A Student Once Again (!)

No, don’t worry–I didn’t start a new degree program!

I did, however, recently finish auditing a class on the history of the Restoration Movement in Alabama, which was a great experience. The course was offered by Heritage Christian University in my hometown of Florence, Alabama, and was taught by C. Wayne Kilpatrick, a friend and fellow church history professor. (You can find out more about Wayne’s work here.)

Given that I am a professor and a minister by training and trade, I spend a LOT of time in classes of various kinds, but it’s rare that I ever get to sit in one as a student. Even though I was just auditing the class and not taking it for credit, it was a real treat to be able to listen instead of lecture and to dive into the nitty-gritty of my hyper-specific research subfield with another expert. I fully acknowledge that Restoration Movement history is not everyone’s cup of tea (although I try with the Church of Christ Celebrities blog to make it as accessible as possible!) but it is certainly mine.

This particular course was actually part of a multi-semester sequence of undergraduate classes under the heading of Alabama Restoration History; each semester focuses on only a handful of counties and brings the historical narrative into the early twentieth century. As you might imagine, this means that the information covered in the class is incredibly detailed, making it a real change-of-pace from the courses I’ve taught at Lincoln Christian University (undergraduate) and Amridge University (graduate) which seek to overview the history of the movement worldwide in a single semester. This past fall’s course covered Alabama’s northernmost counties, including my native Lauderdale County in the northwest corner of the state.

I came to the study of Restoration Movement history a little later in my academic training than one might expect; I studied history and political science as an undergraduate but intended to go to law school, so I didn’t engage in any research during those years. After I got to law school and realized it wasn’t for me, I eventually landed on church history as a less lucrative but more enjoyable career path, and I started working on my own research portfolio in the spring semester of 2014. By that time, I had been away from Florence for nearly six years, and although I had attended Mars Hill Bible School from kindergarten through twelfth grade and was somewhat familiar with the story of T.B. Larimore through that experience, I never got interested in Florence’s restoration history in a meaningful way while living there. Fortunately, though, since the audit class covered Lauderdale County and its oldest Churches of Christ, I got to take another bite at the apple.

My own research in Alabama restoration history has typically focused on stories set a little further south (I’ve published articles related to Tuscaloosa County history in the Alabama Review and the Journal of Faith and the Academy, and I posted a brief write-up of Bibb County history on this blog last fall.) Regional and state-level history projects of all sorts are a real interest of mine, though, so while the course material may not have been directly relevant to my own ongoing research, I know I will benefit from the time spent in class all the same.

With how much I have on my plate personally and professionally these days, I did not get to take the next part of the class this semester, but hopefully I’ll be able to hop back in the sequence at some point down the road!

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