But there were men that seemed like brotherhood giants that I had only heard about. Yater tant. Frank Puckett. Sewell Hall. And Clinton Hamilton, who would later become one of my mentors and officiate our wedding ceremony.
I heard James P. Miller for the first time who closed out the week with a powerful presentation that produced laughter, tears and the motivation to be a better Christian.
I would spend 3 of the next 4 years at Florida College focusing on courses to prepare me for ministry. I sat at the feet of great Bible Professors like Bob Owen, Melvin Curry, Homer Hailey. Edgar Srygley and Harry Payne, Sr.
It was at Florida College that I met Norma Jean Slaughter. Our first date was to hear Robert Jackson close out the 1967 Lectures. We began dating. Exclusively. Soon “like” turned into love. And following my Sophomore year we were married.
Many of our friendships that we’ve maintained over the years have an FC connection. So many relationships in life are temporary because they are based on a job you have, or a neighborhood you live in, or a club you belong to. But when you take a new job, or move to a new neighborhood, or new town, or quit that club, those relationships usually end. And end pretty quickly. Even most high school relationships do not extend beyond graduation.
Through the years in traveling we’ve visited many of our friends from FC. Of course, a great part of the uniqueness is found in the common bond we share spiritually. It’s not unusual to visit a church in another state and see someone from FC we knew years ago. Or the children of one our former classmates. Or friends of one of our children who attended FC.
But The Lectures are a special opportunity to renew those friendships while enjoying a rich spiritual feast.
So, we are here. Again. 50 years later. Still married. Still in love. And still supporting FC.
It reminds me of a simple truth that one decision can impact the whole course and direction of one’s life.
Thank God for that decision. And for the blessings that have followed.
Let The Lectures begin. I’m ready. #50YearsAttendingTheLectures.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman