Among Eastern Mennonite University news top reads of 2017: The welcome sign by Immanuel Church, Centennial activities (here, The Steel Wheels), and a close-up of the guns encrusting the surface of a giant plow, portions of a sculpture dedicated in the fall on the EMU campus. (Art by Macson McGuigan)

Editor’s picks and top reads of 2017

January brings the traditional review of the most-read news stories of 2017, many of which echoed themes of broader national interest. Our EMU News site is one of the most-visited on the EMU website, with readers coming from all the countries in the world but two (so if you live in Tonga or French Polynesia, or know of someone who lives there, encourage them to check us out!).

To stay in touch with what’s going on campus and with our alumni around the world, subscribe to our weekly news digest.

Also take a moment to enjoy our “Top Photos of 2017,” curated by photography and videography manager Andrew Strack.


A tragic loss

Our readers checked in for information related to alumnus Michael J. Sharp ’05, a young peacebuilder killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo while working for the United Nations. This tragic event was covered by global news outlets. Other articles about M.J. were among the 20,000-plus hits and 9,800 Facebook engagement:  his memorial service at EMU, the stirring chapel sermon given by his friend Kevin Ressler ’07, and the posthumously awarded Life Service Award, accepted by his parents at the Centennial Homecoming and Family Weekend. [M.J.’s life and work were also noted by Washington Post’s “Acts of Faith” year-end coverage.]

No matter where you’re from…

2017 was the year of Immanuel Mennonite Church’s “Welcome Your Neighbor” sign. The sign, with a distinctive tri-color banding, reads in three languages: No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor. Our coverage, with 4,300 hits and several hundred Facebook likes, noted its spread around the United States, thanks to a flood of attention from supportive citizens and media outlets [click here to read NPR coverage by Harrisonburg native Camila Domonoske], spurred on by social media posts. Immanuel is led by Pastor Matthew Bucher, a 2015 graduate of Eastern Mennonite Seminary and the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, and his congregants who contributed to the sign’s inception and dispersal include many EMU alumni.

Healing Justice Fast

Daryl Byler’s Healing Justice Fast over Lent 2017 touched hearts and minds around the world. See initial coverage, final coverage, and visit his blog. The fast by the executive director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding spanned 40 days of President Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office. Each day, Byler wrote and tweeted a letter to Trump, reflecting on the passages of the Presbyterian Daily Lectionary. Among the many comments was one appreciative of “modeling a listening, loving, and prayerful approach to the deep divides in our human family.”

Standing up to hate

EMU News covered alumni and faculty engagement at the Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Just days before the fall semester began, the event stunned many in our community. Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate Brittany Caine-Conley, marching arm in arm with other clergy at the Aug. 12 , made national news for her activism and nonviolent protest. The Charlottesville resident, now in the final stages of the United Church of Christ ordination process, co-founded Congregate Charlottesville in the months leading up to the rally. The organization worked to train religious leaders in direct action, public witness and rapid response.

In November, Caine-Conley was a co-recipient of the National Council of Church President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership. [Caine-Conley will speak Jan. 16 at the seminary’s School for Leadership Training.]

Yoder Scholars

The long-awaited announcements about the newest recipients of our full-tuition Yoder Scholarships, and social media sharing [#EMUview], always help this announcement into the top-read ranks each year, as we welcome our newest group of Royals.

A symbol of nonviolence

A column by Washington Post historian John Kelly may have helped this coverage skyrocket. “Guns Into Plowshares,” a 16-foot-tall, 4-ton sculpture depicting a plow covered with more than 3,000 handguns collected from the Washington D.C. streets, was dedicated in an afternoon ceremony Oct. 10, with artist Esther Augsburger ’72 making an address.

EMU’s Centennial celebration

With a 100-year build-up to Centennial activities, no doubt the community was on pins and needles waiting to hear of the much-planned and -anticipated announcement of Centennial activities. Despite the more than 80 events scheduled in an action-packed fall Homecoming and Family Weekend, there’s still more planned for this spring! View a schedule here.

Mystery of the Year

And our Mystery of the Year: Web analyst Joshua Lyons was puzzled (flabbergasted is actually a better description) by the popularity of two separate Suter Science Seminar previews, receiving thousands of discrete hits: an article in February about biopharmaceutical expert Jennifer Bryant and then in October, one about neuropsychologist Jennifer Koop.

Top Tweet

And maybe another mystery…the best-laid plans for earth-shattering Tweets mean nothing when yummies come into play: here’s the most-shared and re-Tweeted Tweet of 2017:

Thanks to the @EMUbaseball1 team for the surprise pre-exam hot chocolate and candy cane treats! Good luck to students with the start of finals! #EMUview