One of the first things that comes to mind for those considering seminary is, "How will I afford it?"

It was a question not far from first-year MDiv student Brady Baird's thoughts when he felt the call to ministry while attending Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama.

"Since high school, I'd known I wanted to participate in church leadership, but it wasn't until then that I heard God saying, "I've got something more for you to do."

After graduating with a degree in theology, his sights were set on graduate school. But as he and his wife added two girls to their family, he knew that advancing his theological education would require financial savvy.

A lifelong United Methodist from the Alabama-West Florida Conference, Baird says he was drawn to Candler because of its ties to the denomination, but was also reassured by its robust financial aid program.

"Candler does an excellent job of providing financial resources to its students," he says. Another plus is that Candler's application for admission serves as your scholarship application, which makes it easier for applicants, he notes.

After Baird was accepted to Candler, he received a phone call that he had been awarded the Allie and Excell Watson Scholarship.

"It was a surprise—a really good surprise," he says.

Baird is the first recipient of the Watson Scholarship, which is funded by an endowment created by North Georgia Bishop B. Michael Watson 74T and his wife, Margaret L. Watson, in honor and memory of Bishop Watson's parents, Allie and Excell. Memorial funds from First United Methodist Church in Dothan, Alabama, along with private contributions helped fund the endowment.

Baird, who hopes to be ordained as an elder in The United Methodist Church, is currently pastoring Summerville UMC in Phenix City, Alabama, while he completes his degree at Candler. He says the Watsons' generosity will help him live fully into his call.

"I feel a great sense of history and connection at Candler, as an official United Methodist. I'm grateful to the Watsons for this award, not only for me, but for those who will come after me."

image via