Against the backdrop of a photo of his grandchildren at play, President Loren Swartzendruber shared his dreams for all generations at the 2015 Convocation in Lehman Auditorium. (Photo by Jon Styer)

‘Bound together by love’: Convocation opens new academic year with music, prayer and words to inspire

The 2015 convocation to dedicate the new academic year at Eastern Mennonite University began and ended yesterday [Sept. 2] with music: first the triumphal tones of the Lehman Auditorium organ played by John Fast, and then the sound of bluegrass music as new students processed into the sunny fall morning.

Provost Fred Kniss welcomed students, faculty, staff and guests with a summary of the summer’s events on the national, denominational and local levels, situating these events as sources of fear, unrest and anxiety, as well as of grace and hope.

“Our aspiration is to be a university community that embodies these signs of hope, nurtures their development, and provides an alternative to the fear, ignorance and violence that drives so much of human society,” he said. “We aspire to be an engaged community of learning that is bound together by love – the love of learning, the love for God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and a love for each other.”

President Loren Swartzendruber, who will retire in June after 13 years at EMU, gave his final convocation speech, sharing his dreams for the future: “These are the dreams I have for you and my grandchildren: to serve as co-creators with God for a more sustainable world in which all God’s people can flourish, to be sustained by a faith that is grounded in hope not fear, and to be energized by an insatiable thirst for discovery and knowledge, not for ourselves but for the good of the world.”

He pointed to tangible actualizations of sustainability on the campus itself that he could already share with his

grandchildren: the flourishing campus gardens recently revived by the student-run Sustainable Food Initiative, a new solar project set to begin this fall, and the university’s commitment to creation care.

And in speaking to all in the community who mentor and support each other, Swartzendruber observed that too often Christians fall into argument or dissent, and are not exemplars of Jesus’ commandments: “love God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.”

Any new student on campus is invited to participate in the traditional "Shenandoah Welcome."
Any new student on campus is invited to participate in the traditional “Shenandoah Welcome.”

In a fitting intergenerational tribute, Swartzendruber was introduced by Student Government Association co-presidents Hanna Heishman and Rachel Schrock, and then promptly turned to introductions of honored guests and members of the EMU community.

Those present included former presidents Joseph Lapp and Myron Augsburger; and Beryl Brubaker, former interim president, as well as Shirley Showalter, former president of Goshen College, and Laban Peachey, former president of Hesston College who was also a professor and dean at EMU.

The event concluded with a sending of the China cross-cultural group and the traditional “Shenandoah Welcome,” during which the campus community forms two rows and new students walk between the clapping crowd to the sounds of traditional bluegrass music.

Discussion on “‘Bound together by love’: Convocation opens new academic year with music, prayer and words to inspire

  1. I was honored to have been shown accidentally but beautifully at the very first front in such a brilliant photo! Thank you all so much!

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