The Cherry family’s legacy of love and religious education

It would be a great plot for a Christian romance movie. Aspiring missionary walks into a Christian Sociology class. Future pastor sees how she lights up the room. He makes it his mission to sit behind her the rest of the semester. Eventually, he convinces her to marry him and serve alongside him at his churches — to think of herself as a missionary to the United States instead of to a different country. He serves as a pastor for over 50 years, and she works alongside him teaching young adults and children.

The future pastor was my grandfather, Russell T. Cherry, Jr. He always knew he wanted to be a preacher. When he was a child, he would play church in the woodshed with the neighborhood children. Four deacons from another church saw his potential and paid for him to attend college. He received a BA from the University of Richmond in 1947, and he was ordained the same year. He graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity and a PhD in Preaching.

The aspiring missionary was my grandmother, Jewell Jones. She sped through her education, graduating high school at 15 or 16 and finishing college in three years. She went on to attend the Women’s Missionary Union Training School at Southern Seminary because she wanted to be a missionary to China.

If you liked Russell and Jewell’s meet-cute, just wait until you watch the sequels: many of their children and grandchildren also met their spouses during seminary. My aunt Judy, a Campbell University alum, met her husband Scott at Southern Seminary.
My dad Russell (III) met my mom Betsy at Southern. Aunt Jeannie met her husband Tripp at Campbell (they went to seminary, too, at Southeastern). My brother Chris met his wife Tory at McAfee. I met my husband Isaac also while in seminary. My cousin Russ went to Moravian Theological Seminary and met his wife Rebecca while in ministry.

While we might not actually make it into the movies, our love stories and our lives demonstrate the legacy of Russell and Jewell: a love for people, a curiosity about religious questions, and a desire to do good in the world. You see, many families pray before meals, but we go beyond that. We talk about religion while cooking. We debate denominational politics during dinner. We discuss theology over dessert. We dispense pastoral care while clearing the table.

Because we’ve all benefitted from scholarships to pursue our studies of religion, we are grateful to now have the opportunity to make a donation to Campbell University to establish three funds in my grandfather’s name that will support religion and divinity students.

Campbell is beloved to many in my family. Not only did my aunts Judy and Jeannie graduate from Campbell (you should ask Aunt Jeannie and Uncle Tripp about their meet-cute in D. Rich Auditorium), but my grandfather also served as a trustee at Campbell and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity and a Presidential Medallion Award. We’re excited to see Dr. Cherry, Jr.’s blockbuster legacy of love and religious education live on through these scholarships.

— written by Amanda Cherry

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