The New YC Holds Class Back On Old Campus

The New YC Holds Class Back On Old Campus The Rev. Nelson Stone will teach an �Introduction to Christian Theology� class on the former Yankton College site, currently the Yankton Federal Prison Camp. The class runs today and Saturday in what is now called �Hope Chapel.� By Kathy K. Grow This week, a strand of 120-year-old history dropped nearly two decades ago will be picked up again when, for the first time since closing in 1984, Yankton College (YC) will offer an educational course on its former campus.

The Yankton College Lay Ministry Program (LMP) presents "Introduction to Christian Theology" tonight (Friday) and all day Saturday in what is now called "Hope Chapel" on the campus of the Federal Prison Camp. To YC alums and friends, the class location is better known as the choir, band, and orchestra room on the first floor of the Conservatory.

The cornerstone for that building — first on the campus — was laid June 15, 1882, a solid step fulfilling Dr. Joseph Ward's dream, declared in his address when inaugurated as first president: "What can be nobler than to found an institution that, by the simple force of its daily life, shall go out among the young and call each one to a higher life than he could have found without it!"

Fittingly, this first class to return to the first building will be taught by an alumnus, the Rev. Dr. Nelson C. Stone, YC ?69. Senior minister of the Yankton United Church of Christ (served too by Dr. Ward), he is also assistant professor and co-chair of the Division of Arts and Humanities, Mount Marty College, Yankton.

In another twist of that strand of YC history, the LMP's very first class was the first event held in Yankton College Alumni Hall, a small theatre within the Summit Activities Center/Yankton High School facility. Another alum — the Rev. Dr. Steve Patterson ?81 — was its teacher.

The LMP grew out of "College Without Walls" efforts following YC's closing, a plan to continue providing opportunities in four traditional areas of strength: music, drama, athletics, and theology. The Rev. Gene Miller, minister of the South Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ (UCC) and a member of the YC board, suggested as the theology offering a program to train licensed ministers.

"In rural areas, small churches can no longer afford a full-time ordained minister," said Beth Elbe, YC executive director. "So what are you going to do for those people? How do you serve them?"

In many Protestant denominations, the answer has been licensed lay ministers, often plucked from local congregations on the strength of a few basic skills. But the UCC, with its strong heritage of an educated clergy, wanted these ministers to be trained.

Yankton College — no longer with a campus of its own — stepped into the breach with "a portable program," first providing 10 required classes and now 15, all typically offered on a Friday night and Saturday so people can attend without jeopardizing employment and uprooting families. Traditionally, one class per year is held in Yankton, the rest in different parts of the state.

Instructors are persons with experience and advanced degrees, many from UCC-related seminaries. For example, "Rites and Sacraments of the Church" will be taught next spring by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Griffin, president and professor of liturgics, Andover Newton Theological School, Massachusetts.

CEU credits are available, and Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell offers college credit for some courses. The classes may also be applied to Christian education certification programs and lay ministry programs in other denominations and other states.

Any given class has about 25 students, men and women, and of different ages and backgrounds. Classes are open to anyone and have no prerequisites, though people in the program tend to be comfortable with reading, writing and speaking.

The cost of each course is $60 (auditors are always welcome for $15), and transcripts are kept at the Yankton College office. Books and other reading materials are distributed in advance so that the 10 contact hours "are terribly intense." A follow-up project is required.

As friends of Yankton College rejoice at this week's "return" to the old campus, they may also rejoice at the report of someone who has helped lead Federal Prison Camp programs. Remembering the riveting moment during a group discussion in which she sensed that Joseph Ward's dream had not died with the college's closing, she said, "People were still being changed by being on that campus. All that history and care and spirit is still affecting people."

Persons with more questions may contact Elaine Miller, Academic Administrator (404 S. 13th St., Beresford, SD 57004; 605-763-5556) or Yankton College (PO Box 133, Yankton, SD 57078; 605-665-3661;

To contact Kathy K. Grow, e-mail her at

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