AU Student-Alumna Serve Growing Atlanta Church
Rev. Maurice Huggins, better known to his congregation as Pastor Mo, feels blessed to be in the doctoral program at the Clamp Divinity School of the Anderson University College of Christian Studies as he shepherds Mountain West Church, a diverse and growing congregation in the Atlanta area. Mountain West Church is currently up to three services on a typical Sunday.
“We like to say we’re a place that looks like hope and feels like home, and that we’re a church that looks like heaven,” Huggins said. “Every tribe, every nation and tongue gather here where we lay down our preferences and gather around the gospel of Jesus... The coolest part is to just see people who are bank presidents and other individuals who don’t know where their next meal is coming from worshiping together. Immigrants as well as citizens worshiping—just the beauty of that. We’re solidly biblical and centered around the gospel and we help to inspire hope in life through the life of Jesus Christ.”
According to Huggins, Mountain West is in a prime location for reaching out to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We’ve got a vision called Hope 2030… God has called us to make a local imprint and a global impact,” Huggins said. “I don’t think it’s an accident that we are placed 25 minutes from the busiest airport in the world. We can get anywhere in the world from Atlanta, Georgia. We’re going to launch a Hope Center to be our local missions initiative. We have expanded our mission footprint already but we’re going to expand it even further and we’ll have a presence on six out of seven continents. Right now we’re on two and we’re going to expand that to six.”
Born to Jamaican parents and himself a third generation pastor, Huggins initially didn’t feel a calling into ministry. He interned at a law firm in high school and enrolled in college as a political science major with a goal of law school, but during his junior year, God used a Bible class to communicate His calling.
“I felt I was called to this and one way or another I was going to do it,” Huggins said.
When Huggins was seeking a doctoral program, he found that Clamp Divinity School at the Anderson University College of Christian Studies was exactly what he needed. He’s experienced colleges that run the gamut from liberal to ultraconservative, and was refreshed by what he found at Anderson.
“I describe Anderson as biblical. The lens is not filtered through a man-made structure before it’s given to you. Anderson and Clamp are just solidly biblical and focused on showing what the Bible says before you get to your own proclivities and preferences,” Huggins said.
The day-to-day of pastoral ministry can be challenging—all the more reason Huggins appreciates his faculty as he works on his doctoral program at Anderson.
“I’ve been introduced to people doing what I’m doing in the field right now and not just those who are theoretical but putting it into practice… I have put into practice what I’ve been learning. I had a class that taught on planning your preaching for a year. If I had never had that class, I don’t know how I would survive the first year here,” Huggins said. “We grew by 700 people in the first year, and so not having preparation I would have been overwhelmed but to have that all ready and know what I’m doing, I learned that in a class at Anderson.”
Joining Mountain West’s staff as Communications Director was Angelina Chisholm, who graduated from Anderson University a couple of years ago after studying Communication and Worship Leadership. Huggins met Chisholm when she was leading worship for Anderson University’s Clamp Divinity school at the 2021 National Conference on Preaching in Nashville. He invited Chisholm to visit his church, which at the time was at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia.
“It’s a pretty cool story, that two AU students meet at an AU sponsored event and then begin serving in a growing, multi-ethnic church together,” said Dr. Kris Barnett of Clamp Divinity School, who supervises Huggins’ doctoral program and has also spoken at Mountain West.
Chisholm recalls a text she got after returning to Anderson for fall after the conference.
“I got a text from Dr. Chuck Fuller of Clamp Divinity School. He was one of my professors and it turns out that he was also one of Pastor Mo’s professors. Chuck texted me and said, ‘Hey, there’s someone from the National Conference on Preaching who remembers you and wants to talk to you’ and it was Mo. At that point he had come to Mountain West… I didn't think I made that big of an impression. He didn't even know what I majored in and when I told him I was double majoring in Communications and Music Worship he was like, ‘that's perfect. We're looking for someone for communication.’”
Since joining the staff of Mountain West, Chisholm has seen how God uses skills she learned studying Communications and also Worship Leadership at Anderson University. She initially chose to major only in Worship Leadership. Later, seeking out additional programs of study, she decided to also major in Communication.
“I chose communications, and I really didn't think much of it, but the more I did it the more I liked it, and then the more I was talking to people at Anderson, professors and administrators about my majors, they were saying, those two actually go so well together—worship leadership and communications—because when you work in ministry, you end up doing a lot more than you thought. So it became clear to me that communications could be useful in ministry as well. But I always felt like, well, I'm just supposed to do worship, because I've always done worship, and I've always loved music,” Chisholm said. “I think that the Lord calls people to ministry, not skill sets. You can be really good at something, and you might feel the Lord call you into ministry, and then when you get there, He has you doing something completely different.
In addition to leading Mountain West’s communications team, Chisholm also leads musical worship in services.
Information about the Anderson University College of Christian Studies and Clamp Divinity School can be found online here. Information about the South Carolina School of the Arts at Anderson University can be found online here.