There was an empty chair on the Lehman Auditorium stage at the 57th annual commencement of Eastern Mennonite Seminary on Saturday afternoon, Apr. 29.
The vacant chair was in recognition of Lawrence M. Yoder, professor of missiology, recuperating from quintuple by-pass heart surgery performed earlier in the week. “He’s doing well, but obviously unable to be here,” seminary dean Ervin R. Stutzman told the audience.
Graduation speaker Cheryl J. Sanders, pastor of Third Street Church of God in Washington, D.C., spoke on “A Holy Calling,” citing marks of ministry that the Apostle Paul commended to his young protege Timothy and are applicable to members of the graduating class.
‘Be Courageous,’ Seminarians Told
“You are gifted, you are called and you are appointed,” Dr. Sanders told the class. “Don’t be shy in exercising your spiritual gifts, be courageous. Let the power of God flow through you to others.
“To discern what God wants you to do in ministry requires listening and aligning oneself with God’s purposes,” the speaker said. One thing we all have in common is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Your calling is a life-long commitment to pass along the faith to the next generation.”
Class members are continuing ministry assignments with congregations or moving out into new ventures.
Christopher L. Riddle, M.Div., Harrisonburg, will be doing mission work in Bari, Italy with his family for the next three years with Virginia Mennonite Board of Missions.
“EMS has helped me in my spiritual growth and it has helped me to better hear where God is calling me and my family,” Riddle said.
Husband and Wife Team
Christine J. Nafziger, master of arts in church leadership, Harrisonburg, is applying for pastoral ministry with her husband Patrick A. Nafziger, who also graduated with an M.Div. degree.
“Theologically, I was never taught how to critique things before. I was never taught to think critically. It has been helpful to have tools to do that, and to interpret the Bible,” Nafziger said. “The spiritual direction courses were especially helpful. They have made me aware of God in all things and taught me how to help others be aware of God as well.
“I have a deep respect for the professors here. They think broadly about theological issues, but they have a deep love and reverence for God,” she added.
Theda J. Good, M.Div., Lancaster, Pa., is looking at a number of ministry options including pastoral ministry, mission work and church planting.
“As I consider various options from pastoral ministry, to mission work, to church planting, I believe that my time here has grounded me in the Anabaptist faith tradition and has prepared me to relate to and connect with a wide variety of people,” Good said, adding: “I have gained the skills to help with spiritual formation in the lives of people I minister to, no matter what that ministry position will be.”