April 2010 Presidential Update

Pat and I arrived in Tel Aviv Tuesday evening, spent three days in Jerusalem, and met Dr. Linford Stutzman and the EMU Middle East cross-cultural students in Nazareth yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed a Shabbat service in a Reformed synagogue last evening. This is our first visit to Israel since 1974; much has changed since we spent three weeks here and two weeks in Europe visiting Mennonite/Anabaptist sites during my seminary years.

We spent most of Wednesday with EMU alumnus J. Daryl Byler and Cindy, Mennonite Central Committee Middle East area representatives living in Amman, visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, walking the Via Delorosa, shopping in a Palestinian pottery shop, and sampling local cuisine.
Yesterday Pat and I spent several hours in the Rockefeller Museum containing archeological finds from the area going back thousands of years, most of which have been discovered in the past century.

This morning the Israeli Minister of Tourism made an unofficial visit to the hostel in Nazareth where our group is staying and was introduced to the Jesus Trail project. He will hike a portion of the trail this afternoon with EMU graduates David Landis and Anna Dintamin, co-authors of a guide book just published a few days ago.

This afternoon we visited the Nazareth Village which is the re-creation of the first-century community similar to what Jesus would have known as a boy. Many EMU students and alumni have been involved with this amazing project which now draws many visitors from all religious faiths. Tomorrow morning we will participate in a sunrise Easter service on a hill outside the city and then visit other congregations in the area for their Easter worship services. We are fortunate that this is one year when the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Easters happen to fall on the same Sunday.

It is astounding to realize that within just one month the traditional part of the 2009-10 academic year will have concluded with our commencement exercises. Unlike many campuses, however, our summer months are filled with wonderful activities including the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, Bach Festival, hosting many conferences, etc. It is only in late July when things slow for just a few weeks for many of us – though with the summer renovation projects planned (Elmwood, Commons Phase II, solar) it is likely to be a heavy summer for a lot of staff people.

In addition to beginning to read the Jesus Trail book today, I’ve been reading a new book by Kathleen Norris, “Acedia and Me,” while on the trip. Acedia is a little understood concept from the early church which is loosely translated boredom or slothfulness. While I haven’t generally thought that I struggle with this “sin,” there is no doubt that a spiritual discipline for me is to live with the tension between “being” and “doing.”

I am always conscious that so many wonderful things are happening at EMU that I cannot possibly include in my updates, some of which I only learn about after they have occurred. I am deeply appreciative of the many contributions being made by all of our faculty, staff, and students. And, as always when traveling like this, it is wonderful to see the great work being done by our alumni all over the world. I am grateful to be part of this mission!

Blessings,

Dr. Loren Swartzendruber ’76, M.Div., ’79
President, Eastern Mennonite University

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