A candlelight processional of faculty, staff and students into Lehman Auditorium at Eastern Mennonite University literally set the stage for things to come.
President Loren E. Swartzendruber, surrounded by tables of glowing candles, spoke in a convocation service Wednesday, Jan. 12, on the theme, "A Community of Hope" to help launch the second (spring) semester.
"Community is a term that is so commonly used that it can easily lose its meaning," Dr. Swartzendruber said. "Yet, all of us crave it.
"Yet, reality is often something else. Authentic community is difficult to experience in a world filled with war, pain, suffering and death," he continued.
"Does community, with all its imperfections, have anything to do with hope?" he asked.
The president declared that "hope is impossible to find hope apart from community," adding that "It’s difficult, if not impossible, to find true community after one faces a crisis. It has to be cultivated when life is good.
"Part of the essence of Christianity is to be together in a concrete community with its human faults and tensions," Swartzendruber declared.
"Today, as we launch a new semester, I invite each of you to find hope in community," the president told the assembly.
He then invited anyone who is from areas of Southern Asia that were devastated by the tsunamis flooding, has family or friends there or who has lived or traveled in those regions to stand for prayer. Swartzendruber noted that student planners will be planning opportunities for the campus community to respond with contributions and material aid in the weeks ahead.
"At EMU, we remind ourselves frequently that we are part of a global community," Swartzendruber said. "We put flesh on that community by our cross-cultural experiences," in recognizing two student groups who will leave campus Thursday, Jan. 13, for semester-long cross-cultural study programs. They came forward for a commissioning a prayer of blessing to close the convocation service.
Twenty one students, led by Douglas Hertzler, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology and assistant director of EMU’s Washington Community Scholars Center (WCSC) and his wife, Jodi-Beth, will spend the semester in Guatemala and Bolivia.
Vernon E. Janzti, professor of sociology, and his wife, Dorothy, will lead a group of 33 students in a semester-long study program to New Zealand and Fiji.
EMU requires all students to participate in a cross-cultural experience as a graduation requirement as part of its "Global Village" curriculum.