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Peace Essay Winners Announced

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Student writingThe three top essays of the 2014 Bethany Peace Essay Contest have been announced by Bethany Seminary. Out of thirty-two entries submitted, the following placed first, second, and third, respectively, and received prizes of $2000, $1000, and $500.

Anita Hooley Yoder, senior MDiv student at Bethany Seminary, Richmond, Indiana
“I’ve Read Too Much Poetry for That: Poetry, Personal Transformation, and Peace”

Charles Northrop, PhD student at Cambridge University, England, and a resident of Richmond, Indiana
“Hard Rock Pacifism”

Gabriella Stocksdale, student at Larkin High School, Elgin, Illinois
“Colors of Peace”

Open to students enrolled in high school, college, and graduate-level degree programs, the contest was advertised nationwide through denominational and ecumenical venues and received a national, ecumenical response. Writers were asked to reflect on how personal and local peacemaking efforts can address universal concerns. They could choose to explore this theme in one of the following areas, relating to personal experience: art, music, or poetry; the just peace movement; protest or change movements; social media; or interfaith efforts.

Anna Groff, interim editor for The Mennonite magazine and a judge for the contest, was pleased with the scope and quality of the entries. “Overall, I was impressed with the thoughtfulness and critical thinking apparent in the essays. These students are digging deeper than a surface understanding of peace and what it means to work for peace. It was an honor to serve as a judge.” Her fellow judges were Lonnie Valentine, professor of peace and justice studies at Earlham School of Religion; Randy Miller, editor of the Church of the Brethren Messenger magazine; and Scott Holland, director of the Baker Peace Studies Program and professor of theology and culture at Bethany.

The contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment at Bethany, funded by philanthropist, teacher, and scholar John C. Baker in honor of his mother and her vision for peacemaking. His goal was to encourage constructive communication about peace building throughout all segments of society, says Holland. “We share this vision of God's shalom and Christ's peace at Bethany Seminary, not only in peace studies classes but across the curriculum. The generosity of the Baker endowment for the peace essay contest allows us to extend our educational work beyond the classroom to conversations that are truly ecumenical, international, and public. The many excellent essays composed for the contest remind us that fine writing, like thoughtful preaching, is indeed the work of ministry.”

Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany, facilitated the work of the planning committee and helped administer the contest. “The entire process ran smoothly and was quite enjoyable. The judges each brought their own unique strengths to the process and worked diligently, putting in many hours reviewing the essays. I was so pleased and honored to work with them.”

According to Houff, a variety of denominations were represented, including at least twenty entries from the Historic Peace Churches: Church of the Brethren, Quaker, and Mennonite. Bridgewater, Juniata, and Manchester Colleges were represented along with Quaker and Mennonite schools. Others included Harvard and Duke Divinity Schools, UCLA, Truman State University, Clark University, and four high schools.

The winning essays will appear in the denominational publications Messenger, Brethren Life & Thought, The Mennonite, and Quaker Life. Planning is set to begin for the 2015 contest.
 

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.