Erskine Theological Seminary (ETS) student Rhonda Heyward has been chosen as the second recipient of the Emanuel AME Church Scholarship, established in honor of Mother Emanuel AME Church.
“My first reaction was ‘Thank you, Lord!’—I was overwhelmed, elated, and filled with joy as I shared the news with my husband and family,” Heyward said. “It was a divine blessing and privilege to receive this scholarship in honor of the victims of the ‘Emanuel Nine’ tragedy.”
Heyward, who lives in the Charleston area and knew some of the shooting victims at Emanuel AME Church, said, “It really touched my heart and made me proud to be the recipient of this scholarship.”
A graduate of Voorhees College who went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, Heyward is pursuing a master of divinity degree at Erskine. She says becoming a seminary student “has afforded me the opportunity to meet loving, caring, and kind faculty, staff, ad students” who are “truly concerned with my academic and spiritual growth,” and cites Erskine librarian Sara Morrison as an example.
“At the beginning of my ‘Principles of Exegesis’ course, I could not figure out how to maneuver through the ATLA Religion Database,” she recalled. “Sara called me and explained the process, and continued to support me through my library experiences. We developed a great positive friendship, and I would like to meet her in person one day!”
Heyward mentions other faculty and staff members who have assisted her, including David Cathcart, Dr. Lawrence Gordon, Lori Mulzer, Dr. Mark Ross, Dr. George Schwab, Tracy Spires, and LaShelia Wyatt.
She is also grateful “for the love ad support from my husband, my children, family, church, and friends, who continue to support and pray for me along the way.”
An active member of Bethel AME Church in Ravenel, S.C., Heyward, a licentiate in the AME denomination, is married to Darrold Heyward, Sr. Together, they have four children, and she enjoys her role as mother and stepmother.
She serves at Bethel AME Church with the ministerial staff, church school, Bible study, praise team, and youth choir. She is financial secretary for the Edisto District Women in Ministry, and her community efforts include serving as chairperson for the Board of Zoning Appeals and working with “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” for the town of Hollywood, where she grew up.
Heyward’s favorite scripture passage is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
She was pleased to be recognized and presented with a plaque Feb. 16 during the “Soul Food Extravaganza” at Erskine Seminary’s Columbia campus. “I am blessed to be part of a great institution,” she said. “And I look forward to a successful and spiritual academic journey!”