Master of Divinity candidate Hillary Evans presents her capstone integration project in Eastern Mennonite University's Martin Chapel. The seminary projects touch on both the personal formation experienced within the students' seminary journeys, and the transformation they hope to bring about as leaders in ministry. (Photos by Macson McGuigan)

Capstone Integration Projects, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Spring 2018

Eastern Mennonite Seminary students present Master of Divinity (MDiv) capstone projects that touch on both the personal formation experienced within the students’ seminary journeys, and the transformation they hope to bring about as leaders in ministry. The capstone requirement helps seminarians synthesize and integrate into their unique ministry setting the four guiding curricular principles that have formed the rich foundation of their learning: wise interpretation, mature practice, discerning communication and transformational leadership.

Pablo Hernandez, Master of Divinity candidate at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

“MDiv capstones culminate students’ academic experience, integrating that education into their ministry vision after graduation, with an exciting measure of creativity blended in,” said seminary associate dean Nancy Heisey.

Seminary degrees will be conferred during EMU’s centennial year commencement ceremony at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 6.

More capstone integration projects: 2015 2016 2017

Lorrie Aikens – Pastoral Response to Trauma

(Licensed local pastor, United Methodist Church; BS, University of Maine at Farmington; MS, Shenandoah University; Hot Springs, Va.) Due to the high percentage of trauma presently affecting people, it is imperative that pastors respond to parishioners in meaningful and sensitive ways. That is “to practice faithfulness,” as Swinton would say in Raging with Compassion (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), with listening in silence, lament, forgiveness, thoughtfulness and hospitality. Each provides essential keys to healing, spirituality of faith and hope – the source of healing and guide to hope in recovery. [podcast]

Josh Dalton – Clergy Stress

(Pastor, Monroe United Methodist Church, Monroe, Va.; BS, Lynchburg College; MS, California University of Pennsylvania; Altavista, Va.) Ministry should not be harmful to one’s health. Yet how many clergy wear stress as a “badge of honor”? A look at the faith and physical implications. [podcast]

Gabriel Dodd – Discovering God: Spiritual Formation in Youth and Adolescents

(Pastor for youth and young families, Montezuma Church of the Brethren, Dayton, Va.; BS, Middle Tennessee State University, Harrisonburg, Va.) This project helps the church understand the interest in and benefit of spiritual formation by using a 212-participant survey, and includes suggestions on how to provide spiritual formation for those who are young or new to spiritual formation. It was discovered that the church has not done the best job encouraging questions and doubts from young people, which contribute to church attrition. I encourage the church to help encourage the faith of our young people by inviting them on a journey with Jesus, inviting their questions, providing companions for the discovery process, and teaching spiritual practices to help them talk and listen to God. [podcast]

Shankar Rai is lead pastor of the Bhutanese Nepali Church of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Hillary Evans – Creativity as a Spiritual Discipline

(United Methodist Church; BS, West Liberty University; Mathias, W.Va.) This capstone considers how creativity can be done as spiritual discipline that brings us into an awareness of God’s presence while growing us in our walk with God. [podcast]

Joseph “Jeff” Fletcher – The Gift of Gratitude: Helping People Connect to Sources of Gratitude for Improved Health

(Pastor, Cool Spring Church of God; BTh, Atlanta Bible College; Bentonville, Va.) My capstone project focuses on health benefits of the virtue of gratitude. I demonstrate from a comprehensive review of historical, cultural, spiritual and psychological literature ways that gratitude helps contribute to spiritual, emotional and physical health. I seek to show how offering instruction and support to hospital patients and nursing home residents and staff in the benefits of gratitude can help to improve their overall spiritual, emotional and physical health and reduce the risk of burnout and compassion fatigue in healthcare workers. [podcast]

Brandon Hawley – Millennial Drop-Off: Lack of Involvement of Post-Graduates in Congregational Ministry

(College ministry intern: James Madison University Baptist Collegiate Ministry and Harrisonburg Baptist Church; BS, James Madison University; Roanoke, Va.) This project looks at reasons why millennials are less involved in church after their time in a college ministry. This project also looks at statistics and trends for the amount of involvement of millennials in congregational ministry. Lastly, this project offers some solutions for helping millennials engage in the congregational church. [podcast]

Stephen Adam King – Go, Sell Your Whiteness, and Follow Me: Jesus’ Call of White Christians to Radical Racial Solidarity

(Associate pastor at RISE United Methodist Faith Community; BA, Roanoke College; Broadway, Va.) When the rich young man approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, he despaired when he was told to sell all he owned in order to follow Jesus. I believe this is also the case when white folks in America are confronted by the call to lay down their privilege and power granted to them by this country and to follow the God who came to us as a marginalized and oppressed Jew 2000 years ago, and who comes to us now in the form of marginalized bodies and voices today. We walk away despairing. I seek to demonstrate in my capstone why it is of the utmost necessity that white followers of Jesus heed the call to die to whiteness and follow the leadership of black and brown leaders. If we do, I believe we white folk just may find what we’ve been missing for over 400 years… Abundant Life. [podcast]

Gabriel Dodd, Master of Divinity candidate at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, pastors youth and young families at Montezuma Church of the Brethren in Dayton, Virginia.

Charlie Tinsley – Revisionist Future: Thriving in the Spirit After Surviving Childhood Abuse

(Ambassador for Virginia in National Association of Adult Survivors of Child Abuse; United Methodist Church; BS, Liberty University) I will be looking at the effects of childhood abuse on life, faith and functioning. This capstone will be engaging with my own story and faith issues as a survivor of abuse. The capstone will also call on the church and its institutions to better protect children and to prevent abuse in their communities. [podcast]

Jason Wagner – Against the Grain

(Harrisonburg, Va.) My capstone explores ministering healing in one of America’s largest institutions, the corrections system. Looking through varied lenses I will attempt to paint a picture of who is in our local jail, which will then lead to visiting the scriptures with our eyes attuned toward Jesus’ response to these disenfranchised members of our community. This process of reading the context, through the scripture, will lead us to a praxis of presence within the local jail, that will hopefully provide spaces where men can learn to go against the grain and find healing. [article and podcast]

Philip Yoder – Integrating Past, Present, Future: From Mockupation to Re-Inventing Dutch Blitz

(Mennonite; BA, Eastern Mennonite University; Harrisonburg, Va.) How shall we embody a positive and non-violent approach to conflict and occupation? Towards an answer, this project argues that we change the system by ignoring it. By enacting liturgical performances that give space for deep and honest reflection we become our destiny. Thus, this project explores the limits of the religious ritual and how to bridge the gap between the biblical story and our contemporary world. [podcast]

Sarah Bailey – God is Near: Paying Attention to the Presence of God  


Pablo Hernandez – Attend. Listen. Forget. Repeat: The Dynamics of Preaching during Sunday Service  


Shankar Rai – Passing Faith to the Next Generation

[article and podcast]

Nathan Scarborough – A Light in the Dark: Ministry in the Metal Community