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Unique Background Allows New Campus Minister to Relate to Students


The Rev. James Ellis III, the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel’s new associate campus minister, didn’t grow up a churchgoer. 

“Nobody in my family went to church,” he said.  “Sunday was the day my dad washed the car, my mom fixed meals and I ironed my clothes for school and got my homework ready.  I think the first time I stepped into a church was when I was 18.”

With a renewed focus on getting more members of the Morehouse community into the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel on Sundays, Ellis – a former youth minister - hopes to become the perfect person to fill the Chapel’s seats.

“Much of the reason I am a good fit for the position is that I’m younger, so I relate to the students in a different sort of way and speak their language.  I think Ihave a cornucopia of experiences to share with the students.  That’s what I look forward to in the job the most.”

As part of a military family, Ellis was born in Okinawa, Japan, but grew up in Maryland.  He went to the University of Maryland to study computer science, but changed to African American studies.    He also became a well-known spoken-word artist.

He kept an interest in new technology, turning that into a multi-media journalism career where he worked for places such as Teen People, National Public Radio, Washington and USA Today.

Ellis had accepted Christ into his life as a 20-year-old and as time went by, he figured it was time to do something more fulfilling.

“Eventually it became pretty clear to me that God was calling me to serve the ministry and really use the gift and the journey that I had,” he said.

He and his wife moved to Texas, where Ellis studied at Baylor University’s Truett Theological Seminary.  After graduating in 2009, he went to Pittsburgh to earn a master’s degree at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

That’s when Morehouse came calling.

“It’s a great place,” Ellis said.  “You can’t miss the history of Morehouse.  Gloster. Kilgore. Thurman.  Massey.  King.  So I’ve been more than impressed in that regard.  It’s been great.”

He and the rest of the Chapel staff are still working on their plans to increase the number of people attending Sunday services.   But that is a work in progress he said.          

“The biggest thing for me is that [students] feel that I care for them,” Ellis said.  “Just having a unique background, I hope to share that with students, to be a resource and feel like I am someone they can come to.” 

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