After years of hesitation, Natchez native enters Austin seminary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 10, 2001

A great joy filled Tim Brown’s heart when he finally said yes to God. After many years of hesitation, including questions about his own worthiness, he realized a few years ago the time had come for him to enter a seminary.

Now, at 34, Brown soon will begin his third year at Austin Theological Seminary in Austin, Texas, with confidence that he has made the right choice for his life.

A Natchez native, Brown is typical of many seminarians today, choosing ministry after spending time in another career. &uot;Probably 60 percent of us at Austin Seminary are second-career seminarians,&uot; Brown said, as he relaxed in the peaceful quiet of the Westminster Presbyterian Church sanctuary and talked about his faith journey.

For the summer, Brown is back in his hometown, interning at Westminster under the supervision of David deVries, pastor at First Presbyterian. &uot;This is a tremendous opportunity for me. I’m getting a lot of practical experience, more than I might receive in another situation; and I’m learning to discipline myself, prioritize my time to prepare worship services and Bible studies,&uot; Brown said.

So with his family – wife, Le, and two young sons, Bash and Ben – he has moved home, received warmly by a congregation that was not his home church as he grew up in Natchez but includes some old friends.

The journey that led him to ministry began with a firm foundation provided by his family and the church family at Grace United Methodist Church.

&uot;My parents had a desire to make sure we grew up in a Christian family,&uot; he said. Further, the Rev. Pete Herndon, then pastor at Grace Church, encouraged him to consider the ministry. &uot;I began thinking about it, but I wasn’t ready,&uot; he said.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi, where he followed in his father’s footsteps as a football player, Brown accepted a job with Waste Management in Vicksburg. There he married Le and through her became involved in the Presbyterian church. &uot;Then we moved to Brandon for a short time. I became involved in a new Presbyterian development in Madison, and the minister there also asked if I’d considered the ministry. I was still searching,&uot; he said.

By that time he had changed jobs, working with a home health company. The job allowed the family to live wherever they wanted to live. &uot;We moved back to Vicksburg. We had been so fond of that church, and that was Le’s hometown. I became really involved in church work.&uot;

Steve Bryant, pastor at the Vicksburg church, called one day to invite Brown to go fishing the next morning. &uot;I knew what he wanted to talk about, and I told Le that Steve was going to talk to me about the ministry. She told me she’d support me in whatever I wanted to do. It’s not easy. Her words were reassuring and reaffirming to me.&uot;

Sure enough Bryant pressed the point. &uot;He asked me, ‘What are you doing with your life, Tim Brown?’&uot; As the conversation continued, Brown realized the time had come to say yes. In the fall of 1999 he entered seminary.

&uot;It was a release, a joy, a contentment I had never felt. I was not in Tim Brown’s frame of reference anymore but in God’s.&uot;

Two years of study behind him, Brown finds that he has grown more contemplative. His faith in Jesus Christ grows exponentially, he said.

&uot;I’ve seen how Christ has changed people’s lives. It’s a mystery that God loves us so much to do that,&uot; he said.

&uot;I’ve learned in seminary how carefully and completely God holds us in the palms of his hands and how incredible it is that he would extend his grace to us.&uot;

With graduation a year away, Brown has thought about his hopes for the future but said he will go where God calls him to go. &uot;I’ll try to stay on my faith journey to make sure I fulfill God’s purpose for me.&uot;