Moravian Theological Seminary, the only denominational seminary in North America for the Moravian Church, marked the conclusion of its 208th academic year on Saturday, May 16, 2015. This year’s Commencement activities, rooted in the historical traditions of academia, also included new and updated events.
To kick off the weekend’s festivities, Seminary students participated in developing a community Lovefeast with Rev. Dr. Riddick Weber, Seminary Chaplain. This event was created as an inclusive response to the ever-growing diversity of faith traditions and heritages represented in the student body at the Seminary. The gathering was held immediately prior to the Senior Banquet and focused on gratitude for all those who supported the students in their seminary journeys.
Another twist on tradition was the location of the Commencement service. For the first year in recent history, the Seminary’s graduation ceremony was not held at Bethlehem’s Central Moravian Church. Instead, it was held at College Hill Moravian Church, a charming location within sight of MTS’s main building, the Bahnson Center. The change in venue addressed parking and logistical considerations for Seminary guests on this occasion.
The Commencement service itself also saw a refreshed program, including a new processional, “For All These Students,” featuring lyrics by Chaplain Weber. The Commencement Address was presented by Rev. David Bennett, President of the Eastern District of the Moravian Church and Chair of the Board of Trustees for Moravian Theological Seminary. His address focused on the theme, “Measuring Up …” and motivated the graduates for the future they face serving their communities in the “Google Age.”
Moravian Graduates and Award Recipients
Members of the Moravian Church were well represented among this year’s graduates and award recipients.
Elected by her fellow graduates, Sanette Francis, a Moravian M.Div. graduate, delivered the Commencement Address to her class. During the ceremony, she was also awarded the Henry Gerdsen Book Prize in recognition of intellectual, personal and professional growth, as well as a commitment to involvement in the Seminary community, including serving on the Student Elder’s Council (SEC). Raised in Manchester, Jamaica, Sanette moved to Brooklyn, N.Y. as a teenager where she was nurtured by the John Hus Moravian congregation. Sanette earned Bachelor of Arts degrees in Pastoral Ministry and Bible/Theology from Laurel University in High Point, N.C. She also holds an Associate’s degree in Theatre from the Borough of Manhattan Community College. Sanette recently moved to Watertown, Wisconsin, where she begins her call as a pastor at Ebenezer Moravian Church.
Another Moravian, Garritt Fleming, was also celebrated as an M.Div. graduate, Magna cum Laude. Garritt grew up in the Palmer Moravian congregation in Easton, Pa., and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. During his time at MTS, he served on the SEC and was highly involved with the Seminary’s musical groups, including The Moravian Seals band, worship band and choir. In recognition of his superior record in scholarship, development of personality suited to the requirements of the Christian ministry and effective participation in Seminary activities, Garritt also won The John David Bishop Memorial Prize. Garritt has accepted the call to serve as pastor of the Freedom Moravian Church in Appleton, Wisconsin and was ordained Aug. 1.
Fran Saylor, a member of the Raleigh (N.C.) Moravian congregation, earned her Graduate Certificate in Moravian Studies. Fran holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Salem College and a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Duke Divinity School. She plans to complete CPE at Duke Raleigh Hospital and await call and ordination in the Moravian Church Southern Province. Fran received the Rev. Elmer Bender Memorial Award, awarded to a candidate preparing for the ministry of the Moravian Church and exemplifying the qualities of leadership and integrity reflected in the life of Rev. Bender.
Two other Moravians, both current MTS M.Div. students, were honored with awards at the commencement ceremony. The J. Taylor Hamilton Biblical Language Prize is awarded annually to the student who has done the best work in either Hebrew or Greek. This year, Dan Miller received this award for accomplishment in Hebrew language studies. Dan is a member of the Lake Mills congregation in Wisconsin. The Herman T. Frueauff Memorial Prize was awarded to Frank Shipman, from the Central Moravian congregation in Bethlehem, in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of Moravian Church history, both in class work and research.
As the final event of the celebratory weekend, the Seminary’s lay leadership program, CROSSROADS, held a graduation ceremony on May 17. This year was unique in that, while the program is first and foremost a leadership training program for lay people who are active in their congregations, all three of the individuals professionally lead congregations in various capacities. Linda Wisser, the Director of Growth and Outreach at Emmaus Moravian Church, was among the graduates. She is involved in many creative community ministries, including an ecumenical project to address homelessness in the community. Linda will be entering the Seminary as a graduate student this fall.
The 2015 Graduating Class
In addition to Sanette, Garritt and Fran, 2015 graduates of Moravian Theological Seminary included Robert K. Magill of Easton, Pa., who received a Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling degree; Tammy G. Werron of Pennsauken, N.J., who received a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling degree with a concentration in Formative Spirituality; Russel C. Blair of Bethlehem, Pa.; Patrice Kathleen Wiehler of Downingtown, Pa.; and Regina Maria Yeske of Asbury, N.J. who received Master of Theological Studies degrees; Susan D. Crawson-Brizzolara of Hallstead, N.Y.; Carolynn Holmes Search of Mt. Arlington, N.J. (with a concentration in Formative Spirituality); and Eric John Luczak of Scranton, Pa., who received Master of Divinity degrees; and: Jennifer Ann Scaia of Simsbury, Conn., who received a Graduate Certificate in Formative Spirituality.
Please join us in congratulating the Moravian Theological Seminary Class of 2015 and welcoming these fine graduates as leaders in your communities!
From the July/August 2015 Moravian Magazine