From ministry in foster care to envisioning pastors as coaches, culminating projects cap seminary studies

Candidates for Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Christian Leadership at Eastern Mennonite Seminary are required to complete a capstone or ministry specialization project. Their study, research and exploration is tailored to their individual ministry setting and interests, with the goal of empowering their ministry and formation as well as providing a resource to others in the seminary community. 

Explore past integration projects: 2015 2016 2017 2018 and 2019.

Nathan Epling: Adapting the Wesleyan Class Meeting to Provide Outreach, Education, and Healing to the Fostering Community (MDiv)

With over a half-million children in foster care in the US and foster parents burning out everywhere, it is the responsibility of the church to reach out to this community in order to provide loving healing by developing a small group meeting based out of the Wesleyan Class meeting. This will benefit the church through outreach ministry and bless the families that participate as they find a safe place formed in the love of Christ and trauma care.

Nathan is completing his term as pastor of Main Street and Sites Chapel United Methodist Churches in Petersburg, West Virginia. He will transition to Madison United Methodist Church in Madison, West Virginia, this summer.

David Gaylor: Reenvisioning Church from a Coaching Perspective (MDiv)

How does it change the meaning of “pastor” if the job description and mentality was more in line with that of a “coach?” Part of the challenges of church in our current context are the overreliance on the pastor, the consumerist view of our culture, and the unclear way that we define and determine success in the church. If we consider these three challenges from a coaching perspective, the answers are inspiring and renewing. 

David is pastor of Ross-Harbour United Methodist Church in Stuart, Virginia.

David Gochenaur: “The Love of Jesus Expressed” (MACL)

David studied four gospel characters from different settings and economic situations, to reflect on how Jesus responded to those who opposed or disagreed with him.

John David Kenney: Opening a Dialogue between Christian Faith and Science (MDiv)

Christian Faith communities and science as an academic field have a great potential to work for the great good of all humanity. One obstacle is the historical and modern conflicts between these two ways of understanding the world around us that cause them to view each other with hostility. This paper will examine one of the most contentious and long lasting of those conflicts, the origin of the universe and life, in an attempt to provide an outline for how Christian faith and science may be able to find common ground when one or both sides are willing to make small changes in how they understand key aspects of their traditions.

John David is pursuing a pastoral assignment in a Mennonite Church USA congregation.

Thobekile Ncube: “Equipping Brethren In Christ Church Zimbabwe Young Mothers on Trauma Awareness, Forgiveness, Healing and Resilience” (MACL) 

Tho presented the curriculum she developed to reach out to young mothers in the churches, ostracized because of their unmarried situations.

Virginia Rae: The Ministry of the Prophetic (MDiv)

This candidate examines the use of the prophetic in the Old and New Testaments, the prophetic as one of the seven gifts of the Spirit described in I Corinthians 12, and the importance of a prophetic people as a vital ministry in the contemporary church. By briefly looking at the prophetic ministry of Moses and Jesus Christ, and then transitioning into the prophetic gifting that the Apostle Paul writes about in his Letters, we will see the change in accountability for words given in the Name of the Lord. 

Understanding that prophetic people need guidance and accountability in order to grow into maturity, church leaders can create a safe environment for this gifting to flourish. Mature prophetic people are the eyes of the Church and can help guide, warn, comfort, and encourage. Prophetic people blow the trumpet of injustice, call for repentance, and give vision for Christ-like transformation. Prophetic people read the signs of the times and shine Light when the world feels dark. Prophetic people are a vital member of the Church’s ministry team by discerning the move of the Spirit so the Church can join with and not fight against. The prophetic ministry must be reinstituted back into the Church if we are to become a whole and fully functioning Body ready for every good work.

Virginia is a professor of business administration and management at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia.

 Nathanael Ressler: Spiritual Formation in Lay Leadership (MDiv)

Spiritual formation is a non-optional task for participating in God’s vision for the world. All leaders in the Church need to embody healthy spiritual journeys so to empower the whole congregation and reveal God to the world. This project developes a program to be a tool to aid in the spiritual formation of lay leaders in congregational settings. 

Nathanael is pursuing a pastoral assignment in a Mennonite Church USA congregation.

Joseph Ropp: “The Homosexuality Divide in the Church: A Snapshot from a Moral Foundations Theory Perspective” (MACL)

Joseph surveyed a spectrum of  members in Virginia Mennonite congregations, using the Moral Foundations theory which explores ways that humans are “prewired” to feel certain ways about controversial questions.

Ryan Scarberry: Wonder and Wisdom: How the Narrative of Christian Worship Shapes Us (MACL)

Ryan led the participants in a worship service, including a sung psalm that he composed for the experience. He explored the practice of gathering for worship. Of the many realities of worship, one in particular is that when Christians gather to worship they enter into a larger story. We are awakened to this story through holy imagination (which is to say, the Holy Spirit illuminating our hearts). This narrative in worship draws us to wonder and wisdom as we ponder and practice what it means to live as people of God.

Emma Smith Cain: “The Injustices of Suffering: an exploration of women’s theologies of gender and suffering across geographies”  (MACL)

Emma drew on feminist and womanist theologians to reflect on the suffering experienced by women in situations of humanitarian crisis such as Democratic Republic of the Congo.

 Adam Stultz: Trauma-Informed Pastoral Care (MDiv)

By understanding the implications and effects of previous traumas in the lives of individuals, a pastor will be better equipped to provide pastoral care that brings those individuals into a transformative and healing relationship with God and God’s church. Ministering to people living with the effects of trauma is a reality that pastors and the church at large must face. The research discusses the effects of trauma, brain development, behavioral effects, and how to recognize some of those effects and make connections between previous life experiences and present realities. 

Adam distinguishes between the effects of previous, primarily childhood traumas versus traumatic events that might occur in the life experiences of an adult, while also acknowledging some commonalities in pastoral reactions to both types.As that recognition occurs, the pastor must balance their knowledge of and experience with trauma with their lack of training in counseling and therapy in ways that still allow the pastor to point the individual to God, who has the ability to bring healing and restoration to God’s children. 

Adam is associate pastor of Summerdean Church of the Brethren in Roanoke, Virginia.

 Lori Witmer: Cultivating Spiritual Care Practices within an Organization’s Leadership Creates Nurturing Environments for Confident Living (MDiv)

Lori identifies core spiritual care practices to cultivate within the life of the Spiritual Care leader to transform her ministry context. Theoretically, the inner transformative work within the self-differentiated leader fosters the inner work within the organization’s leadership. God’s Holy imagination helps leaders to embody these practices in ways that shape the organizational structures, policies, procedures and decisions to create nurturing respectful environments where all voices matter within community life.  This helps community residents live with confidence.

Lori is executive director of Spiritual Care at Menno Haven, a retirement community in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

Shen Yun: The Cell Group Ministry as a Transformational Response to the Novel Coronavirus in Church in China (MDiv)

Yun is a pastor at Chenxi Christian Church in Fuzhou City, China.