Suddenly the Pastor!

Middler student Alex Regets finds his dreams coming true sooner than he imagined.

I am someone who never expected to end up in ministry, but God does unexpected things.

I had started out in a pre-law program in college, but early on I felt the call to ministry, so I switched schools and finished my undergrad with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies.

For someone who never expected to end up in ministry, once I was called, I knew what I wanted: rural ministry. I entered seminary with a clear idea of where I wanted to end up. Right from the start, I would tell anyone who’d listen that when all was said and done, I wanted to be the pastor of a small church in the middle of nowhere. I also said that I’d love it if I could just stay there forever.

I wanted to go to the kind of church that often gets overlooked. The kind that gets viewed as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. And I always said that if this small, middle-of-nowhere church could be close to my hometown—well, that would be even better.

When it came time to start looking for a summer Internship after my second year at Western, I figured I’d look for a place that checked all those boxes. What I found was a small Presbyterian church in a rural town of about 4,000, averaging around 20 people each week in attendance, and it was only ten minutes from my hometown of Manteno, IL, the place where my family and my wife’s family still live.

It seemed like a great fit for my internship, but when I looked up the church, I noticed something interesting. They were currently without a pastor. I figured that was a plus, since it would help me get a sense for what the job is really like, but there was something else. Where the listing asked for required experience, this church didn’t say “First Ordained Call,” the way so many others do. Instead, it simply said none.

Suddenly, what started out as a possible landing spot for my summer internship looked like it had the potential to be something more!

After a handful of conversations with the elders of the church, we came to an agreement that I’d serve there for the summer, fulfilling my requirements for the 10-week internship, and if it seemed like a good fit for me and for them, they would make me an offer before it was over.

Well, it was a good fit.

So here I am, serving as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Peotone, Illinois, the sort of church I always said I wanted to work with!

I am finishing up my Master of Divinity degree by switching to Western’s distance learning program. It’s a little unorthodox, and it means jumping through some hoops with the Presbytery to make sure it’s all done “decently and in order,” but I am grateful for the opportunity.

It feels like a great fit in every way, and while my ordination will come a little slower, I’m already getting to experience what it’s like to pastor the church I have always dreamed of.

By Alex Regets

 

How do I find my way around during construction?

During the construction phase of “Our New Day” for Western Theological Seminary, a large portion of the campus will be inaccessible. The diagram below shows which areas are under construction. The available walkways are in yellow and may change during the 2017-18 school year.

Deliveries should be made to the receptionist at the front desk, which is in the DeWitt Theological Center (entrance 2). The only entrance is from the northwest corner of the DeWitt Center. There are stairs up to the atrium level, or an elevator is available through a doorway to the right when you come in. Cherri or Gretchen at the front desk can be reached at 392-8555.

PARKING: There is a small amount of parking by Friendship House. Guest parking is available in the student lot on the south side of 13th St. Street parking is also allowed (check for signs).

Looking for a particular department?

Academic Offices (dean, registrar) – DeWitt Center, 2nd floor
Admissions – DeWitt Center, Atrium level
Advancement – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, 5th floor
Bookstore – DeWitt Center, Atrium level, NE corner
Business Offices – DeWitt Center, Atrium level
Communications – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, 5th floor
Cont. Ed. (Journey and Ridder – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, 5th floor
Educational Technology – DeWitt Center, atrium level
Faculty offices – DeWitt Center, 2nd floor
Formation for Ministry – DeWitt Center, garden level
Human Resources – DeWitt Center, garden level
Hispanic Ministries – DeWitt Center, garden level
International Students Office – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, 4th floor
President & V.P. offices – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, mezzanine level
Writing Studio – Cook Center/Beardslee Library, 4th floor

Dr. Lennard Davis- Disability as an Aspect of Diversity

At 2:00 P.M. on Thursday November 2, the public is invited to join Lennard J. Davis, author and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago for a lecture in Mulder Chapel. Davis will be presenting an all-day training to the staff and faculty of Western Theological Seminary on “Disability as an Aspect of Diversity.”

“I grew up in a Deaf family where I spoke sign language and participated in Deaf culture,” writes Davis, “Yet I did not know much about Deafness or disability until 1990 when I became involved with CODA, the organization of children of Deaf adults.  Then my interests shifted from the study of the novel to disability studies.  I became intrigued by the idea of normalcy and how it had evolved in our culture.”

In addition to his role as professor, Dr. Davis is also director of Project Biocultures, a think-tank devoted to issues around the intersection of culture, medicine, disability, biotechnology, and the biosphere.  His works on disability include Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body (Verso, 1995), which won the 1996 Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights’ annual award for the best scholarship on the subject of intolerance in North America, and The Disability Studies Reader (4th Ed., Routledge, 2013).

Davis’s memoir My Sense of Silence (University of Illinois Press, 2000), was chosen Editor’s Choice Book for the Chicago Tribune, selected for the National Book Award for 2000, and nominated for the Book Critics Circle Award for 2000. He has appeared on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air to discuss the memoir, which describes his childhood in a Deaf family.  Davis has also edited his parents’ correspondence Shall I Say a Kiss: The Courtship Letters of a Deaf Couple1936-38 (Gallaudet University Press, 1999).

Davis is a co-founder of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession, and he is on the board of several academic journals.   Having written widely for newspapers and magazines, Davis is also the author of a novel entitled The Sonnets (State University of New York Press, March 2001).  A collection of his essays entitled Bending Over Backwards: Disability, Dismodernism, and Other Difficult Positions was published by New York University Press in August 2002.

His most recent book on the Americans With Disabilities Act was published in 2015, the 25th anniversary of the Act by Beacon Press. Davis has written numerous articles in The NationThe New York TimesThe Chicago Tribune, The Chronicle of Higher Education and other print media.  He has also been a commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and appeared on Morning Edition, This American Life, Odyssey, The Leonard Lopate Show and other NPR affiliates.  His current interests include disability-related issues; literary and cultural theory; genetics, race, identity; and biocultural issues.

“I have come to see that disability studies is imperative,” he says. “It is crucial that students in elementary and secondary school, as well as students in the university, grow up in close contact with people with all kinds of disabilities. It is crucial that disability studies be included in the curricula of schools so that when Rosa Parks and the civil rights movement are studied, when films on Stonewall are screened, Chicano authors are read — that disability history and culture be included as well from the accomplishments of Vietnam Vets and Ron Kovic to the Berkeley movement led by disability activist Ed Roberts to the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet University. The drafting of the ADA should be studied the way that the drafting of the Declaration of Independence is studied. Students should be able to read the work of Nancy Mairs or Andre Dubus, to know about the disabilities of artists and writers like James Joyce, Harriet Martineau, and William DeKooning, as well as the more obvious Beethoven or Ray Charles.”

“Disability studies matters because it points out the obvious, the common, the things no one notices because most of those ‘no ones’ see themselves as living in the mirage of being normal.”

Please join us on November 2 for this important lecture.

2017 Bast Preaching Festival with Dr. Richard Mouw

NOVEMBER 6, 2017 at the Haworth Inn and Conference Center

“How do we preach effectively about faithfulness to the Gospel in today’s complex culture? People in our congregations don’t even know how to talk calmly with each other about their political choices or their understandings of the ‘big’ cultural debates, about sexuality, immigration, “fake news,” our Muslim neighbors. Should our sermons get into ‘specifics’? If not, are we failing to be ‘prophetic’?”

At the Bast Preaching Festival, renowned speaker and author of Uncommon Decency: Christian Civility in an Uncivil World Dr. Richard Mouw will address these questions and more.

ABOUT DR. RICHARD MOUW

After earning his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Chicago, Richard J. Mouw taught in the Calvin College Philosophy Department for 17 years. In 1985 he moved to Fuller Theological Seminary, and beginning in 1993 he served as Fuller’s president for two decades. He has now returned to full-time teaching at Fuller as Professor of Faith and Public Life. The author of 20 books, in 2007 Princeton Theological Seminary awarded him the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life. He served for six years as co-chair of the official Reformed-Catholic Dialogue and is a leader in interfaith theological conversations, particularly with Mormons and Jewish groups. In 2012 the American Jewish Committee presented him with its first Shalom Award for Interfaith Cooperation.

REGISTER NOW:

 

Learn more about the Bast Preaching Festival at WTS

Where passion meets need

Senior M.Div. student Kristen Uroda was studying illustration at Massachusetts College of Art & Design in Boston when God called her to ministry.

“My plan was to be a famous artist, live in the city, and do mission trips,” she says, but during one such mission trip to Cincinnati, OH, she found herself falling in love with the inner workings of the church. When the leaders made an altar call for those called to ministry, she heard God say, “That’s you. Go.”

Back in Boston, she told her pastor that Europe was on her heart, even though the mission opportunities through her Korean-American congregation were predominantly in Asian house-churches. Providentially, her pastor had just met some pastors from Romania who needed interns. For one year, she helped that team plant a church from the ground up. When she returned home, her pastor encouraged her to start looking at seminaries, and she found Western (WTS).

“I really liked the program and how WTS wants to form students as full-rounded pastors and not just fill us with information and send us on our way,” she explains. She enrolled and moved to Michigan.

First year Master of Divinity students take a ministry formation course called The Abbey. One aspect includes lengthy discussion of the Enneagram personality profile.

“Going through the process of the Enneagram was very hard, and we all came out rather shell-shocked,” says Kristen, “but it helped me develop my pastoral heart. This is what I was praying for, and this is what I got. You don’t see other seminaries do that really deep inner work. It is so critical to formation.”

For her “Teaching Church” internship site, Kristen landed with Engedi, a youthful, cutting-edge church planted from a large Wesleyan church in Holland.

Kristen spent her first year learning all she could about the nuts and bolts of the church—things like finances, leadership, and day-to-day operations. Her internship led to a paid position as the executive pastor’s assistant.
When a communications position opened up, Kristen showed the church her art portfolio and they immediately offered her a new role—design coordinator.

“I definitely did not see myself in the place where I am now,” she admits. “When God called me to ministry, I thought I would have to give up art. I didn’t see how those two were ever going to fit together.”

“Art has always given me a lot of life,” Kristen says. “When I don’t do it for a long time, I feel like I’m not living up to what I was made to do.”

Kristen isn’t sure yet how God will combine her passion for church planting with her passion for art, but she is more convinced than ever that he has a plan for both.

Recently Kristen helped lead a youth trip to Guatemala where she designed a mural for an impoverished community. Also, last year National Public Radio (NPR) hired her as an illustrator. 

“My inspiration and vision is how I can make this world a more beautiful place. The world can be dark, scary, and uncertain, but art touches the heart in ways that words alone can’t. Guatemala was an opportunity to test that out,” she says. “Maybe the church God is calling me to plant will look different than the usual kind of church.”

Whatever church she plants, Kristen wants it to be multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

“I can do it!” by Kristen Uroda

“What would it look like if pastors around the world and within neighborhoods could work together? Where it’s just the shared identity under Christ’s name? I think the church is our best bet for crossing cultural barriers and healing divisions.”

Kristen’s interests could land her anywhere—her passions range from the Native American community to the people of France. She is open to wherever the Lord leads.

She is grateful to her pastors at Engedi for making space for her gifts and helping her incorporate them into both leadership and worship. As for her time at Western Theological Seminary, “I went in not really knowing what it was going to be like, and it has been a good experience!”

Above all, she now knows that wherever God leads, she will be using both her pastoral and artistic gifts to meet the needs of people.

 

2017 Stoutemire Lecture with Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

The 7th Annual Leonard F. Stoutemire Lecture in Multicultural Ministry

“Evangelicalism and the Failure of Racial Reconciliation”

with Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah

The Milton B. Engebretson Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism
North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL

September 19, 2017 at 1:30pm in Mulder Chapel

Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah draws from his book, Return to Justice, authored with Gary Vanderpol, as he discusses the lessons learned from early attempts at racial reconciliation among U.S. evangelicals in the 1960s and 70s.

A greater awareness of the need for racial reconciliation has been noticeable in US evangelicalism over the last decade. More churches are seeking to become ethnically diverse as society moves towards greater diversity. While many streams engage this topic, we are oftentimes unaware of historical examples of attempts at racial reconciliation among US evangelicals. In this lecture, Dr. Rah examines the rise of African-American Evangelicalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Through key figures and stories, we will seek lessons to be learned from early attempts at racial reconciliation among US evangelicals.

Dr. Rah founded the Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, a multi-ethnic church focused on urban ministry and committed to living out the values of racial reconciliation and social justice in the urban context of Cambridge, MA.

He previously served as an InterVarsity staff worker at MIT.

Suggested readings to prepare for lecture:

  • Chapter 5: “African American Evangelicals” in Return to Justice (Brazos, 2016).
  • “Epilogue” to Soong-Chan Rah, Prophetic Lament (IVP Books, 2015).

In addition to co-writing Return to Justice (Brazos, 2016), Dr. Rah has written Prophetic Lament (A Commentary on the book of Lamentations from IVP Books, 2015); The Next Evangelicalism (IVP Books, 2009); Many Colors (Moody, 2010); and Forgive Us (Zondervan, 2014).

Videos:

Take a 3-weekend course at Western!

MN575: Theology and Philosophy of Youth Ministry

with Dr. Gabriel Veas

  • WEEKENDS: September 22-23, October 20-21, November 10-11
  • Course held on campus at Western Theological Seminary

About Gabe Veas:

(from http://www.drgabeveas.com/)

As students continue to face negative influences on a daily basis, communities across the country are in search of leaders with life-changing messages that resonate with youth. Straight from the heart of Los Angeles, a new voice of hope has emerged for this generation: Dr. Gabe Veas.

Dr. Gabe Veas believes in rememberingthe past. The last names of his grandparents reflect his Mexican heritage: Ramirez, Aguilar, Martinez, and Veas. Yet, looking back on it all, Veas’ family came to the United States with a dream. One could call it the American dream, or better yet, they were “California Dreaming”. They had dreams of a better life, not only of hope and opportunities for themselves, but more importantly for their children to be educated and live a better life. Based upon his upbringing, Veas realized the truth that each person, individually, will have to choose whether or not to follow the positive or negative traditions of his or her heritage, neighborhood, and family.

In his talk, “California Dreaming,” Dr. Gabe Veas speaks to the realities of life growing up in a humble Mexican-American home in Los Angeles. Inspired by dreams born out of pain and struggle, Veas shares the motivational story of how he overcame the realities of inner-city life to persevere and be the positive role model he is today. This popular message has roots to Dr. Gabe Veas’ earliest days as a speaker when he began addressing crowds of his classmates weekly at the age of 16. Back then, while attending one of the most dangerous high schools in America, Veas first felt the need to step out and make a positive difference by encouraging students to follow their dreams and give back to the community.

MN575: Theology and Philosophy of Youth Ministry
with Dr. Gabriel Veas

Students in this course will seek to understand the philosophical theories of youth ministry, as well as how biblical principles have been examined and applied historically to youth ministry. Students will learn how to implement the discipleship process and cultivate faith development. Other areas covered will include the teacher/learner process, small group development, age differentiated ministry needs in the local church, working with volunteers, developing lesson plans, mentoring, and how to direct the youth ministry program within the community.

Class Times for “Theology and Philosophy of Youth Ministry:”

  • September 22-23 (Friday 3-6pm & Saturday 8am-12, then 1-5pm)
  • October 20-21 (Friday 3-6pm & Saturday 8am-12, then 1-5pm)
  • November 10-11 (Friday 3-6pm & Saturday 8am-12, then 1-5pm)

$300 to audit, or take for 3 credit hours at $1,335

Contact Beth Smith to register at 616-392-8555 or registrar@westernsem.edu

 

2017 Distinguished Alum The Rev. Dr. Samuel Solivan ‘76

Rev. Dr. Samuel Solivan, WTS graduate, 1976

Rev. Dr. Samuel Solivan calls himself Pentecostal and Arminian—not exactly a run-of- the-mill Western graduate! From the moment he was born, this year’s distinguished alum has lived a life full of surprises and God’s miraculous intervention.

When Sam’s mother was only seven months pregnant, she was at the church cleaning around the altar when suddenly she began to go into labor. The pastor and some members of the church helped her to the floor and she gave birth right there. The pastor held the boy in his arms and named him Samuel.

Sam’s parents had moved to East Harlem, NY from Puerto Rico. His father was a quiet military man, and his mother was a devout Christ-follower who took her six sons to church nearly every day. Sam learned a deep love for the church from her.

As a child, Sam was diagnosed with hearing loss and what was then called “mental retardation.” His mother was encouraged to send him to a special school for the deaf, but it was too far away, so he remained in remedial classes at public school.

Doctors attempted four different surgeries to improve his hearing, but the last surgery caused part of his face to become disfigured. He dealt with a lot of bullying, leading his teachers to suggest home school, but his mother insisted he stay in school. “We believe in a healing God,” she said.

He later transferred to a vocational school, and there his guidance counselor told him not to expect much out of life. “Just do your best.”

Sam and Irene’s wedding, 1969

During this time, Sam met his future wife, Irene. Her parents sponsored youth activities and prayer vigils at their home. When Sam was 13, he entered their home and saw Irene playing the piano.

The next year, during one of these vigils, Sam sensed the Lord calling him to “preach and teach My word.” He thought it was just emotionalism and wondered how God could use him with his learning disabilities. He asked God to confirm this call through his Word and through others. He also thought he would need to speak Spanish, so he asked to learn it. Then he opened his Bible and it landed on Jeremiah 1: “I have called you and known you since you were in your mother’s womb.”

Iglesia Evangelica del Bronx—Sam was literally born here, Irene grew up in this church, they got married here, and Sam was installed as pastor of this church.

That same night, Irene’s father asked Sam to join him at an evangelistic meeting the next day. When the evangelist (whom Sam had never met) went forward to speak, he asked, “Is there a Sam Solivan in the room?” Sam nervously stepped forward, and the man said, “The Lord said he will heal your mind and body and teach you Spanish.”

A few years later when Sam graduated from high school, he was drafted into the Air Force. Once he passed training, the military realized he had pre-existing conditions that would prevent him from getting insurance during active duty. They offered him an option: either go to Vietnam without insurance, or receive an honorable discharge as a veteran of the United States.

“I may be [mentally disabled], but I’m no fool!” Dr. Solivan recalls thinking.

He returned home and went to church to thank God for not having to go to war. In normal Pentecostal tradition, Sam began to speak in tongues as he prayed at the front of the church. In the back of the church, someone offered the interpretation: “I permitted this [sickness] in your life to save your life, and now I’m going to heal you. The four years you would have given to the Air Force, you will give to Me to serve Me.”

From that day forward, his hearing began to improve. Over the years, his facial deformation has healed to the point that it is now barely noticeable.

Sam heard about Central Bible College in Springfield, MO from Irene’s pastor and decided to apply. Even though he was at a second grade reading level, his compassionate professors helped him as the Lord healed his mind and body.

He completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1970 and returned to the Pentecostal church where he was raised, this time as the head pastor. He also began work as a community organizer in East Harlem. Traditionally, Pentecostal pastors are not required to attend seminary, so Sam would have been happy not to go—but the Lord had other plans.

Sam with WTS President I. John Hesselink, 1975

In 1973, Sam received a call from Dr. I. John Hesselink of Western Theological Seminary. Dr. Hesselink was working with the Reformed Church in America to recruit Latino leadership in the denomination and wanted Sam to come for an interview to be a student. The sheer unconventionality of the situation told Sam that this was a sign from God. A month later, he and his wife and three young children moved to Holland, MI for the Greek summer course.

“As an Arminian, a Latino, and a Pentecostal, it was somewhat strange, but also amazing and wonderful,” he shares. “There’s been no other community that was so powerful in transforming and equipping me. Western Theological Seminary is the institution that has most marked my life.”

During his time in Holland, Sam was named the city’s Commissioner of Education and Housing for the Human Relations Commission, and he also started the West Michigan Latino Ministers Association. He graduated with the class of 1976, alongside current WTS president Timothy Brown.

“I have kept looking over Western’s shoulders over the years, seeing their efforts to recruit Latino, African Americans, and other minorities,” says Sam. “I’ve been encouraged by that.”

Officially “Dr. Solivan” — getting his PhD at Union Theological Seminary, 1993

One interaction with Professor John Piet stuck with Sam. “I’m going to speak to you as a Pentecostal,” Dr. Piet said one day to Sam’s surprise. “The Holy Spirit is leading me to tell you this: The Lord is going to open the doors for you to get a Ph.D.”

Dr. Piet was right. The following year, Sam was accepted to Union Theological Seminary in New York City for a one-year research degree, the Master of Sacred Theology. Later, after serving four years as an RCA missionary in Venezuela, he would return to Union for his Ph.D.

Even though Sam came from a Pentecostal background, the WTS faculty certified him to be ordained in the RCA by the Classis of New York. When he and his family returned from Venezuela, he served as lead pastor of Bethel Reformed Church in New Jersey and later Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn.

Eventually, Dr. Solivan transferred to the Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination. He moved to Boston and taught Christian theology at Andover Newton Theological School. Harvard Medical School invited him to be the theologian on a team studying medicine and spirituality. Eventually the study became a required course, and he was asked to be an adjunct faculty member.

In 1999, the Lord called Dr. Solivan to Puerto Rico. He was invited to serve as vice president of religious affairs at InterAmerican University, the largest bi-lingual evangelical protestant university in the world. He still serves there as a tenured professor of theology, and he helped to found their Ph.D. program. He has also served for nine years at the Theological Seminary of Puerto Rico.

Dr. Solivan helped to found the Eurasian Theological Seminary in Moscow, the European Leadership Academy in Malaga, Spain, and spent eleven years as part of the international faculty for the Haggai Institute with locations in Maui and Singapore.

The Haggai Institute trains professionals and executives from all over the world in evangelism and leadership. Students have included supreme court justices, lawyers, engineers, and even princesses.

“These are the kinds of things that keep me busy,” Dr. Solivan laughs.

He and Irene run the ecumenical Center for Theological Reflection in Puerto Rico, which meets monthly to pray and discuss theology with others. Also, for the last 14 years Dr. Solivan has led a radio program on theological reflection called “Thinking out Loud” with fellow theologians.

The Solivans have four grown children who live in the U.S.: three daughters and one son.

Before going off to Bible college, Dr. Solivan recalls his father (who barely ever spoke about spiritual matters) telling him, “Do it with excellence, because the Lord requires excellence.”

After a challenging childhood but a deep faithfulness to God and community, Dr. Solivan’s life has certainly been marked by excellence and a grateful spirit.

The Rev. Dawn Boelkins Retires

After more than twenty years of teaching biblical languages at Western Theological Seminary, Associate Professor Dawn Boelkins is retiring at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. To say that she will be missed only scratches the surface of what her gifts and presence have meant to students, colleagues, staff, and administration.

The ordination liturgy for Ministers of Word and Sacrament in the RCA charges those being ordained to “attend to reading, prayer, study, preaching, and teaching,” and to “not neglect the gift that is in you.” Since her ordination to that office in 1987, Dawn has devoted herself to living out every aspect of that charge. A graduate of both Western’s M.Div. and D.Min. degree programs, Dawn has played an integral part in the work and culture of Western Theological Seminary, teaching Hebrew and Greek in both the on-campus and distance learning programs. Her students laud her for her creativity and compassion, crediting her with opening God’s Word to them in unexpected and invaluable ways.

Dawn’s own sense of calling and satisfaction in her teaching is glimpsed in her response to a question about what it’s like to teach required language courses: “Generally, students approach the biblical languages with some trepidation. I beckon them past their uncertainties into the humbling, exhilarating, and spiritually rewarding discipline of biblical translation and interpretation.” One of her greatest joys, she says, is seeing the “lights go on” for her students in this regard. She also highlights the rich sense of collegiality she has experienced in participating in the Hebrew program, which has undergone many innovative changes during her years on the teaching team.

When asked to reflect on what has given her the most joy in her time at WTS, Dawn identifies her role in the committee that redesigned Mulder Chapel. The practical and theological joined hands in a powerful way for her on this committee. The end result, she says, was “an opportunity to see the Word made flesh” in a wonderful way.

You will be deeply missed, Dawn! Thank you for tending so faithfully both to your own gifts and to the gifts of your students. May God bless you richly in the coming years as you have indeed blessed us.

—Dr. Carol Bechtel

Carol Bechtel

In their words…

In Hebrew class I loved when you would gather us in a circle to have a “lovely little theological discussion.” You always created a safe and holy space for us to share our perceptions and ideas about what we were learning. …Thank you for offering yourself and your gifts of language, teaching, music, worship, and creativity to the church, the seminary, and to students like me who are now ready to take all we have learned and go out to share God’s blessing to those we encounter along the way.

—Michelle VanDenBerg

At faculty meetings I often saw you as a model, showing us how to ask honest and probing questions while holding to your convictions, even if you were the only one to vote a certain direction. I loved it when you were willing to be the only “no” or “yes” vote!

—Dr. J. Todd BIllings

As one who struggled with Greek, your care and skill opened the door to the beauty of the language, and how it can help reveal God’s character to us.

—Chris Walker

I will never look again at Greek or Hebrew with the fear and frustration I had living within me when I walked into my first class with you. …I am an improved student of the Word because you showed me how to research to understand the narrative in light of God’s redemptive plan, and not just to get the language right.

—Josh Westhouse

In Hebrew class, you named me Rav Chesed—steadfast loving kindness. As an attribute of God, it is used again and again in scripture, and each mention of it brings to light the depths of not only who God is, but helps me realize more fully who I am in God. What a gift! I will truly cherish it the rest of my life.

—Amy Klanderman

Teaching on the Hebrew team has been one of the greatest joys of my life and has lent such meaning and purpose to my work. …Thank you for giving yourself to the team for so many years, for laughing with us at all our mistakes (and sharing yours so we could both laugh and learn from them. …Thank you for being not just a delightful colleague, but a dear friend.

—Rev. Travis West

With Gratitude: The WTS – Newbigin House Partnership ending

 

I still remember visiting Western Theological Seminary in 2010 on an exploratory trip for Newbigin House of Studies, an educational initiative that had emerged from City Church San Francisco. There was a palpable sense of excitement about a unique relationship between a respected seminary and an important city church. The prospects grew as President Tim Brown secured a significant grant to help fund the partnership. In the Fall of 2011 our partnership was launched in San Francisco in an inaugural event featuring NT Wright. Our first class of graduates from the WTS-Newbigin Distance Learning Master of Divinity program walked last May.

The partnership was designed to train church planters in city settings, and we’re happy to report that we have graduates (and students) planting or serving in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Boulder, San Francisco, and beyond (even Bangkok!). In the years we’ve been together, nearly 40 students benefited from a challenging missional curriculum, with yearly intensives in San Francisco.

The formal partnership, however, has come to an end. While the cost of ongoing funding for an endeavor like this exceeds our capacity, we’ve also learned many things from each other. Newbigin House, led by my good friend Dr. Scot Sherman, discerned that they can serve the church best through a “Newbigin Year” program, making their offerings more broadly accessible. And WTS changed much during its time in partnership. I moved from San Francisco and joined Western’s faculty at the same time as some excellent new colleagues with expertise in mission, justice, disability, and more. Western isn’t the same seminary it was in 2010, and our curriculum and ethos have been changed not only by the influence of these new professors but also by our partnership with the Newbigin House of Studies.

The net gains are huge, and the work goes on as students continue their learning within this unique curriculum. WTS will grant advanced standing with credit to applicants who have completed a new ministry discernment program at NHS called the Newbigin Year. Current WTS students may also take NHS courses for credit toward their WTS programs.

We give thanks for all this partnership has meant.

—Dr. Chuck DeGroat

Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling

Senior Fellow of the Newbigin House of Studies