Jul Medenblik, president of Calvin Theological Seminary, recalls praying in January 2018 with a graduate who was returning to China to work at an unregistered seminary. This seminary had been vandalized, and the government ultimately ended worship services at the church affiliated with the seminary. It would be a tough job, and Medenblik prayed that God would be with the graduate.
“Week by week the church continues to meet in small groups, furthering the work leaders have been trained to do,” wrote Medenblik in the seminary’s 2018 Impact Report.
The Impact Report, issued in March 2019, offers a glimpse of work the seminary accomplished in the 2018 academic year.
Medenblik also wrote about the privilege of congratulating students who have completed their certificate coursework: “What’s unique about this group of students is that they are all serving a prison sentence; they are part of the Calvin Prison Initiative at the Handlon Correctional Facility ‘campus’ in Ionia, Mich.”
On most Monday and Tuesday nights, a steady stream of cars fill the seminary’s parking lot. The students who come for their evening class have put in a full day of work. “They are tired, but they are eager to learn. These students are working to obtain a certificate in Latino/a ministry or a certificate in family care,” wrote Medenblik.
The Impact Report also offers a look at the seminary’s Mosaic Program. Supported by the Faculty Heritage Fund, the pilot was launched during the spring semester of 2018 and followed by a second program in fall 2018. The Mosaic Program seeks to promote a more hospitable learning environment by helping faculty, staff, and students see matters from points of view and cultural contexts other than their own; to build a community of faculty, staff, and students who join together to learn about and be shaped by significant issues in the Calvin Seminary community and the larger society; and ultimately to develop community.
Throughout the spring 2018 semester, the program focused on acknowledging the value in diversity and offered the following activities:
- reading together the “Book of the Semester”: Beyond Colorblind: Redeeming Our Ethnic Journey by Sarah Shin;
- a Mosaic discussion group and small-group discussion on the book based on questions prepared by the presenters;
- a town hall video interview with the author; and
- two chapel services in April organized and led by the Mosaic discussion group.
In fall 2018, the program focused on the history of racial discrimination in the United States and included the following activities:
- reading together Frederick Douglass’s first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave;
- a trip to the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Big Rapids, Mich.;
- a Mosaic discussion group and small-group discussion based on questions prepared by the presenters;
- a town hall discussion on Frederick Douglass led by seminary professor Danjuma Gibson; and
- a December chapel service led by the Mosaic discussion group participants.
Each year, the seminary takes about 25 students either to Israel/Palestine or Turkey/Greece in order to visit places such as Jerusalem, Nazareth, Galilee, Ephesus, or Corinth. Students report that the trips affect how they read the Bible and how they imagine the contexts of the lives of Jesus, Paul, David, or Moses. They understand “wilderness,” perhaps for the first time; they take a boat on the Sea of Galilee and read the account of Jesus stilling the storm. They visit the 1,700-year-old church in Jerusalem that has commemorated and protected the presumed places of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They walk in the desert where Jesus was tested and see the Jordan River, where he was baptized. These memories then become an archive of images that will remain with the students and inform their preaching and teaching.