On Saturday, May 11, Bethany Theological Seminary’s class of 2013 expressed joy and a sense of accomplishment as they graduated in front of family and friends in Nicarry Chapel. Ten received their diplomas from Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president, and Lynn Myers, board chair; three were recognized in absentia.
Nelson Kraybill, president emeritus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, gave the address, “Who Is Worthy to Open the Scroll?” Drawing on Revelation 5:1-10, Kraybill spoke to the unexpected and transforming ways of God: the One who is worthy—the lion of Judah—is a Lamb. With a power not of this world, the Lamb and his followers are to bring hope, love, and healing to the troubled, needy, and oppressed in the world. “A Christian prophet named John had a vision of which the main point was: God is not silent in the face of evil, and hope for redemption of the world rests not in the beastly power of Rome and its divine emperors; and redemption rests not in armed revolt against empire, but rather in a Lamb who summons a people from every tribe and language and nation to act with suffering love and patient endurance for the healing of the nations."
Kraybill then posed that those who would be worthy ministers of the gospel understand that this is the significance of the Incarnation. “Sunday after Sunday a pastor needs to open the scroll and talk about real things of life and death and politics and economics and violence and despair and hope. . . . Keep your eyes on the Lamb, and God will make you worthy to open the scroll, to speak and live prophetically in a suffering world that God loves."
Kraybill is currently lead pastor of Prairie Street Mennonite Church in Elkhart, Indiana, and president-elect of Mennonite World Conference. He is a frequent speaker in church and academic settings through his Dry Bones teaching ministry and has authored several books, including Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation.
In a statement of thanksgiving, Ruthann Knechel Johansen lifted up personal attributes that the graduates had shared with the Bethany community as they pursued their own paths in ministry. She also recognized accomplishments and service of the faculty and staff, including Malinda Berry’s completion of her doctoral dissertation at Union Theological Seminary and the promotion of Russell Haitch to professor of Christian education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults. “The real test of the success and faithfulness of our studying the gospel of Jesus Christ together is lived out not only in our grand moments of achievement or in our visions of a more just world but in the small daily ways we are awake and responsive to the transforming work of the Holy One who calls within and among us,” she said. “Thank you most importantly for the essential gift of guarding the little piece of the divine that resides in each of us and for calling it forth as well."
During the afternoon worship service in Nicarry Chapel, Johansen also carried out the traditional ritual of blessing for each graduate, affirming their call and sending them forth in ministry. Planned and led by the graduates, the service included hymn singing, reflections by Erik Brummett and Robert Miller on Isaiah 55:1-13, and a sung offering by the graduates, “Take My Life."
Music for the commencement ceremony was provided by organist Nancy Faus-Mullen, pianist Jenny Williams, clarinetist Don Miller, and a choir of Bethany community members directed by Enten Eller. Julie M. Hostetter was pianist for the worship service, with Tara Hornbacker, Dan Finkbiner, and Dylan Haro providing guitar and percussion accompaniment.
Both the ceremony and the worship service were webcast for the first time this year. The events can be viewed on Bethany’s website at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/campus .
The following graduates received master of divinity degrees:
- Laura Beth Arendt, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Amy Marie Beery, Indianapolis, Indiana – emphases in peace studies and youth and young adult ministry
- Glenn A. Brumbaugh, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania – emphasis in peace studies
- Erik Charles Brummett, Indianapolis, Indiana – emphasis in youth and young adult ministry
- Mary Alice Eller, Richmond, Indiana – emphasis in peace studies
- Daniel Finkbiner, Bethel, Pennsylvania
- Andrew Graves, Lakeland, Florida
- Dylan James Haro, La Verne, California
- Robert Miller, Indianapolis, Indiana – with distinction in ministry studies
- Pat Owen, Batavia, Illinois
- Terry A. Scott, Pleasant Plain, Ohio
Elizabeth Ann Monn Thorpe of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, received a master of arts degree. Her thesis was entitled, “The Mystical Motif: Embracing Silence with God amidst the Sounds of Life." Michael Smith of Pendleton, Indiana, received a Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies. Future plans for members of the class of 2013 include placement in pastoral ministry or chaplaincy, peace ministry, spiritual direction, and doctoral study.
Photos copyrighted by Jim & Deb Chagares