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by Laura Lehman Amstutz
“God knows what possesses anyone to enter the ministry in our day,” Dr. Stanley Hauerwas told the graduating class of Eastern Mennonite Seminary on Saturday, May 1.
Dr. Hauerwas, the Gilbert T. Rowe professor of theological ethics at the Divinity School of Duke University, began his commencement address by enumerating the problems with Christian ministry today, including a lack of clarity about what the church is, what a minister is to spend his or her time doing, and who gets to tell a minister what to do.
“I’m taking time to characterize some of the challenges of ministry,” Hauerwas said, “because I want to suggest how the work you have done in seminary is crucial for the work you will do as a minister if you are to sustain the ministry for a lifetime.
“What you have learned to do in seminary is read,” he continued. “By learning to read you have learned to speak Christian. One of the essential tasks of those called to the ministry in our day is to be a teacher. In particular, you are called to be a teacher of language.
“To learn to be a Christian, to learn the discipline of faith, is not just similar to learning another language. It is learning another language,” Hauerwas said. “Your task, as those called to the ministry, is to help us, as good teachers do, to acquire the habits of speech through the right worship of God.”
Sixteen students received graduate degrees during the seminary’s 61 st annual commencement held in Lehman Auditorium at EMU. Fifteen received master of divinity degrees and one received a master of arts in church leadership. Two students received ministry certificates. Listen to the commencement service.
“I came to seminary fairly reluctantly,” said graduate Dawn Monger of Singers Glen, Va. “For a long time I wouldn’t admit that I was a seminary student. I kept telling people that I was just taking a class here or there.”
Monger was director of young adult ministries at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church. She started taking classes to acquire a better foundation for ministry.
“The academic education was valuable for me, but perhaps more important was being a part of the seminary community,” Monger said. “My classmates and I challenged each other, and the faculty was supportive and encouraging.
“I came without much confidence that I could complete my seminary education,” she continued. “But the faculty kept challenging me, and I realized that if they thought I could do it, maybe I could.”
“I have really appreciated the ecumenical community at EMS,” said Joe Furry, a graduate from Harrisonburg. “I grew up Methodist and became Mennonite, but kind of wondered why. EMS gave me a chance to look over denominational fences and appreciate the Methodist tradition I grew up in as well as the Mennonite one I’m in now.
“Learning from my Lutheran, Methodist and Baptist classmates was a significant part of my seminary experience,” he stated.
Both Monger and Furry began their education at EMS in the certificate program, which provides a way for students without undergraduate degrees to begin masters-level courses.
“The certificate program is a two-way test for seminary education,” said Don A. Yoder, director of seminary admissions. “It gives the students a chance to test themselves and prove to themselves that they can do masters level education, and it helps the seminary see if students are ready for seminary-level course work.”Eastern Mennonite Seminary prepares men and women to serve and lead in a global context. The seminary offers three masters level degrees, two dual-degrees with the master of arts in counseling and the master of arts in conflict transformation programs of Eastern Mennonite University, and a certificate program.