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.
Barbara Bowman: “Every Body has a Story”
This capstone explores questions and possibilities available to us through our human bodies. From birth to death our sacred life story is being created through our physicality. The body provides messages that inform how we think, feel, and act. By exploring the energy system of the body we can develop trust in that internal wisdom so as to most fully live in harmony – harmony within oneself, harmony with others, harmony with the environment in which we live and harmony in our relationship with God. For it is God who created us in God’s image and sent His son Jesus to join us in our humanity. The presentation, drawing on my experiences as a chaplain and a healing touch practitioner, explores why we may hesitate to trust ourselves to even have internal wisdom, what it means to acknowledge our internal wisdom, and why this exploration matters both to individuals and to church bodies.
Noah Goss: “The Third Temple Period”
This capstone lays out a contextual and exegetical study of biblical temple imagery. It then addresses how the Apostle Paul draws on that imagery in his proclamation: “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 6:19-20). This study provides the foundation for an exploration of the work of fitness training, and how that work can benefit participants spiritually and physically. A vision of compassionate ministry emerging from fitness training is articulated.
Furst Jenkins: “The Church of What’s Happening Now”
My ministry will look critically at the problems substance abusers face when living on the street, seeking recovery, and coming out of prison. As an outreach program, it will identify individuals through community-based services, recovery homes, probation officers, churches, and referrals. It will identify the needs of the people who seek help, and then find ways to meet those needs. This church will develop concepts from the work we do in “Street Ministry” that will help to empower these individuals to see God in their everyday lives. These members will need encouragement to learn how to meet their needs, while becoming productive members of society by looking at new ways and practices of love empowered by Jesus Christ our Savior based on the concept of the Good News stemming from the work of evangelism and from the use of Bible Studies that place them in their own stories.
I will use restorative justice practices, Hope and Healing reclaiming matters of the heart, weaving spiritual practices, Bible studies, Twelve Step-based approaches, and referrals to faith-based counselors, pastoral counseling, and community and professional services in order to provide needed services which this project does not. This proposal brings “The Church of What’s Happening Now,” which is based on “Street Ministry Programs,” to identify those who seek help with drug addiction and connect them with Healing Refuge Fellowship and other service programs.
Steven Pardini: “Teaching the Bible in Communities of Faith”
This research project evaluated the effectiveness of the Sermon on the Mount curriculum (created by the author) and pedagogical approach (implemented by the author in the classroom setting) on the learner’s Christian faith and faithfulness.
This project was based upon an adult Bible study on the Sermon on the Mount curriculum written for teaching in a 13-week quarter. The teaching material was developed from commentaries written on this text. The learning groups were adult discipleship communities at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church during the Fall 2021 and Winter 2021-2022 quarters. In order to achieve greater numbers of participants, the winter-quarter curriculum was taught to two adult discipleship communities combined into one class.
The research tested the Null hypothesis that engagement with the Sermon on the Mount Bible study class has no discernable impact on learners’ faith and faithfulness. Students fully supported the project, desiring not only to learn from the weekly lessons but also making valuable contributions to the curriculum. As learners became more comfortable, they began to ask me questions after class that came up for them in the lesson study and class dialogue. Numerous people thanked the instructor for a meaningful lesson and complemented teaching methods. Careful analysis of collected student feedback information demonstrated that the alternative hypothesis that the Bible study classes had an important impact on learners’ faith and faithfulness.
Ezrionna Prioleau: “Healing the Circle”
This project was designed to explore deeper responses to intergenerational trauma. The presenter directed Janet Langhorne Cohen’s play “Anne and Emmett,” performed during EMU’s 2022 Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The overall project, coordinated by Celeste Thomas, aimed to create dialogue around the subjects of race, religion, oppression, healing and reconciliation through theater. The main goal was to create a dialogue among students and the broader Harrisonburg community on these critical topics. Performed by EMU and other local artists, “Anne and Emmett” brought together the stories of Anne Frank and Emmett Till, discussing the very nature of systemic oppression and ways to begin the road to healing and reconciliation. The show was followed by a talk-back and break-out conversations. Led by local leaders in both the Black and Jewish communities, the themes that came up most often were that of intersectionality, truth, and grace.
Derek Yoder: “Christ of the Wheelchair”
This project searched Scripture, art and ecclesial history for symbols which displayed the image of God revealed in persons with intellectual disabilities, people who are central to my ministry. In the absence of other symbols of God revealed in images of persons with intellectual disabilities, I “wrote” an icon which might help to fill this void. The project, begun as an offering to my community, is also a celebration of and blessing for my community, who bear the image of God. It is also a message to the broader Church, inviting it to reconsider and re-member the place of people with intellectual disabilities in its midst. And the project reflects an ongoing personal practice of formation. The finished icon is a confession of faith or an “Eben-Ezer,” a snapshot of what I believe at this point in my formal ministry.