By Annette Brill Bergstresser
Goshen, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Mary H. Schertz, Ph.D., encouraged graduates of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), Elkhart, Indiana, to hold close “the weariness and wonder of the world and the sorrow and joy of human being” in her commencement address on May 20 at College Mennonite Church.
“And there, in whatever exciting thing you do next … you will meet the face and grace of God,” she told them. “You will find sturdy hope; you will find the joy of being a disciple; you will find ways to witness to the dawn breaking upon us from on high.”
Schertz, AMBS professor of New Testament, connected Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s Song (Luke 1:68-79) with a phrase from a prayer in the Anabaptist Prayer Book — “the deepest blue of world and soul” — which she described as “that elusive, ever-changing blue beauty after the stars fade, or before they emerge,” opposite the rising or setting sun.
“This deepest blue of world and soul is not something you can keep separate from you,” she said. “It fills the universe, and because you are a part of the universe, it fills you too.”
Schertz pointed out that both Mary and Zechariah emerge from their experiences of “deepest blue” with life-changing revelations: “Whereas Mary’s song about her child imagines a world free from oppression and hunger, Zechariah’s song about his child imagines a world free to worship and serve the Lord, without fear.”
Schertz recalled her last conversation with Alan Kreider, beloved AMBS professor emeritus of church history and mission, who passed away from multiple myeloma on May 8. He had encouraged her to tell this year’s graduates “to love the Bible.”
“Keep hanging out with Mary and Zechariah and all the others,” Schertz told the graduates. “Keep probing these mysteries, praying these Psalms, telling these stories. Keep loving these words, because they are themselves the deepest blue of world and soul … containing the whole of life, and offering for the whole of life, epiphany and revelation, continuing and ever new.”
Allan Rudy-Froese, associate professor of Christian proclamation, presented the charge to the graduates, building on Schertz’s color imagery and urging them to use all of their senses in engaging and experiencing God’s goodness and color-saturated creation without fear.
“The God who speaks in blue and brown and gray and green created us with deep rivers that run through our bodies — red rivers, red blood,” he said. “Bring your bodies, your love, your passion, your anger … bring your red to those places that need to stop — or start — and do it in the name of the one who loved, to death.”
The graduates responded with a litany that included the refrain, “We will not fear,” and came forward to place pieces of fabric in varied, deep colors among the candles at the front of the worship space.
The 2017 graduating class
The commencement service honored 21 graduates. Eleven graduates earned the Master of Divinity degree. Three earned the Master of Arts in Christian Formation; two the Master of Arts: Peace Studies; and one the Master of Arts: Theological Studies. Four students received a Certificate in Theological Studies, representing one year of study.
The graduating class comprised seven women and 14 men from Canada, Ethiopia, South Korea, Tanzania and the United States. Fifteen of the graduates are affiliated with Mennonite groups (including Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada and the Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia); the rest represent Baptist, Church of the Brethren, Missionary Church and United Methodist Church denominations.
More than 60 percent of the graduates are serving as pastors or seeking pastoral assignments. Two are teaching at the college level; two are serving non-profit organizations; one is pursuing work as a workshop coordinator and speaker; one is pursuing mission work; one will continue serving in a camp setting; and one is seeking work as a spiritual director. The class’s gift to the seminary — an annual tradition — is a pergola that will be located near the Student Activities Center.
The class included a mother and son: Shana Peachey Boshart of Wellman, Iowa, and Corben Boshart of Parnell, Iowa. One graduate, Bob Gerber of Leesburg, Indiana, completed a degree he began 40 years ago. Two graduates, Belihu Delelegne Hailu of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Darrin W. Snyder Belousek of Lima, Ohio, came to seminary already having earned advanced degrees at other institutions. Lawrence L. Giden of South Bend, Indiana, earned a Certificate in Theological Studies from AMBS in 2014 and went on to graduate with a Master of Arts in Christian Formation.
Another graduate, J. Tyler Klassen of Elkhart, Indiana, is the son of Dr. William (Bill) Klassen of Waterloo, Ontario, who was New Testament professor in 1958 when Mennonite Biblical Seminary (one of the seminaries that formed AMBS) began on the Elkhart campus; he is the only member of that original faculty and administration who is still living.
The commencement service included commendations from the AMBS board for retiring faculty members Mary H. Schertz, Ph.D., and Daniel S. Schipani, Dr.Psy., Ph.D., professor of pastoral care and counseling. Schertz has served AMBS since 1988 as professor of New Testament and as director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies since 1999. Schipani has taught at AMBS since 1985, beginning with Christian education and personality and later shifting to pastoral care and counseling. The two professors anticipate retiring on June 30.
AMBS serves the church as a learning community with an Anabaptist vision, educating followers of Jesus Christ to be leaders for God's reconciling mission in the world. More than 2,500 alumni serve as pastoral, organizational and community leaders around the world. Areas of focus in the seminary’s master’s degree programs include pastoral ministry, chaplaincy, Christian formation, theology and peace studies, conflict transformation, international development and environmental sustainability leadership. AMBS offers options for both on-campus and distance studies.
The 2017 graduating class of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary following the May 20 commencement service at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana:
Front (l. to r.): Kris Rappatta Polega of Goshen; Caley Ortman of Freeman, South Dakota; Kristine Regehr of Hesston, Kansas, and Grand Marais, Minnesota; Ben Bouwman of Goshen; Asia Frye of Hillsboro, Kansas; Bob Gerber of Leesburg, Indiana; and Tobias Arwa Magatti of Shirati-Rorya, Mara, Tanzania, and Goshen.
Back (l. to r.): Jarold Tyler Klassen of Elkhart, Indiana; Lawrence L. Giden of South Bend, Indiana; Corben Boshart of Parnell, Iowa; Andrew Everett Austin, Jr., of Blue Springs, Missouri; Alison Brookins of Madison, Wisconsin; Michelle L. Hackler-Artley of South Bend; Belihu Hailu of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Peter John Martin of Cassopolis, Michigan; Darrin W. Snyder Belousek of Lima, Ohio; Shana Peachey Boshart of Wellman, Iowa; and Lee Allan Hiebert of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
(Credit: Jason Bryant)
Mary H. Schertz, Ph.D., AMBS professor of New Testament, gives the address at the 2017 commencement ceremony of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana. Behind Schertz are AMBS President Sara Wenger Shenk (at left) and AMBS Academic Dean Rebecca Slough. (Credit: Jason Bryant)