Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) graduates Carl and Becky Van Stavern have spent the last three years juggling seminary and eight churches. Carl had five United Methodist congregations and Becky had three. Becky also finished her undergraduate degree online from Bluefield State College during that time. They drove three hours to EMS from their home in Weston, W.Va.
The Van Staverns were among 21 students to receive master of divinity degrees from Eastern Mennonite Seminary Saturday afternoon, Apr. 30. Two students received master of arts in church leadership degrees, one received a master of arts in religion degree and three received certificates during the ceremony. George R. Brunk III, dean emeritus and professor emeritus of New Testament at EMS, gave the commencement address titled, “Anointed for Ministry.”
The Van Staverns came to Eastern Mennonite Seminary because they knew seminary alumni Charles and Sharon Miller and Dallas Forren. All three are United Methodist pastors in West Virginia.
“These people have true pastor’s hearts,” said Carl. “They focus on the needs of the people and the community in which they minister. They had a pastoral identity that was created out of the formation program here at EMS.”
“My classes here have helped me become a better listener,” said Becky. “We deal with a lot of low income people who can’t afford to see counselors. We are all they have. Clinical Pastoral Education, pastoral care, healing class, counseling classes and spiritual direction have helped me know how to listen and help these people fight their demons.”
“I have appreciated the biblical focus at EMS,” said Carl. “I learned to understand the context in which the scripture was written and the relationship of that context to today.”
The class of 2011 choose the theme “Called by the Spirit, Sent by the Spirit” as their class theme.
“In ministry, are you anointed or are you appointed?” Dr. Brunk asked the graduates in his address. “Anything worthy of being called Christian ministry must put the priority on anointing – the Spirit empowerment that rests upon you.
“I will affirm on the basis of biblical precedent and on my own observations of life that a deep friendship between the ministering person and the Spirit is high on the list of success factors in ministry,” Brunk told the graduates.
“There is no authentic spiritual experience that is not Spirit experience; there is no genuine spiritual ministry that is not ministry in the Spirit,” he continued.
“As a minister of the Gospel you are accompanied, not abandoned. God has taken the initiative to make the Spirit an actor in our world and in our lives. We don’t so much then need to invoke the Spirit’s presence as to perceive it and conform to it, ” Brunk said.