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Faith & Service

Inside Freedom Tower

By Mitzi Bible, February 10, 2017

Scriptorium, immersion classroom among special features in
Rawlings School of Divinity’s new home

As Liberty University’s newest and now unarguably tallest landmark, Freedom Tower, rose high above campus last semester, architects and university leaders were hard at work designing the unique spaces inside that will help divinity students stay grounded in their callings as ministers of the Gospel.

An artist’s rendering shows a replica of a Gutenberg printing press in the Rawlings Scriptorium.

An artist’s rendering shows a replica of a Gutenberg printing press in the Rawlings Scriptorium.

Upon entering the base of the 17-story structure when it opens this fall, guests are sure to be drawn to the Rawlings Scriptorium, located just off the main lobby. (A scriptorium is traditionally a room where special manuscripts are read and stored.) The space will feature a number of rare books and Bibles provided to the university by the Rawlings Foundation. The collection includes a first edition 1539 Great Bible, the first English Bible authorized by King Henry VIII; a 1561 Tyndale New Testament; and a 1560 first edition Geneva Bible, the Bible brought to America by the Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620. It also includes a first edition 1537 Matthews Bible, a first edition 1568 Bishops Bible, two first edition 1611 King James Bibles, and two first editions of 1563 “Fox’s Book of Martyrs.”

Interactive, multimedia screens will help students research particular sections of the books.

The space will also feature a life-size replica of the Gutenberg press, the first movable-type printing press. In the mid-1400s, this invention made it possible for printed materials — including the Bible — to become available to the masses. The Gutenberg Bible was one of the first books ever printed.

A digital screen will allow students to read particular sections of the books displayed in the Scriptorium.

A digital screen will allow students to read particular
sections of the books displayed in the Scriptorium.

Though the scriptorium’s book collection has been valued at over $1 million, School of Divinity staff understand its true worth far outweighs any dollar amount. Students will have the opportunity to learn directly from early documents that stand as a testimony to the Christian faith — the faith they plan to spend their lives sharing with others.

“We are praying that God will use this incredible facility to attract, educate, and equip a generation of students who will help change the world for the cause of Christ,” said Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the School of Divinity.

Other features in the base of the building will be equally impressive. A 150-seat auditorium is planned, as well as an “immersion” classroom, where students can view 180-degree multimedia presentations, allowing them, for example, to take a virtual tour of the Holy Land.

Consistent with other architecture on campus, large amounts of glass will give the facility a transparent feel, allowing for plenty of natural light inside. Peering in from the Academic Lawn, guests will have an unobstructed view through the glass exterior walls on through the lobby on the first level and the dean’s suite on the second. A glass elevator will carry visitors up and down the tower’s 17 floors.

Students will be able to walk freely along rooftop terraces on levels two through four. The terrace on the fourth level will have a formal lawn and a garden pergola.

The tower portion of the facility will be used primarily for academic programs in the School of Divinity. The seventh floor will house a homiletics lab, where students can practice public speaking, and the ninth through twelfth floors will feature classrooms. Conference rooms will be located on the eighth and thirteenth floors, and floors 15 and 16 will have observation areas. Each 34-by-20 story features 12-foot ceilings.

Crews completed the basic frame of the tower in January. It is constructed almost entirely of concrete; steel is used at the very top, where there will be an observation area, a skylight, and a 25-bell carillon. The bells, weighing in at approximately 7,230 pounds total, are scheduled to be installed in April. They will include Liberty’s own replica of the Liberty Bell, which, at about 3,000 pounds, will require special delivery by crane.

When complete, Hindson said the facility will not only become the focal point of campus, it will also serve as a reminder of the university’s mission: “The Freedom Tower will stand at the center of campus, reminding everyone that the power of the Gospel will sound forth the message of freedom in Christ for generations to come.”

DidYouKnowThe Liberty University Rawlings School of Divinity is the world’s largest accredited school for religious studies and ministerial training.

A Family Blessing

President Jerry Falwell and Harold Rawlings

President Jerry Falwell and Harold Rawlings

Last fall, the university received $2 million from the Rawlings family (brothers Harold, George, Herb, and Carrol) to further fund the School of Divinity and tower project. But that wasn’t the first outpouring of generosity from the family; the School of Divinity was named in the family’s honor after the brothers donated $5 million just one year earlier. The Rawlings family has strongly supported Liberty over the years, contributing greatly to its vision of becoming a world-class Christian university. Dr. John Rawlings, their father, was a former administrator at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Mo., where Liberty founder Jerry Falwell Sr. attended college in the early 1950s. John Rawlings, a pastor for over 70 years, was an adviser to Falwell Sr. in his ministry and in the establishment of Liberty. He preached often in Lynchburg over the years and later served on the Liberty University Board of Trustees. The Rawlings family has been fully engaged in the planning and design of the scriptorium and other features of the School of Divinity and Freedom Tower project.

Graduate ministerial students eligible for Keesee grants

In the fall, Liberty University joined The Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund, established in 1941 by the late Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Keesee of Martinsville, Va., enabling students in the residential Master of Divinity program, select Master of Arts degree programs, and the Doctor of Ministry program to become eligible for grants.

At the master’s degree level, grants will range from $4,000-$8,000 per year for a maximum of four years. Students pursuing the Doctor of Ministry degree could receive between $2,000-$3,000 per year for a maximum of three years.

“This is the most significant scholarship gift that the School of Divinity has ever been given, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving, year after year,” said Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the School of Divinity. “While we are training a wide variety of students at Liberty for various kinds of ministry, the heart and soul of what we were in our founding days is still a part of who we are today, and this cooperative relationship will help that to continue.”

Applicants must be residents of Virginia, North Carolina, or South Carolina (they must prove 12 months of residency prior to beginning a graduate degree). They must also be a member of a Baptist church and have the intention of entering a Baptist ministry upon graduation. For more information, email keesee@localhost.

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