Photo: Alan Kreider addresses graduates at the 2016 Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary commencement at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana. From left to right in background, President Sara Wenger Shenk and Dean Rebecca Slough look on. (Photo by Melissa Troyer)
Professor emeritus Alan Kreider called the 2016 graduates of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, to a life of patience in his address at the commencement service, May 21, at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana.
One of the biblical texts for the service was from Hebrews 12, urging Christians to run the race with patience. Kreider, who is a professor emeritus of AMBS, observed, “What a peculiar way to run a race.” Then the church historian contrasted how early Christians considered patience to be the utmost virtue and how today’s culture is marked with pervasive impatience. Having just published the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Kreider drew on third-century theologians Tertullian and Cyprian as well as the example of Jesus in his address.
Early Christians were convinced that patience was the very nature of God, Kreider explained. “Patience was not what they were taught, but what they were formed to be. I think this was the key to early Christian witness—not what they said, but what they were.”
After noting the dangers of impatience in our culture and pointing out how patience was central for early Christians, Kreider said, “God wants those of you who are graduating to be patient Christians, and to minister to other people in such a way that they become patient Christians—Christians whose character and reflexes are patient.”
He encouraged graduates to look to Jesus as shown in the four Gospels, to remember that God is in control and to
follow Jesus’ example of praying. “A patient stance for us today is to seek God’s kingdom with our gifts and skills and to pray with passion that God will bring the kingdom.”
Finally he called graduates to help their congregations become schools of patience. Patience needs to be learned, Kreider said, and it is best learned by practicing it with others.
In the usual AMBS commencement tradition, Scripture texts were read by students prior to the address. Readers from the 2016 class were Katerina Friesen, reading in English, and Matthew Yeater in Greek, relying on braille—one of the tools in his seminary study—because of a vision impairment.
Eighteen graduates were honored in the service. Nine earned the Master of Divinity degree, a three-year program of study for leadership in the church. Three earned the Master of Arts: Theological Studies, two the Master of Arts: Peace Studies and one the Master of Arts in Christian Formation. Three people received the Certificate in Theological Studies, representing one year of study.
One-third of the graduates are in pastoral ministry or are seeking pastoral ministry roles. Two are pursuing mission work, one in a U.S. urban setting and one in a European setting. One will pursue graduate studies in Israel, one is entering a chaplaincy program, one is seeking a chaplaincy position, and others have or are making plans for other forms of ministry.
Jamie Pitts, assistant professor of Anabaptist studies, presented the charge to the graduates. Noting that graduation comes between Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, he gave the graduates a call to three things: to celebrate, especially reaching the “harvest of God’s good gifts”; to renew their commitment to the way of Jesus Christ; and to “rest in the Spirit because the Spirit rests on and in you.”
Graduates responded to this charge with silent reflection, then lighting small candles and carrying them from the center to the outside walls of the sanctuary.
The commencement service included an announcement that Linda Shelly is the recipient of the 2016 AMBS Alumni Ministry and Service Recognition. Shelly is regional director for Latin America for Mennonite Mission Network. She has worked for decades in and for Latin America for Mennonite Central Committee and Mennonite mission boards. In the fall, she will have an opportunity to share with the seminary community about her ministry and will receive fuller recognition at that time.