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The Legacy of EU’s First Graduate

     In his 2015 commencement address to the Palmer Theological Seminary graduates at its West Virginia site, Ben Vincent said, “For my grandfather, I found evidence of his faithfulness.” Vincent was referring to author Randall Frame, who cited the following song lyrics when explaining the reason why he wrote his book “Praise and Promise”: “‘That our children and our children someday, after we have lived our hopes and dreams, will sift all we left behind and find evidence of our faithfulness.’” Vincent continued to congratulate and encourage the new seminary graduates by saying, “As you go out into your pastorates, your ministries and indeed all that you set out to do in life, when your grandchildren and all of your descendants look back upon your earthly existence, may they too find evidence of your faithfulness.”

     The words that Vincent shared that day were inspired by his grandfather’s recently-discovered diploma from 1928, back when Palmer Theological Seminary was still Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Why was finding the evidence of Vincent’s grandfather’s faithfulness so meaningful to the Eastern University and Palmer Theological Seminary communities? As it turns out, his grandfather was Rev. Boyce H. Moody, Eastern’s first graduate. According to his student records, Moody “was the first student to register in the Seminary, coming from Crozer, where he was not in agreement with their teaching.” After graduating from his undergraduate studies at the University of Richmond in 1924, he spent a year at Crozer Theological Seminary, but the faithfulness by which his grandson and the communities he later served remember him took him on a journey that eventually brought him to Eastern in 1925.

     Noting that he was a pastor for three years at Ridge Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia while simultaneously studying at the seminary, his student records also describe him as “a man of very fine mental qualities and a splendid character.” This was, in part, evidenced by years of long weekend commutes between Hampton, Virginia and Philadelphia. After spending several years as pastor of Ridge Baptist Church, Moody accepted a pastorate at Immanuel Church in Philadelphia, which was a more convenient commute than “riding the Old Bay Line ferry from Old Point Comfort in Hampton to Baltimore, Maryland and then catching a train to Philadelphia,” as his daughter, Jean Moody Vincent, recalls. Upon graduating with his Master of Theology, Moody continued his pastoral journey, leading various churches, including: Memorial Church in Hampton, Virginia; First Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Virginia; First Baptist Church in Alta Vista, Virginia; and Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. While simultaneously raising two daughters with his wife, Hazel, Moody also served on the Hospital Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention and as a trustee at Mississippi Woman’s College.

     Moody tragically died at the age of 57 after being hit by a drunken driver while making his way to Lee Street Memorial Baptist Church for Sunday morning services. However, his journey of faithfulness did not end with his death on Oct. 28, 1959, for–as Scripture tells us–work done in the Lord is not done in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Instead, Moody’s faithfulness continues on in the legacy of service to his community, family and God that he left behind for generations to come. To celebrate the legacy of Boyce Moody is to celebrate the hope and longevity of the Eastern community that has been cherished upon receiving its first students in 1925. Moody’s story is similar to the stories of today’s Eastern and Palmer students. Our journeys of faithfulness have brought us here–to this place we call home. And we are encouraged by those who have gone before us, like Moody, as we continue to allow our lives to be evidence of our faithfulness in our walks with Christ.

     Sources: Eastern, The Magazine of Eastern University; sbhla.org

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