Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Theme announced for Bethany Seminary Peace Essay Contest

By Jenny Williams

Aspiring student writers are encouraged to begin considering their entries for Bethany Seminary’s 2015 Peace Essay Contest: Peacemaking, Creation Justice, and the Beloved Community. Building on its success in 2014, the contest again is being held as part of the peace studies program at the seminary.

The peace essay contest is open to seminary, graduate school, college, and high school students who are fully enrolled in a program en route to a degree. Prizes of $2,000, $1,000, and $500 will be awarded for the top three essays. Topics to address may include but are not limited to the following:
  • creation care
  • a just peace with creation
  • indigenous communities’ rights
  • environmental racism
  • gender and ecology
  • creating a greener economy
  • creation-centered spirituality
  • forging alliances across the traditional “left-vs.-right” ideological framing of US politics
  • intercultural coalitions for the common good
Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture at Bethany, sees the 2015 theme as a timely one, noting how the recent People’s Climate March in New York City drew participants from across political, religious, and cultural boundaries toward a common cause. “I have spoken with career farmers, experimental urban gardeners, and students of religion and science who--in the spirit of the New York march--are convinced that creation care is becoming a unifying peace and justice issue. All express the conviction that it will be difficult to achieve peace among the nations unless we together make peace with the gift of God's creation through responsible stewardship of the land.”

A natural fit within the teaching and learning in peace studies at Bethany, the essay contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” she was known for actively pursuing peacemaking by meeting the needs of others, providing community leadership, and upholding the value of creative and independent thinking in education. John Baker saw her vision and modeling of contemporary peacemaking reflected in Bethany’s collaborative leadership among the three Historic Peace Churches and thus selected the seminary to administer the endowment’s programs.

John Baker, a philanthropist for peace with a distinguished career in higher education, and his wife had also helped establish the peace studies program at Bethany with an earlier endowment gift. “John and Elizabeth Baker were deeply committed to building cultures of peace,” says Holland. “This peace essay contest is intended to encourage thoughtful writing on peace in essays that are informed by the rich traditions of God's shalom and Christ's peace yet articulated in voices that are public, ecumenical, and interfaith. There is also the hope that this contest will lead to international networking and partnerships in pursuit of peace.”

Holland administers the Baker endowment programs and is assisted in the essay contest by Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs, who chairs the planning committee. Other members of this year’s committee are Kirsten Beachy, assistant professor of visual and communication arts at Eastern Mennonite University (Mennonite); Ben Brazil, assistant professor and director of the Ministry of Writing Program at Earlham School of Religion (Friends); Randy Miller, editor of the Church of the Brethren “Messenger” magazine; Abbey Pratt-Harrington, alumna of Earlham School of Religion (Friends); and Joanna Shenk, one of the pastors at First Mennonite Church in San Francisco. Brazil, Holland, Miller, and Shenk also will serve as judges.

Essays can be submitted between Jan. 1-26, 2015, and results will be announced by the end of Feb. 2015. Winning essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonite faith communities. For guidelines, terms, and submission procedures, go to www.bethanyseminary.edu/peace-essay . Contact Bekah Houff at houffre@bethanyseminary.edu or 765-983-1809 for additional information.

-- Jenny Williams is director of communications and alumni/ae relations for Bethany Theological Seminary.

Source: 10/7/2014 Newsline

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