Bethany Theological Seminary held its 107th commencement the morning of May 5, in Nicarry Chapel on the Bethany campus in Richmond, Ind. Approximately 150 were present to celebrate the achievements of 16 graduates.
Nadine S. Pence, director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion in Crawfordsville, Ind., gave the commencement address. Pence also previously held the position of professor of theological studies at the seminary. Entitled “Border Crossings,” her comments drew on the scripture texts John 21:1-14 and Acts 10:34-48, recounting the period between Christ’s resurrection and Pentecost.
“You are a border crosser…someone who stands between the places of your life–in the gaps and interstices of life–and who will work to know the people and contexts to which you are called, and the vocation you are to serve among them,” she said. “We are called, as Christians, to live as border crossers, testifying to the presence of the Spirit, to the presence of the Christ when he appears among us.”
President Ruthann Knechel Johansen addressed the gathering with appreciation for both the contributions of faculty and staff to the success of the graduates and the graduates’ own personal and academic gifts. “I mention with gratitude an amazing array of attributes that our faculty and ministry placement supervisors have identified in the students we honor today: deep thinking, compassionate hearts, impressive scriptural knowledge, self-confidence, wonderful wit and humor, humility, strong relationality, teachable spirits, and commitments to social justice.”
Professional accomplishments by the faculty also were noted, among them the promotion of Tara Hornbaker to professor of Ministry Formation; the completion of a doctor of ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary by Amy Gall Ritchie, director of Student Development; and the promotion of Julie M. Hostetter to executive director of the Brethren Academy for Ministerial Leadership.
Special music was performed by Community of Song, a men’s ensemble from the Richmond, Ind., and Dayton, Ohio, areas. Music for the ceremony consisted of organ-piano duets by Nancy Faus-Mullen and Jenny Williams.
An afternoon worship service, planned and led by the graduates, also took place in Nicarry Chapel. Class members Andrew Duffey, Rebekah Houff, and Jeanne Davies reflected on the themes in the scripture text Ephesians 4:1-16: unity in the Spirit through the bond of peace, the bestowing of spiritual gifts, and the contributions of all to the body of Christ. Each new graduate was given a blessing by members of the faculty to mark the conclusion of their years at Bethany.
Seven graduates received master of divinity degrees: Jeanne Davies of Elgin, Ill.; Andrew Duffey, Westminster, Md.; Brandon M. Hanks, Hatfield, Pa.; Rebekah L. Houff, Palmyra, Pa.; Katie Shaw Thompson, Grundy Center, Iowa; Parker Ammerman Thompson, Grundy Center, Iowa; Matthew Wollam-Berens, Middlebury, Vt.
Seven graduates received master of arts degrees: Jerramy D. Bowen, West Milton, Ohio; Benjamin Wil Harvey, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Nicolas Miller Kauffman, Goshen, Ind.; Jiae Paik, Seoul, South Korea; Aaron Russell Shepherd, Richmond, Ind.; Vivek A. Solanky, Valsad-Gujarat, India; Dennis John Richard Webb, Naperville, Ill.
Two students received certificates of achievement in theological studies: Diane E. Mason, Unionville, Iowa, in absentia; Linda S. Waldron, Clayton, Ohio.
Graduates’ future endeavors include pastoral and congregational ministry, further graduate study, and social service. Bethany Theological Seminary was founded in 1905 and is the graduate school and academy for theological education for the Church of the Brethren.
— Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations for Bethany Seminary.