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Walk with a purpose: tradition welcomes new students into C-N community

Carson-Newman President Charles A. Fowler and his wife Sandra (center) lead new students and their families on the University’s Prayer Walk, Saturday, Aug. 13. A Carson-Newman tradition, the event offers a time of prayerful transition for students as they begin their college years on the banks of Mossy Creek.

It’s a Carson-Newman University tradition that can be measured in some 450 steps. Less than a quarter of a mile. But what takes place within a six-minute walk, is remembered by families long after it’s over. Saturday, Aug. 13, was no different, as new families learned about the event firsthand.

At the start of each fall semester, the University holds a ceremony, welcoming new students and their families arriving to campus. Held in the sanctuary of Jefferson City’s First Baptist Church, the gathering concludes with an annual event affectionately known as the “Prayer Walk.”

Led by C-N’s first couple, President Charles A. Fowler and his wife, Sandra, parents walk with their student from the sanctuary, exiting the front of the church to Russell Avenue where they process up the street, ultimately gathering on the grounds of Henderson Humanities Building.

Families often describe the event as “powerful” and “meaningful” – not because of the walk, but that along their way to the center of campus, faculty, staff and administrators, form lines on both sides of the walkway in silent prayer.

Marking this new chapter of life in prayer may be one of the best examples of what “community” means at Carson-Newman.

“Going off to college can understandably be a difficult time of adjustment for students and families,” said President Fowler. “As a father of two daughters, I distinctly remember when each left home for college. It was a time of mixed emotions. Our faculty and staff understand this. That is why as a Christian university we see this as an opportunity to come alongside our new families and lift them up in prayer and support” he said. “We love our students, and our annual Prayer Walk is but one way that we as a campus community have the opportunity to showcase our Christ-centered mission.”

Members of Carson-Newman’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) pray over an incoming student (center) at the conclusion of the University’s Prayer Walk.

Dr. Jonathan Akin, vice president for Church Relations and Campus Ministries, says the event reflects the heart of the University.

“We are a Christian university. Because of that, we want Christ to be at the center of everything we do,” Akin said. “Which means exalting him, asking him for his favor and help as students transition from home to school.”

Akin says, for him, the feelings around the event also hit close to home.

“My daughter [recently] turned 16. She’s starting her junior year, so we’re personally approaching this quickly,” he said. “It’s very bittersweet. You don’t want your kids to stay the same age. You want them to grow, but at the same time, there is sadness that comes with that as well.

“We recognized it is a very emotionally charged time, but we think that is a perfect time to take our eyes off human circumstances and put our eyes on the Lord and, one, to just thank him that as a family you’ve gotten to this point, and then, to ask for his help as you transition into this new stage.”

Akin says his desire is that the tradition is one that is reflected on fondly for years to come.

“We really want to make sure it is a meaningful experience that families will be able to look back on this together and say ‘that was really awesome.’ We hope it crystalizes the whole weekend experience for families.”

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