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With six shovels full of dirt, the construction of the new Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Center and the renovation of WTS officially began on May 9.

While our present reality includes the storage of thousands of books, the clearing of an entire floor of the library, and the well-ordered chaos of relocating the offices of 40 employees in a month, let’s turn our attention away from today to what the seminary will be in 2019 when the project is completed.

Holland Mayor Nancy De Boer speaks at the May 9 groundbreaking ceremony.

The crown jewel of the campus will be the Jack and Mary DeWitt Learning Center, housing the entire Cook Library collection and providing plenty of collaborative and contemplative learning spaces. The Learning Center will dominate the eastern side of the building, and just outside, further east, will be a large green space where the old Cook Center for Theological Research stood. Those sitting on the second floor of the new Learning Center will have an unobstructed view of the Hope College campus. A patio on the north side of the building will be a popular gathering spot in temperate weather, and fireplaces inside will provide warmth during the winter months. The entire library collection will be housed in the new building, and there will be plenty of space for the collection to grow.

Associate Director of Development Dana Daniels passes out safety vests during the May 9 groundbreaking ceremony.

On the south side of the seminary, a new two story administrative wing will rise, providing a clear entrance to the building. The president’s office, the business office, student services, advancement, communications, and educational technology offices will be housed in the new administrative wing. The entryway will line up with the existing reception desk, and the second floor of the new wing will adjoin the second floor of the atrium. President Brown’s office will be by the front door of the seminary, providing maximum visibility and availability to the community.

Renovated classrooms will dominate the hallway that runs south of the new Learning Center. New windows and floors will be visible throughout the building, and at the western end of the seminary, a newly renovated kitchen and Commons area will make providing meals for guests much more efficient. The Community Kitchen (a soup kitchen that operates daily out of the seminary) will finally have adequate food storage and—at long last—the Commons will be air-conditioned.

With this project, every inch of the original seminary building from 1954 will be renovated and made functional for the decades to come.

Not so visible but of vital importance will be improvements to the seminary’s infrastructure, including significant upgrades of the mechanical systems. As a result of the project, the seminary will be much more energy efficient, and the entire building will meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Architecturally, the building will be one cohesive piece, all in the same Georgian Colonial style that has dominated the corner of 13th and College Avenue since the mid-1950s.

That’s 2019, and a whole lot of dust is going to fly between now and then. By the time you read this, demolition and construction will have begun, and a new, exciting future for Western will be emerging.

What does this all of this mean for returning and new students?

While we all anticipate the new and valuable improvements to the learning experience and environment, you may rest assured that the 2017-18 academic year will be robust with challenging and formative learning with the same variety of courses taught by the same esteemed faculty. Most courses will be taught in the existing classrooms in the main building and students will continue to have access to the resources of the library with the same flexibility as before. While the evidence of construction will be hard to avoid, it is our goal to ensure a hospitable and effective learning environment for all of our students.

Where will students find staff and faculty who are key to their daily concerns? The offices of those individuals with whom students interact on a regular basis will remain easily accessible:

Main Floor Atrium:

Admissions Office (Poppen/English/Kingdom-Grier/Schipper)

Financial Services (Donkersloot/Eshenauer)

Ed Tech Offices (Bailey/Ehmann/Vlisides)

Book Store (Huisman)

Second Floor Atrium:

Academic Affairs Offices (Padilla/Nordé/Brogan/Hamm)

Faculty

Garden Level (down the stairs from the Atrium):

Student Services and Formation for Ministry (Small/Bush/Miguel Cipriano/Smith/Swier)

Human Resources and Title IX Concerns (Perez)

Faculty (Komline)

Director for Hispanic Ministries Program (Ocasio)

Library Mezzanine:

President’s Office (Brown/Munroe/Zylman-TenHave)

Main Floor Library:

Library Staff

4th Floor Library:

Th.M. Program Administrator (Sundararajan)

Writing Studio Director (Baron)

5th Floor Library:

Office of Advancement (Bast/Buikema/Daniels/Honholt/Housman/Wernlund)

Communications (Capotosto/Rice)

Journey/Continuing Ed. (Housman/Sotok/VanderMolen)

We will continue to worship each day in Mulder Chapel. For the next several months, the Community Kitchen has relocated to the United Methodist Church and to Hope Reformed Church, both just a few blocks away. We hope to have the Community Kitchen back on campus in early 2018.

It is our hope that all of the planning, strategizing, excitement and anticipation will override any of the inconveniences and commotion we might encounter as this project moves along. There will be drawings, photos, and regular updates to encourage us on the days when we might become weary.

We will look forward to your input as we learn and work together!

 

 

 

Timothy L. Brown

 

 

Dr. Timothy Brown

President and Henry Bast Professor of Preaching

 

Here at Western Theological Seminary we make a big deal out of our daily worship. It might surprise you to learn that we are one of the few seminaries left that still worships as a community every single day. We believe worship forms us over time in mysterious ways we can scarcely understand.

I want you to come with me to the two-story colonial home where Nancy and I live, just a few blocks south of the seminary. There we are having a dinner, hosting six of our best friends over the last 25 years. Come and get to know these good people; look into their faces, listen in on their conversations, and feel the texture of relationships that have kept us together through thick and thin since before Ronald Reagan was President. Just stand quietly in the corner of the dining room and take it all in, because it strikes me as a kind of living commentary on what worshipping the living God in a Reformed way can do for you.

Sitting directly across from me is Jack Smith (I won’t use any real names in this article). Jack and I graduated from college together and went off to different graduate schools. When I graduated from seminary with the right to be a minister of Word and Sacrament, Jack graduated with an MBA and what seemed to be a license to print money. He has become fabulously wealthy, not unlike many who made fortunes in the 80s and 90s. What singles Jack out is that somewhere along the line he stopped asking the question, “How much of my fortune should I give away to good causes?” and started asking, “How much of what God has given me do I have the right to keep?” If you asked where he learned to do this, he’ll tell you that it dawned on him after hearing—Sunday in and Sunday out!—“Let us return our tithes and offerings to the Lord!”

Sitting next to Nancy is Lynn. While giving birth to her third child—right in the very act of offering life—she was stricken with a debilitating stroke. The baby survived and so did she, but her life would never be the same. She would never change that baby’s diapers or dance with her husband again. At one point in the evening while we were discussing “the good old days at Christ Memorial Church,” Lynn said to me, “You know, Tim, my favorite moment in our worship services was always right at the beginning when you would lift your arms in the air and say, ‘Grace to you and peace in the name of the Lord Jesus!’ When I hear those words my heart almost stops and I know that while I may never understand why all of this happened to me, I do know that our gracious God does know and, frankly, that’s all I need.”

Sitting opposite of each other are the Holts and the Newhouses. Dr. Holt teaches at Hope College and had an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on his car a few presidential elections ago. Mr. Newhouse is a successful realtor in Holland, and he and his wife had TWO Bush/Cheney posters in their front yard during the same election. At one point the conversation turned to politics and heated up a little bit—and I thought, “Oh no! My party is going to tank!”—but then, mysteriously, the Holts and the Newhouses shifted effortlessly from American politics and their striking differences to their heavenly citizenship and the one thing that will join them together forever.

At the end of the night, Nancy read several Psalms from Eugene Peterson’s The Message and we all held hands and prayed—prayed for our kids and grandkids, prayed for one another, and prayed for our world. We ended with the Lord’s Prayer and tears!

It may not have been so clear to me that night, but it surely is now—we had all been mysteriously shaped and formed by the way we worship Sunday in and Sunday out, and because of that we were being shaped and formed for witness and work in the world.

That’s why we make a big fuss over daily worship here!

In the heartwarming first episode of season 2, WTS President Timothy Brown is interviewed by his son, Reverend Jon Brown, about the importance of scripture memorization for our lives and ministries.

In the heartwarming first episode of season 2, WTS President Timothy Brown is interviewed by his son, Pastor Jon Brown, about the importance of scripture memorization for our lives and ministries.