(May 10, 2007) — On May 5, Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Ind., celebrated its 102nd commencement. Two observances marked the occasion. A ceremony for conferring degrees took place in Bethany’s Nicarry Chapel. A public worship celebration was held at Richmond Church of the Brethren.
President Eugene F. Roop spoke at the conferring of degrees ceremony. His address titled “Blessing” was based on Genesis 12:1-3 and two Gospel passages. He exhorted the graduates, “You go into ministry as an envoy and agent of God’s blessing. By blessing, I do not mean the gifts and graces, the abilities and aptitude you bring to ministry. I mean the quiet, creative, transforming divine presence that accompanied the biblical saints from the first voice in creation:”
Dena Pence, director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion, was the speaker for the afternoon worship service. In her message, “What Do You See?” Pence referenced the response of Marilyn Lerch to the Virginia Tech shootings. Lerch serves as pastor of Good Shepherd Church of the Brethren in Blacksburg, Va., and one of the campus ministers at Virginia Tech. “Marilyn needed to focus clearly on what was in front of her,” Pence said, “and only then could she see what was needful, what she was to do. Carry that image with you–of a person, seeking God, listening intently, and opening his or her eyes, without blinders or pre-judgment–to what they see around them. A person looking at the community in which they dwell, in all its goodness and all its brokenness, and then knowing, with real clarity, what they can do to be a part of it.”
Along with commencement, the seminary recognized significant faculty accomplishments of the past year. Russell Haitch, associate professor of Christian Education and director of the Institute for Ministry with Youth and Young Adults, was granted tenure. He also received the Rohrer Book Award for his book “From Exorcism to Ecstasy: Eight Views of Baptism.” Scott Holland, associate professor of Theology and Culture and director of Peace Studies and Cross-Cultural Studies, also received the award for his two books, “How Do Our Stories Save Us?” and “Seeking Peace in Africa.” President Roop, who will retire on June 30, was thanked for his 15 years of service.
Nineteen students received degrees or certificates, the largest class since 1998. Fifteen students received a Master of Divinity degree, one with an Emphasis in Peace Studies; two students received a Master of Arts in Theology degree; and two received a Certificate in Theological Studies.
Those who received degrees, and their home congregations:
- Master of Divinity, Peace Studies Emphasis: Carrie Eikler, Manchester Church of the Brethren, N. Manchester, Ind.
- Master of Divinity: Michael Benner, Free Spring Church of the Brethren, Mifflintown, Pa.; Jerramy Bowen, W. Milton (Ohio) Church of the Brethren; Torin Eikler, North Manchester Church of the Brethren; Tasha Hornbacker, Pleasant Hill (Ohio) Church of the Brethren; Daniel House, Glade Valley Church of the Brethren, Walkersville, Md.; Rebecca House, Union Bridge (Md.) Church of the Brethren; Jennifer Sanders Kreighbaum, Bear Creek Church of the Brethren, Accident, Md.; Brian Mackie, New Life Christian Fellowship, Mount Pleasant, Mich.; Barbara Menke, Oakland Church of the Brethren, Bradford, Ohio; Kelly Meyerhoeffer, Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren, Weyers Cave, Va.; Nathan Polzin, New Life Christian Fellowship; Thomas Richard, Fairview Church of the Brethren, Cordova, Md.; Donald Williams, Stone Church of the Brethren, Buena Vista, Va.; Christopher Zepp, Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren.
- Master of Arts in Theology: Rachel Peterson, New Carlisle (Ohio) Church of the Brethren; Carrie Smith, Beaver Creek (Ohio) Church of the Brethren.
- Certificate of Achievement in Theological Studies: James Sampson, Eagle Creek Church of the Brethren, Forest, Ohio; Ronda Scammahorn, Oakland Church of the Brethren.
- Christopher Zepp received distinction for his academic work in biblical studies. Carrie Eikler, Torin Eikler, Barbara Menke, and Kelly Meyerhoeffer received distinction for their work in ministry studies.
Graduates’ future endeavors include careers in pastoral and congregational ministry, chaplaincy, nonprofit ministry and further graduate study.
–Marcia Shetler is director of Public Relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.