With a festive banquet meal and worship, the Susquehanna Valley Ministry Center (SVMC) celebrated its 25th anniversary Nov. 3 at Chambersburg (Pa.) Church of the Brethren.
About 85 people attended the event, spanning the five districts served by SVMC—Atlantic Northeast, Southern Pennsylvania, Middle Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and Mid-Atlantic—along with denominational staff.
SVMC, which began as the Susquehanna Valley Satellite with two district partners in 1993, was created to provide quality Brethren ministry education in the area of the country with the denomination's densest population. To date, it has served more than 2,900 students in continuing education, TRIM and ACTS ministry training programs, and graduate courses.
Warren Eshbach, who served as dean from 1997 to 2006, provided a broad historical overview, noting that SVMC is "one of the few regional organizations in the Church of the Brethren."
"The Lord has given growth to this entity, and God has provided a rich abundance of leadership," Eshbach said. "The spark is still present."
Many changes and additions have occurred over the past quarter-century, but current SVMC director Donna Rhodes said that the organization's mission "is as strong today as it was 25 years ago." That strength, she said, was due in large part to the healthy partnerships that SVMC has nurtured with its partners, especially the cooperating districts and Bethany Theological Seminary and the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.
Bethany dean Steven Schweitzer served as the featured speaker for the evening's worship, drawing from the anniversary theme, "Growing in Knowledge, Rooted in Christ."
“To be rooted in Christ and growing in knowledge—such an enterprise requires all of us, together, as we find our unity in Christ," Schweitzer said. Such work requires "patience, determination, and joy," he added.
Rhodes and her husband, Loren, provided several stunning four-handed piano pieces for the worship service, which also included a "ritual of blessing" in which representatives of SVMC's various partners combined small containers of soil into a pot that will hold a peace lily at SVMC's office, located at Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
Other highlights of the evening included the auction of a painting created by Brethren artist and pastor David Weiss during the event (which raised $300), a PowerPoint presentation of SVMC's history, and an opening hymn sing led by Eshbach.
In his prayer before the banquet, Chambersburg pastor Joel Nogle expressed his hopes for the ongoing ministry of SVMC.
"We give you the glory for this monumental evening," he said. "We continue to believe that our best work—your best work—is ahead of us in the next 25 years."