Letter from the editor: believing in community, building our community

April 30th, 2014


Brian Posey, MDiv ’11, is the pastor of three United Methodist churches in the countryside north of Harrisonburg – Fellowship (pictured),
Linville and Edom. Before entering Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Posey was an interpreter and a guide at historical sites in Northern
Virginia. Each Sunday, Posey’s gift of speaking publicly is put to good use, as he delivers three sermons, one to each of his churches. (Photo by Bonnie Price Lofton)

Talk about punching above your weight . . .

Consider, EMU has never been large and still has just 900 traditional undergraduates enrolled, plus 600 other types of students (adult degree completion, master’s, seminary, etc.).

This place is one-half the size of my old high school in Northern Virginia, and twenty-sixth the size of my old undergraduate university in Canada.

Yet let’s dive beneath the surface of Rockingham County and the City of Harrisonburg.

Who helped stop the Army Corps 
of Engineers from flooding Fulks Run? Started the Fairfield Center? Rosetta Stone? The Farmers Market? Programs for students who couldn’t speak English in Harrisonburg city schools? Pleasant View for adults with disabilities? The Roberta Webb Child Care Center & Preschool? Our Community Place? The Shenandoah Bach Festival? The Strings Program in city schools? The oldest and largest retirement community in this region?

EMU’s 3,250 local alumni, faculty and staff are a tiny fraction of the 125,000 residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County, yet much of what makes the Harrisonburg area special can be traced back to these folks.

Yes, EMU punches above its weight. (Okay, it’s a violent image for a pacifist university, but you know what I mean – EMU has more of an impact than would be statistically predicted.)

This [spring 2014] Crossroads explores the initiatives and collaborations of EMU and its alumni within its home-base community. EMU’s vision – “offering healing and hope in our diverse world” – is lived out by alumni who work with those who have been abused, or are recent immigrants, or hope to make a new life for themselves after prison.

Our alumni group includes an array of physicians, nurses, physical therapists, medical technologists, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers.
Joining with others, EMU folks seek to prevent suicides, address autism, share music, offer good jobs in growing businesses, spread restorative justice, and foster quality child care and education for all from day care through college.

With the only seminary in the western half of Virginia accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, EMU is an important source of education and training for many pastors and church workers in the Shenandoah Valley. Our seminary is an official education site for both the Mennonite Church and the United Methodist Church, but people from many other walks of life and denominations enroll for spiritual and leadership purposes.

Healthcare accounts for the largest share of local alumni (about 700), followed by the education systems (500), and businesses (250). In church and mission work, 179 alumni have local home addresses.

Moving to Harrisonburg in 2003, my husband, children and I found this was a wonderful place to live. How much credit does EMU deserve for shaping this city and county? I trust the photos and stories in this magazine will answer that question.

— Bonnie Price Lofton
MA ’04, DLitt, editor-in-chief