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Elizabeth Keller, Master of Divinity '08

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Elizabeth Keller
Master of Divinity '08

ElizabethSaying “YES” to God can get messy. It did for me. In all my defiance and resistance to God’s call (maybe you can relate?!), I made a mess--and while I learned along the way to revel in the messiness, I give thanks to God who can make any crooked path straight. May my personal story resonate some with our universal story as the emerging generation of the church for the 21st century.

Even though I am a first-generation Brethren, for a time I felt enclosed and confined to the Brethren identity--that is, after attending a Church of the Brethren congregation during my formative adolescence and then attending a Church of the Brethren college during my developing adulthood, I wondered, had the Brethren imprint simply been stamped on my forehead without my truly wrestling with the wonder and wisdom of my personal faith in God? "What does it truly mean for me to be Brethren?" I asked. Might I learn more about being Brethren by not being Brethren for a while?

So then, when I felt a clear call into set-apart ministry, I chose not to attend Bethany Theological Seminary: the only graduate school for the Church of the Brethren. But instead, I chose a different seminary; and while I received the academic rigor, spiritual guidance, and community affirmation I sought, it never felt right--not for me. With a deepening depression, I prayed--actually, I screamed and shouted, wept and slept--until God awoke in me, spoke to me, a call to Bethany. As cliché as it sounds, it felt like coming home. I felt the Holy Spirit wrap its arms gently and tightly around me, holding me firmly in place, so that my defiance and resistance to being Brethren, to saying “YES” to the ministry and to the church, could be overcome by the grace, love, and JOY of a God who is alive at Bethany and in the Church of the Brethren!

Matt Boersma
Master of Arts

MattMy thesis began its journey while learning Hebrew at the University of Notre Dame, back when I was an employee in the Information Technology department. Among the many Hebrew texts read, it was the Song of Songs in particular that caught my attention. I knew that historically it had been interpreted as an allegorical text exploring God's love of Israel (or the church), but I had not encountered the deeply sensual nature of the images and the erotic tone of the text. Reading through the book, the unabashed sexuality of the words struck me as completely different than how the rest of the Bible treats sex. During the previous semester we had read selections of Ezekiel, where sex and female desire is cast as idolatrous and evil. In the Song, it is unashamed and extolled.