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John Smith, Master of Divinity Connections

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John Smith
(MDiv Connections)

classMy wife Barbara and I first visited Bethany in June 2009. After spending two days meeting with faculty and staff I returned home even more uncertain. Did I really want to devote the time this program required? Was I willing to learn computer skills that didn't even exist when I finished college in 1972? Was I willing to make the eight-hour drive that would occasionally be necessary? Was this really what God was calling me to do at this time in my life? From the very beginning, I came as I am, but went not as I came. Little did I know how this Bethany tag line would time and time again ring true for my educational experience.

I did enroll at Bethany in the fall of 2009 as a Master of Divinity Connections student. One of the most transforming experiences in my life came during this January's two-week intensive, a class entitled "Varieties of Christian Peace Witness," taught by Scott Holland, Professor of Theology and Culture and Director of Peace Studies and Cross Cultural Studies. I knew that the Church of the Brethren was a peace church, but did not observe it in the churches within my district. I was surprised by Professor Holland's statement that eighty percent of Brethren did not actively support the witness of peace.

Throughout this class, I came to realize that I belong within that eighty percent. Never before had I considered where I, or Jesus, stood on peace. I never took the time to explore the meaning of nonresistance, just war, or just peace, nor had I ever listened to stories of friends killed in war. Eventually, I began to more fully understand another tag line: "When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,' I'm pretty sure he meant don't kill them." While this class focused primarily on these aspects of peace, at Bethany, peace runs deeper than anti-war: it begins with our own awakening, our own transformation. That eight-hour drive back home felt like no time at all. Come as you are, Go not as you came. . . .

Nan Erbaugh
Emphasis in Peace Studies '08

NanBethany taught me so much. I didn't realize what a loner I had really been all my life until I opened myself to life within the Bethany community. I felt stretched, pushed, and affirmed in amazing, helpful ways. The importance of a close, supportive community cannot be overestimated, especially in light of the challenges faced living out the peace witness to which I feel called. At Bethany, I gained more courage to step into this crucial niche of the Church of the Brethren. Add the grounded, spiritual theological foundation and academic depth I gained through course work, and I feel transformed in a powerful, positive way to serve God.