A family tradition

Three members of the Eastern Mennonite Seminary class of 2009 have followed in their families’ footsteps in graduating from Eastern Mennonite University and from EMS. Linetta and Joel Ballew and Rene Hostetter joined 16 classmates receiving degrees at commencement ceremonies held last month.

Fifteen students, including Joel and Linetta, graduated with master of divinity degrees. One student graduated with a master of arts in religion degree, and Hostetter and two others graduated with master of arts in church leadership degrees.

Linetta and Joel Ballew are not the first couple to graduate from Eastern Mennonite Seminary together, but they may be the first couple with a family legacy of graduating from the university and the seminary.

Linetta’s father, Robert Alley, graduated from EMS in 1972. Her mother, Linda Lefever Alley, graduated from EMU in 1973 and EMS in 2008. Both Linetta’s brother and her sister and their spouses also graduated from EMU.

Linetta said, “In my first class, I sat between my mother and my husband – two people I had never been in class with before!” Linetta said. “That ‘first’ was one of many during these past five years,and I am grateful for the many new experiences I have had here.”

Linetta is working as program director for Brethren Woods, a Church of the Brethren camp near Keezletown, Va. Joel is pastor of Lebanon Church of the Brethren in Mount Sidney, Va.

Rene Hostetter, who graduated with a master of arts in church leadership degree, also continues a family legacy. Her parents, Darrel and Sherill Hostetter, both graduated from EMU and EMS. Darrel graduated from EMU in 1977 and from EMS in 1982; Sherill graduated from EMU in 1978 and EMS in 2000. Rene is moving to Indianapolis, Ind., to take an associate pastor position at First Mennonite Church.

Linetta, Joel and Rene are among 10 students in the class under the age of 30.

Willard M. Swartley, professor emeritus of New Testament at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, in Elkhart, Ind., addressed the graduating class.

“Abide in Jesus,” Dr. Swartley admonished the class, “If we don’t abide in Jesus we will die, even with a seminary education.

“To abide in Jesus the vine is difficult,” he declared, “but that is our calling, to be able to destroy the cultural threats to the fruit we bear.” Swartley said that this “fruit” is love, joy and peace, and that these are being attacked by the culture. He encouraged the graduates to “continue to be formed by Jesus” in order to ward off these attacks.

“When we visualize what a vine and branches really look like, we see branches growing out of branches, all drawing from the vine. This vision shows the mutuality among us and that we all draw nourishment from Jesus.”


– Story by Laura Lehman Amstutz

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