On Saturday, May 10, Bethany Theological Seminary honored its newest graduates at the 2014 commencement ceremony. The eight members of the class received master of divinity degrees in Nicarry Chapel surrounded by uplifting music, the blessing of faculty and staff, and the support of family and friends.
The following received master of divinity degrees:
Seated from left - Claire Flowers-Waggener, Albany, Indiana; Ronda K. Scammahorn, Arcanum, Ohio; Anita Hooley Yoder, Cleveland Heights, Ohio; Audrey N. Hollenberg-Duffey, Richmond, Indiana
Standing from left - Daniel Lee Fullen, Tipp City, Ohio; James Richard Grossnickle-Batterton, Iowa City, Iowa; Todd Peterson, Loveland, Ohio; Timothy L. Hollenberg-Duffey, Richmond, Indiana
Guest speaker Chris Bowman, pastor of the Oakton Church of the Brethren in Vienna, Virginia, addressed the audience with “God Ordained a Worm,” words of wisdom based on the fourth chapter of Jonah. Against this backdrop, the lesser known ending of Jonah’s story, Bowman posed a question about being called: “Toward what end is the one who formed you now repurposing you?” Jonah’s prophetic path is full of twists as he resists his call, then despairs when the city of Ninevah responds to his message of repentance.
“When God relents and does not destroy that evil city of Nineveh, the real work begins. The city is not burning, but the preacher is. Jonah is burning with wrath because of God’s compassion. . . . And right about here we begin to realize that maybe God did not send Jonah to Nineveh to save Nineveh. God ordained Jonah to save Jonah. I begin to wonder if our callings might also be invitations to God’s life-changing saving grace in our own lives.” Bowman also noted that just as “each of the things ordained, appointed, or called in this story was called toward their nature—not against it,” so are we.
A Bethany graduate, Bowman holds a doctorate from San Francisco Seminary. He has previously pastored congregations in Pennsylvania and Illinois and has served the denomination as chair of the General Board and as Annual Conference moderator. The church also selected him to deliver the message for the 2004 Christmas Eve service broadcast on CBS and to give the sermon for the denomination’s 300th anniversary celebration in 2008. Bowman’s chapter “Prophetic Rhetoric and Preaching” appears in The Witness of the Hebrew Bible for a New Testament Church, and he is collaborating with his father, Robert Bowman, on the upcoming People of the Covenant Bible Study book, Kings and Their Prophets.
President Jeff Carter offered words of appreciation for the work of the Seminary and its students, noting accomplishments by the faculty: writings published, professional papers presented to national and international audiences, lectures given, and the naming of two faculty to endowed chairs. Carter also highlighted current efforts in student recruitment and housing, classroom technology for greater distance participation, and the successful Reimagining Ministries campaign. “In all things we return to the vision of our founders, that Bethany Theological Seminary is about spiritual empowerment, sound scholarship, and ministerial training rooted in practical experience, for the glory of God and our neighbor’s good.”
An afternoon worship service in Nicarry Chapel, open to the public, was planned and led by the graduates. The chosen hymns and scripture centered on the theme of receiving new, God-given names. Referencing stories of biblical figures such as Jacob and Peter, five of the class members offered reflections on the meaning of names, blessings, and life transitions. Faculty led a traditional ritual of sending, this year by symbolically washing the hands of the graduates in preparation for their ministry to others.
Several members of the class are currently pastoring or have been called to pastor a congregation. Other potential paths include pastoral ministry, campus ministry, and further study. Webcasts of both the ceremony and the worship service can be viewed on Bethany’s website at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts.