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by Laura Lehman Amstutz
On March 17, Eastern Mennonite Seminary and Philadelphia Mennonite High School (PMHS) were linked through technology and art.
Two Lilly funded projects, Video Teleconferencing Equipment (VTC) and “Art of the Call,” a collection of photographs by Jerry Holsopple, were dedicated at PMHS.
These projects began as the vision of Ervin Stutzman, seminary dean, who saw a connection between the seminary, urban Mennonite communities, and high school students.
He found the opportunity to do this at PMHS, which opened its doors in 1998 as the only Mennonite High School in a major metropolitan area. Currently there are 97 students.
“There was no better place for us to have the opportunity to interact with people from diverse cultures in an urban environment,” said Stutzman. “This also gives faculty a chance to make a connection with high school youth.”
The VTC equipment will be used to take seminary classes to high school students and to urban pastors, many of whom are bi-vocational and could not otherwise take seminary classes.
Barbara Moses, principal of PMHS said, “The ability to connect around the world for academic and theological studies is very exciting. We look forward to working specifically with EMS and EMU on a variety of ventures that will enhance choices and opportunities for our youth, pastors, and others who desire and/or need this kind of access. God only knows what amazing experiences He has planned for this material.”
Technology is not the only thing that connects PMHS with EMU/S.
“The Art of the Call” is a collection of photographs by Jerry Holsopple, professor of communication at EMU. The collection describes visually the various ways people are called. To create the seven images he photographed students from PMHS and youth from a Hispanic church in New York City. He also interviewed youth and pastors on their experiences of being called.
“Through these images, I hope to challenge people to think about their own call, perhaps beyond the narrow way we perceive calling,” said Holsopple.
Moses said, “The Art of the Call is strategically positioned in the halls of PMHS. Students are constantly reminded that God is calling them to serve Him in various places and at different times.”
These two projects are intended to enhance the Culture of Call in Philadelphia. Another is through the Learning, Exploring and Participating (LEAP) program.
Director Gievanne Garcia said, “I want to cultivate a culture of call. As director of LEAP I want to have youth think about and reflect on God’s call on their lives, and as well as use their gifts, both in the church and in other vocations.”
Garcia sees both the artwork and the VTC equipment as ways to help youth think about God’s call. The artwork, featuring their own classmates, will help youth think about call in different ways, and the possibility for youth to take classes taught by seminary professors will help them consider seminary in their future.
Training pastors and youth in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area will be a big step forward in building trust with the urban and racial/ethnic Mennonite community and expanding a network of seminary-trained church leaders. Both the VTC equipment and the artwork have helped to build relationships and link the schools.
Moses said, “It is a blessing to PMHS and we look forward to the ways God is going to use it to His glory. Collaborating with Ervin Stutzman and the EMS team continues to be a wonderful experience.”