Have you met Kevin yet?
After hearing about Reverend McNeil for a couple years now, I finally got to meet him last month. You’ll definitely want to meet Kevin.
Kevin hails from Florida, Palm Bay to be exact. After graduating from Palm Bay High School (fun fact: my sister is also a graduate of Palm Bay High School), Kevin attended the University of Miami and Liberty University. He is also an Army veteran. Reverend Kevin McNeil holds credentials in the Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) faith tradition and pastors a church in Floyd, Virginia. He has an incredible spouse and smiling, inquisitive children. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.
Kevin has been hired to work with InFaith, the worship community that meets on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in Snidow Chapel. His official title is worship mentor and co-campus pastor. Reverend McNeil is paid through a Black Church Leadership Grant through Disciples Home Missions (disicpleshomemissions.org), a grant Chaplain McLemore wrote in the spring and Lynchburg College was awarded in June. Kevin works about ten hours a week and can be reached by contacting the Spiritual Life Center. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.
I was sitting in my summer doctoral seminar listening to a contextual ministry presentation when I received the chaplain’s text about the grant. I may or may not have danced in my seat. I know I silently declared, “Yes” and probably did the iconic accompanying hand gesture. I tried hard to explain to my classmates what the grant and Kevin’s hire meant, but many just could not grasp the meaning. After all, their congregations were mono-racial, and sometimes even mono-cultural. But as I shared the Lynchburg story, I saw the professors smile. These gentlemen understood, for they also serve diverse student populations. Kevin’s hire increases the diversity in the Spiritual Life Center. His gifts and talents join with other staff members to increase our ability to serve Lynchburg students. Kevin’s hire embodies Lynchburg’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. Reverend McNeil’s hire also brings to fruition the dream of a few Lynchburg staff and students who gathered in 2013 to imagine a worship community made rich and viable by its multi-cultural and multi-racial student leadership and congregation. But that is not why you want to meet Kevin.
You want to meet Kevin because his inner peace, his inner strength, and his confidence bear witness to one who understands his role at Lynchburg to be a gift and a sacred trust. He understands that the task of journeying with students, as they grow spiritually, is not for nonprofessionals or the faint of heart. Reverend McNeil understands college years are critical to faith formation and critical thinking. He understands that encouraging students to ask questions and inviting students to be comfortable in questions is absolutely the role of a campus pastor. Kevin also understands effective student ministry is not personality-driven; it is daring to journey with students as a fellow pilgrim, a little older and a little wiser, but still on the journey.
Can you tell that this founding pastor of InFaith, and now co-campus pastor for InFaith, is thrilled about her new colleague and teammate?
Seriously, you really want to meet Kevin.