Graduates of Eastern Mennonite Seminary before the formal hooding at Eastern Mennonite University's Commencement Sunday, May 6. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduates 22 ‘better Christ-followers’ to many callings

For the first time, graduates from Eastern Mennonite Seminary joined those of Eastern Mennonite University for the 100th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 6. The seminary conferred 18 degrees and four graduate certificates.

Among them were four graduates of the MA in Christian Leadership, a new degree program that balances spiritual growth, leadership training, and individualized integration of coursework that best fits the student’s intended ministry setting.

The seminary baccalaureate and commissioning was Friday, May 4, in Martin Chapel.

Adam King, pastor at Rise Church in Harrisonburg, opened the service with an original poem, written for the occasion, titled “There’s a lot of ‘Adams’ in this place.”

The poem, published in its entirety at the end of this article, asks, “Can you see who God has made you to be?”

Seminary associate dean Nancy Heisey hoods a graduate Philip J. Yoder.

In this place — Eastern Mennonite Seminary — are Biblical figures among a “great cloud of witnesses” and whose legacies live on, as does Jesus “in each face here,” the poem states. There are the Noahs “Gathering the beasts together / Building floating refugee boats for the coming flood,” the Leahs who are overlooked “but oh so strong / Steadily producing quality work / Steadfast and faithful,” the Marys “bearing the Spirit of God in their souls / boldly declaring with swelled bellies / that God is doing something new,” and many more.

“Look around!” it states. “Do you see them?”

After missing out on the 2017 seminary baccalaureate because of illness, invited speaker Erin Dufault-Hunter, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Ca., returned to provide the keynote address. Dufault-Hunter is a longtime member of Pasadena Mennonite Church, where she regularly participates in the music team and occasionally preaches.

Graduates Jason Wagner and Sarah Bailey provided reflections at the baccalaureate.

‘We’re trading in who we thought we were for who God made us to be’

Bailey was also among the students providing graduate perspectives at the main commencement ceremony on Sunday.

The degree “is our receipt” for “the Hebrew and the Greek exams, the hundreds of pages of required reading each week, the late-night paper-writing sessions, the pain and the tears as we ripped open our souls in formation classes in CPE,” she said. “Today we trade it all in for a piece of paper.”

She continued: “This paper is our receipt, the symbol of the exchange that has happened for us here. Because over these past years in seminary, we have been trading things in and today is the culmination of that. We’re trading in all the bucketfuls of coffee that we’ve lived on, for some spiritual awakening. We’re trading in our insecurity for new confidence. We’re trading in our original questions for some new and better ones. We’re trading in our biases for some compassion. We’re trading in our desires to change the world for some skills to actually do it…. We’re trading in who we thought we were for who God made us to be, one assignment, one reading, one hallway discussion, one tearful moment, one chapel service at a time.”

Bailey noted the various callings of her classmates: “to work with young people, with the elderly, the sick, the traumatized, the victims, the prisoners, the conflicted, the searching, the faithful and the faithless.”

“We go from here as pastors, as counselors, campus ministers, chaplains, activists, and much, much more. But most important of all, we go out from here being better friends, better family members, better members of our community, and better Christ followers than we were when we came in.”

Seminary Graduates

Master of Arts in Christian Leadership

  • Micah C. Hurst, Sydney New South Wales, Australia
  • Neal R. Benedict, Manheim, Pa. (earned at EMU Lancaster)
  • Rhonda K. Good, Lancaster, Pa. (earned at EMU Lancaster)
  • Christian J. Nickels, Schwenksville, Pa. (earned at EMU Lancaster)

Master of Divinity 

  • Lorrie J. Aikens, Hot Springs, Va.
  • Sarah Christine Bailey, Elkton, Va.
  • Joshua E. Dalton, Altavista, Va.
  • Gabriel Phillip Dodd, Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Jeffrey Fletcher, Bentonville, Va.
  • Steven Ryan Giddens, Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Brandon Michael Hawley, Roanoke, Va.
  • Stephen Adam King, Broadway, Va.
  • Alexander James Mitchell, Gibsonton, Fla.
  • Matthew Alan Nyce, Broadway, Va.
  • Shankar Rai, Lancaster, Pa.
  • Charles Raymond Tinsley III, Dinwiddie, Va.
  • Jason Allen Wagner, Harrisonburg, Va.
  • Philip Jason Yoder, Harrisonburg, Va.

Graduate Certificate in Ministry Leadership

  • Margret Jo Castillo, Norristown, Pa. (earned at EMU Lancaster)
  • Barry A. Houser, Lancaster, Pa. (earned at EMU Lancaster)
  • Dawn R. Reidy, Bunker Hill, W.Va.
  • Ken Ryan Wettig, Harrisonburg, Va.

“There’s a lot of ‘Adams’ in this place” by Adam King MDiv ’18

There’s a lot of ‘Adams’ in this place.

Not atoms, with a ‘T’, like the building blocks of matter,

but ‘Adams’, with a ‘D’, like the building block of humanity.

Eager to name and categorize and invent and create

And there’s a lot of Eves in this place as well

Birthing new ideas, new life

asking hard questions

Challenging the status quo

There’s a lot of Noahs in this place

Gathering the beasts together

Building floating refugee boats for the coming flood

and inviting any and all to come on board, even the scoffers, mockers

There’s a lot of Abrahams and a lot of Sarahs in this place

Laughing at God’s cosmic joke

Then discovering God follows through on promises

There’s a lot of Isaacs in this place

Willingly following their Father with an abiding trust

Wondering why there’s no ram

And what’s this sharp knife for

There’s a lot of Jacobs in this place

tricksters, jesters, jokers, and thieves

kind-hearted mommas boys

who wrestle with God

There’s a lot of Rachels in this place

Beautiful and favored

Drawing water from wells

Drawing hope for the future

There’s a lot of Leahs in this place too

Overlooked but oh so strong

Steadily producing quality work

Steadfast and faithful

There’s a lot of Josephs in this place

full of big dreams and world changing projects

climbing the corporate ladder

to sit next to the world’s Pharaohs

There’s a lot of Shipporahs and Puahs in this place

Undermining the powers that be

Risking death

to rescue life.

There’s a lot of Moses’ in this place

Reluctant leaders of people

Deliverers of hope and liberation

God’s trusted spokesperson to a world gone mad

There’s a lot of Samuels in this place

Called in the night and crying out



There’s a lot of Davids in this place

slaying giants and building kingdoms

prone to stray, but quick to repent

people after God’s own heart

There’s a lot of Solomons in this place

Wise beyond measure

We should listen to them more

There’s a lot of Jeremiahs in this place

crying out to the people


Weeping in grief when they refuse to listen

There’s a lot of Isaiahs in this place

whispering words of hope

return, rescue, redemption

There’s a lot of Marys in this place

bearing the Spirit of God in their souls

boldly declaring with swelled bellies

that God is doing something new

There’s a lot of Peters in this place

brash and loud and quick to act

full of ambition and hope

humble and willing to receive forgiveness

There’s a lot of Magdalenes in this place

faithful to the very end

never leaving the side of those they love

and the first to declare “LIFE HAS WON!”

There’s a lot of Pauls in this place

Brilliant beyond belief

Journeying across worlds and seas

with Good News that will not be contained

There’s a lot of Jesus in this place

I see him in each face here

Filled with the Holy Spirit

and willing to lay their lives down for their friend

There’s a great cloud of witnesses’ in this place, my friends

Look around! Do you see them?

Can you see who God has made you to be?

And can you see from where, from whom you come?

There’s a lot of Adams in this place…

More Commencement coverage:

Staff writer Christopher Clymer Kurtz contributed to this article.