Seminary MDiv, MA candidates to present capstones

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: 201520162017 2018201920202021, and 2022.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023 (chapel period)
Jimmy Calhoun: “The Wounded Healer: Clergy and Grief”
Jenn Parsons: “Companioning One Another Through Disenfranchised Maternal Grief”

Thursday, March 23, 2023
Hailey Holcomb: “Do I Matter? Using Theatre to Address Religious Trauma in Queer Community”
Virginia Basden: “Why the Wilderness: An Exploration into Wilderness as Spiritually Healing”
Greg Kropff: “An Examination of Clergy Trauma and How to Address It”

Thursday, April 20, 2023 (ACE Festival)
Carrie Dengler Wenger: “Toward Wholeness: How Chaplains Integrate the Sacred Work of Healing”

Capstone Descriptions

Tuesday, March 21  

Jimmy Calhoun: “The Wounded Healer: Clergy and Grief”

My CIP will develop a Wounded Healer program. This project is important to me because I am a Pastor and over the past eight years, I have lost three core members of my family and was diagnosed with a disease that is gradually taking away my ability to walk. While I know I am not the only person to deal with loss, as a Pastor I am struggling with how to heal. The problem is there is no program or group to my knowledge that helps Clergy deal with their grief. So, my research question is: How can fellow clergy walk with the wounded healers who are trying to help others? I will give an anonymous poll to clergy to access online as well as on paper. This will allow the individuals to write about their fears and pain. They will be asked whether they have someone who can walk with them during tough times. As the in-person course continues the participants will be placed in small groups to work on Lectio Divina questions. My presentation and paper will report on the experience and results and point out further areas for work.

Jennifer Parsons: “Companioning One Another Through Disenfranchised Maternal Grief”

Grief surrounds us. Yet, we are often uncomfortable in its presence. We rely on familiar rituals to accompany us through the loss of a loved one. We send or receive flowers, homemade casseroles, and sympathy cards. We dress in appropriate attire and attend a memorial or funeral service. But what happens when the loss is not the death of a loved one? What if we find ourselves or those we care about stranded in a space absent from social support? This presentation weaves together Kenneth J. Doka’s concept of disenfranchised grief, contemporary grief theory, and personal experience to offer examples of accompaniment through the turbulent waters of disenfranchised maternal grief. 

Thursday, March 23

Hailey Holcomb: “Do I Matter? Using Theatre to Address Religious Trauma in Queer Community”

This project draws on my ten years of experience in theatre. It combines the forefront of modern theatre research and practices with ministry and pastoral care to address religious trauma in Queer community – my community. I am writing an extensive theoretical “this is how EMU could apply these practices to address this specific trauma event” in relationship to the 2015 experience of a production of the play Corpus Christi. Methodology includes embodied practices used to address trauma, anxiety, and PTSD  and organizing time out of the rehearsal schedule for cast and crew to have conversations about the particulars of their religious trauma, their experiences of religious community, how we approach scripture, finding ourselves in scripture and biblical narrative, finding community, setting and enforcing healthy boundaries, and other relevant topics. All of this includes discussions of the specifics here at EMU and within the context of this production. Emphasis is on the process and the conversations rather than on a showcase for an audience.

Virginia Baisden: “Why the Wilderness? An exploration of Disability theology through the Wilderness Motifs in the Hebrew bible”

My project is designed to build on my personal experiences in exploring the wilderness, and a careful study of biblical themes related to wilderness, to encourage pastors, chaplains, and other spiritual leaders to incorporate wilderness experience into their practice.  I hope my project will help clergy, pastors, chaplains and Christians in all walks to feel more equipped to understand the theological grounding for time spent in nature, ways to enrich our experiences in Wilderness, and have informed and grounded conversations defending the importance of time spent in the Wilderness as not only a special retreat, but more so a necessary integral part of the Christian journey. In whatever manner I am ministering as a Chaplain, I am positive the Wilderness and nature will be integral. I may end up working with memory care, based on time I spent with my grandmother as well as my background with children with special needs. I have first-hand have experience with what nature and being outdoors can offer to children…especially children who have internalized differences from their peers and find solace and confidence in being in an open outdoor environment.

Gregory Kropff: “An examination of clergy trauma and how to address it”

Exploring clergy trauma and how to address it is an important topic as clergy trauma is often overlooked and not always understood. Clergy work very long hours and are often confronted with significant issues on top of being responsible for managing the local church and ordering and conducting worship. I can often feel like we are doing it all alone. Recent research argues that clergy are suffering from moral injury in conflictual ministry settings. Other data indicates that clergy experience suicidal ideation frequently. I will employ methods learned in CPE that can be beneficial in support of my clergy colleagues. I am hoping to help form clergy support groups where pastors can seek out informal confidential emotional support, receive aid with reflecting on difficult situations and feel less isolated. Based on a questionnaire circulated among clergy colleagues, I intend to make a call to action to both parish and denominational leaders to broaden resources of support for the clergy with whom they relate.

Thursday, April 20

Carrie Dengler Wenger: “Toward Wholeness:  How Chaplains Integrate the Sacred Work of Healing”

Chaplains in clinical settings are facing unique ministry challenges.  As they are more integrated into the medical system, they must shape their work in ways that harmonize and complement the interdisciplinary team.  Additionally, they carry the responsibility of spiritually supporting people across a wide spectrum of beliefs and faiths.  How can chaplains bring theological integrity to their role amidst systemic healthcare practices and when companioning people on various spiritual journeys?  How do they contribute to the health of each individual and integrate their assessments into the plan of care?  Questions related to the theology that grounds and guides chaplains, the chaplain’s role on an interdisciplinary team, and the professional chaplain’s integration with the healthcare system are vitally relevant parts of the growth of the profession of chaplaincy. 

The primary lens I will bring to my work will be that of a theology of wholeness.  I will engage scholarly work and biblical studies to create the framework for this theology.  Then I will bring this lens to several different disciplines including perspectives from medicine, social work, grief theory, and family systems theory.  In each area, I will be looking for indicators of wholeness and interventions that serve the telos of wholeness. 

To address both the goal of theological integrity and the realities that accompany interdisciplinary work in a hospital setting, I will propose the use of an appropriate spiritual assessment tool.  My process will include both the study of and experimentation with various tools as well as a proposal for how they might be improved.  In short, I will be aiming to discover and/or craft a tool that is theologically grounded, practical, relevant, and translatable. 

Discussion on “Seminary MDiv, MA candidates to present capstones

  1. I served as a pastor and counselor in my second career, with an M.Div. followed by a Th. M. in pastoral care and counseling, plus inservice education seminars. My first career of 26 years also included crisis management and human relations experience, including direct involvement with refugees and displaced persons.

    In my second career I met with a Ph. D. counseling psychologist for a decade, about four times a year, to review and discuss written briefs of problem situations and/or counseling briefs. The purpose was to have a professional person, observe and offer corrective on my diagnostic and therapeutic understanding and approach.

    This resource helped me feel more secure and competent about my work. It resulted in diminished stress or worry about myself and my approach in a given situation. In my view sharing confidential material in a peer group of pastors is problematic. A pastor is privy to deeply confidential material in people’s lives, and sharing in a community of pastors can be (a) a betrayal of confidence especially with other pastors who knew people in my congregation and (b) work with the psychologist targeted specifics, whereas group work takes up time and energy not specific to one’s issues.

    A pastor’s personal life and grief should be processed in a professional relationship outside of the congregation, even if there is a good supportive network in the congregation. Pastors should be proactive about self-care, so that they can enter more fully in the lives of congregants. The ability to compartmentalize is important. My oldest son died while I was pastor. Congregants were hesitant to burden me, but I acknowledged my grief, but explained, now in this space, I am available for you.

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