Every Thursday at noon, you’ll find Jacob Lancaster inside the Hayworth Chapel.
He gathers in a semi-circle with staff, students and faculty members for the chapel’s weekly communion. It was his idea.
As Lancaster pulls a piece from a loaf of bread and dips it into a pottery goblet of grape juice, Lancaster is surrounded by people who are helping him become a Methodist minister.
That will happen. It’s part of who he is.
Lancaster is an HPU junior, a percussionist and a religion major from Albemarle, North Carolina. He’s also the son of a Methodist minister. His family has Methodist ministers stretching back for three generations on his dad’s side in North Carolina.
Five of his great uncles – all brothers – were Methodist ministers at the same time in the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. That was once a record – and still may be.
Lancaster does come to his faith naturally. Start with his name. His identical twin brother is named Noah. Their parents, Lanny and Janet, picked those names because they loved the epic character-driven stories of Noah and Jacob in the Old Testament.
Lancaster also came to High Point University naturally. Both his parents are alumni, Class of 1990 of then-High Point College. But Lancaster is in no way in anyone’s shadow. He has made HPU – and his faith walk – his own.
Lancaster has been selected as HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for the month of September because of his hard work, academic achievements and campus leadership.
Along the way, he learned more about God. And himself.
Lancaster can look at the photos from HPU’s recent pilgrimages and remember many make-a-difference moments in each city.
The area known as the Triad in central North Carolina.
At every stop, Lancaster visited sacred spots, and he saw firsthand how people reached out to help people in need. Relationships emerged, friendships strengthened, and his faith turned into something he could see and touch.
Lancaster began to open up about his faith and himself. When he did, he realized his classmates and the people he met were just like him – on a journey to understand God on their own terms.
“That has changed my life,” Lancaster says today.
“I realized God put these people in my life, and they are part of God’s work in my life,” he says. “It was a learning process – and I’m still learning – but it’s made life more joyful and full.”
Lancaster is no stranger to HPU’s Board of Stewards. He got involved the first semester of his freshman year. This year, he’s the board’s vice president and helps lead them in various areas of stewardship.
The board plays a crucial role in HPU’s Office of Chapel and Religious Life. The board helps shape the weekly worship services, collect the offering and organize service projects that benefit the city of High Point.
Last year, with the offering’s help, the board raised $15,000 in the form of clothes and toys for the Salvation Army Angel Tree Project and provided more than 150 in-need children with gifts for Christmas.
That kind of campus outreach is just the beginning for Lancaster.
He plays drums in Collision, the chapel’s praise band, and works as an Assistant Resident Director in Centennial Square and Centennial Square 2. Last year, he worked as a Resident Assistant in Finch Hall and helped first-year students deal with the highs and lows of college life.
As for his schoolwork, Lancaster has excelled. He’s in HPU’s Honor Scholar Program, a member of three honor societies, and he’s made the dean’s list every semester. In almost every class, Lancaster has found a mentor.
Lancaster can rattle off a list of mentors that’ll number nearly 10. The Rev. Dr. Christopher Franks is one. Dr. Franks is an associate professor of religion and philosophy as well as HPU’s pre-ministry advisor. Lancaster sought him out.
“It’s hard to exaggerate or overstate Jacob’s enthusiasm,” Franks says, “He’s very passionate about wanting to be involved and doing the things that need to be done to be a leader on campus, and he’s maintained that enthusiasm in everything he does.”
“When you ask him about it, he’ll say, ‘You know what? God was laying His hands on me right there.’”
Like in his dad’s car.
It was after Thanksgiving 2013. Lancaster was 16, and he and his father had just finished a three-hour hike of Morrow Mountain State Park in North Carolina. As they drove home, Lancaster had something to say to his minister father.
“Dad,” Lancaster said, “I think I want to be a pastor.”
That’s how it started.
As a high school student, Lancaster slipped on a black robe he borrowed from his father and helped his dad with services at Stony Hill United Methodist Church, the family’s home church in Albemarle.
As an HPU student, Lancaster slipped on a pair of khakis and a light blue polo shirt and spent 10 weeks this summer as a pastoral intern at the Waxhaw United Methodist Church in North Carolina.
He led services, visited people and had lunch and dinner with congregation members at least 10 times a week. In all that he did, he discovered the important nuances of building a community of faith.
“It’s people,” he says. “It’s all about people.”
Lancaster learned those nuances with the help of HPU. He found it with Collision, the Board of Stewards, the annuals pilgrimages and inside the semi-circle every Thursday at Hayworth Chapel.
Lancaster found God in all those places.
“Ministry is about living your faith using the gifts God has given you,” he says. “I’m learning what that means.”