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The Northeastern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award

By Lynn Bates

page20-1The Northeastern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2009 to recognize graduates of Northeastern Seminary who exemplify faithful service in ministry. Recipients demonstrate such characteristics as innovative approaches to ministry, engagement of their cultural context, perseverance in the face of challenges, excellence in biblical preaching and worship, equipping others to serve, and transformation of self and others through spiritual formation.

“Vision is never about maintaining the status quo. When you clearly hear the Lord, the Body of Christ must be ready, willing and able to launch out into the depths of faith, hope and love — to acknowledge our responsibility to make a God-given, Holy Spirit-inspired vision come to pass.”

These are the convictions of Bishop Reginald (Reggie) A. McGill, founder and senior pastor of New Life Fellowship in Rochester, N.Y., and recipient of the 2013 Northeastern Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award.

Established in 1984, New Life Fellowship brings about reconciliation among the races and seeks to restore families back to God. It aspires to and has become a place of refuge and healing for the abused, disenfranchised, emotionally damaged and lonely. It is a place for all races, ethnic heritages and ages; a place where stature in this life and past burdens would be set aside as all come to understand the outstanding freedom of being led by the Spirit.

Birthed with just seven members and the Rev. McGill as a part-time pastor, its expansion in the late 80s and early 90s prompted him to leave his full-time position as the personnel director for the New York State Department of Transportation to became the full-time shepherd of the growing flock. Having outgrown two previous church buildings, New Life Fellowship is noted as one of the fastest-growing urban churches in the Greater Rochester Metropolitan area. According to Bishop McGill, this was in large part due to intercessory prayer and the evangelistic presence everywhere in the ministry. From youth choir, drama ministry and senior-adults ministry to outreach programs such as evangelism, drug and alcohol counseling, and jail and prison ministry, New Life has more than 20 ministries serving the Rochester community and Monroe County. In addition, Bishop McGill is a pastor-to-pastors who oversees a network of other clergy who look to him for leadership and guidance as a “father in the gospel.”

A genuine vision expressed is always closely associated with the character one lives. Those who know Bishop McGill know of his godly authenticity. Having served for several years in human resources, Bishop McGill interfaces well with people of diverse backgrounds — from city mayors to children, from teenagers to corporate professionals. One colleague attests to his genuine care for both the practical needs and the spiritual journeys that others experience, noting he is a person who daily lives out Rudyard Kipling’s poetic admonition: He is one who can “walk with Kings — nor lose the common touch.”

During his time at Northeastern Seminary, Bishop McGill always demonstrated his thirst to expand his horizons in understanding and clarity. He sought out experiences such as service in a Chinese orphanage as part of his field education and pursuing an independent study, which required him to dig more deeply into the role of scripture in developing a consistent contemplative prayer life. Even though he had been a stellar practitioner for many years, he sought the challenge to become an even better student of scripture and servant of God’s people. For Bishop McGill, this constant eagerness to learn is always a means of pouring himself into others. As one parishioner noted, “As he gains knowledge and insights, Bishop McGill shares them — whether in cell groups, Bible study or through sermons. The result is that individuals desire to be better men and women” of God.

Bishop McGill received his Master of Divinity from Northeastern Seminary in May 2011 and has continued to participate in the life of the Seminary as a member of the NES Clergy Council and as a key participant in churchUNITED, a Rochester-based collective committed to ministry in the City of Rochester.

Bishop McGill shares the pastorate of New Life Fellowship with his wife, co-pastor Dr. Cynthia L. McGill, who assumed her pastoral responsibilities after serving as the assistant provost at Rochester Institute of Technology, and to whom he has been married since 1972. He and his wife have two daughters and a granddaughter, who, of course, has captured their hearts.

In recognition of his service to Christ’s church, our community and beyond, it is our honor to present the Northeastern Seminary 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award to Bishop Reginald McGill.