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December 2021- February 2022

We Need Each Other


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Friends for Life

By Todd Parrish


The crowd began to file into the South Georgia church building. Everyone had come to remember a man who gave his life to sing and preach the gospel, something Welch College trained him for 36 years prior. Although many in the congregation were from the surrounding area, the choir loft was full of preachers who traveled from around the country to say their goodbyes. These were not ordinary men; they were alumni of Welch College. As their voices filled the sanctuary with strains from Squire Parsons’ “Beulah Land,” their eyes filled with tears as they remembered their brother who had gained his eternal reward. What would compel busy pastors to drop everything, hop on a plane, and travel to a church in a rural area of the South? Relationships.

Relationships that last a lifetime are the hallmark of Welch College. Young people arrive each fall overwhelmed and anxious at the prospect of starting college life. For most, it is the first taste of adulthood. In a few days, friendships blossom and relationships begin that last the rest of their lives. These are not ordinary relationships. These friendships knit lives and hearts together much like the biblical friendship of David and Jonathan. The Master-weaver uses Welch College as a loom to knit hearts and lives together. The resulting tapestry of lives strongly mirrors the beautiful love of Christ. What happens on Welch campus epitomizes Ross Dowden’s words in the college’s alma mater (1955), “God’s truth learned here and friendships dear, will ne’er from us depart.”

Welch friendships are loving relationships. Friendships at Welch College are framed in a biblical context that teaches every student the importance of agape, selfless love. At many colleges, just as in society, relationships are built on the premise of self-satisfaction, gratification, and mutual benefits. The mantra “What’s in it for me?” drives the formation of such friendships. Welch friendships are different. They are the type that lead a person to travel many miles when a classmate is promoted to Heaven to be near the family and comfort the children.

Welch friendships are loyal friendships. For many students, friendships turn into courtships. It is common for students to find their life’s mate during their college years. At Welch, students forge these lifelong relationships surrounded by faculty and staff who provide strong examples of biblical marriages and families. Welch professors become confidants and counselors to young couples. Chapels and campus Bible studies often focus on building spiritual relationships.

Welch friendships are lasting friendships. At this year’s National Convention, copies of the college yearbook, The Lumen, were available. The yearbook editions spanned several decades and were one of the most popular features at the Welch College exhibit. Alumni from across the country, some of whom work for other colleges and universities, gathered around those yearbooks and thumbed through them with excitement. Several found their old college photos and reminisced about old friends. Laughter and tales of college days filled the area as people recalled sweet memories. These are the types of lasting, loyal friendships that compelled college buddies to gather in the South Georgia heat to memorialize one of their own.

While one can attend larger colleges and universities, Welch College is unique. Some feel a smaller college finds itself at a disadvantage. But the Welch community is just the right size for young men and women to forge friendships that encourage one another in their spiritual walk. Larger colleges and universities may brag about frat parties and tailgate experiences. At Welch, students enjoy friendships in such a way that they can have fun on Friday night without a guilty conscience on Saturday morning.

Parents and churches are eager to support a college like Welch. When their students start their college experience, Christian parents are anxious about the environment where their students will begin adult life. Greek life, humanistic philosophy, and progressivism cause many parents and pastors to be concerned about the culture surrounding their Christian students on secular campuses. Many churches that have invested in their young people for 18 years are fearful professors and friends will dissolve that investment during the first 18 weeks of freshman life on a secular campus. At Welch College, faculty and friends complement a freshman’s faith; they don’t compete against it. At Welch, the environment is different.

After returning from Georgia, a staff member shared about the Welch graduate’s funeral with some student body officers. The student-leaders asked, “All those people just dropped everything to come that far for a funeral? You mean, after all those years, college friends would still be that loving and loyal to one another?”

The staff member responded, “That’s what makes Welch College special. Love the friends you make now. They will last a lifetime.”

After letting those words sink in, one student-leader replied, “That’s so amazing. I just love this college!”

About the Author: Todd Parrish is associate vice president for Institutional Advancement at Welch College:


©2022 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists