Story by Laura Lehman Amstutz
Barbara Seward teaches marketing at Harrisonburg High School. She’s also a first-year seminary student, having started working toward a master of divinity degree this fall at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Seward is among 15 new students attending seminary full time, while 11 other members of the first-year class are attending part time.
“Deciding to attend seminary was a long process. I’ve been a Christian for about five years but I kept feeling a tugging to do more,” said Seward. “I was sitting in the park one day and heard God saying, ‘There are unreached people out there,’ and then the idea of attending seminary came into my head and I felt such peace.”
Seward, who attends Harrisonburg Baptist Church, joins one of the most ecumenical student body EMS has ever seen. Her class members are Mennonite, United Methodist, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, Brethren, Nazarene, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ and non-denominational.
“This class is one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse classes we’ve had at EMS,” said Don A. Yoder, director of admissions. “It will make the study richer and more rewarding for everyone.”
Now these students are wrestling through first-year courses like Christian Tradition I and Formation in Personhood while learning about seminary life.
“I didn’t expect the community I’ve already felt here,” said Seward. “The faculty and staff aren’t just into intellectual pursuits; they focus on the whole person.
“There is a lot of reading,” said Seward, “but I don’t mind it. It’s not like regular grad school where you mainly absorb information. God is in this, and I’m seeking to balance the intellectual and the spiritual.”
Currently, there are 46 full-time and 44 part-time students enrolled at EMS.
Nineteen students are taking on-line distance learning courses this fall, and 18 students are enrolled in courses at the seminary’s Lancaster (Pa.) campus.
Laura Lehman Amstutz is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.