2016 Essay Winners Announced

The top three entries in Bethany Theological Seminary’s 2016 Peace Essay Contest have been selected, all addressing this year’s topic of Inspired and Inspiring Peacemakers:

  • First place –        Kristy Shellenberger, “Inspiring Peace from the Back of the Church: Spencer and Sadie and ‘Jesus Loves Me,’” Bethany Seminary
  • Second place –   Bryan Hanger, “Rev. Osagyefo Sekou: Dreaming of Peace, on Fire for Justice,” Bethany Seminary
  • Third place –      Elisabeth Wilder, “Malala Yousafzai: Peace through Pencils,” Eastern Mennonite University

Cash prizes of $2000, $1000, and $500 were awarded to the three writers. Their essays will appear in selected publications of the Church of the Brethren, Friends (Quaker), and Mennonite faith communities.

The theme for the contest was rooted in The World Council of Churches’ paper An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace. This document has defined peace building and seeking cultures of peace in four broad categories: peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. Essayists were encouraged to write about individuals whose vision, voice, and work inspire peacemaking in any or all of these categories.

Open to seminary, graduate, college, and high school students enrolled in a degree program, the contest is an ecumenical partnership. Representatives from the Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker traditions have helped plan the contest and judge the entries. Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and director of peace studies and cross-cultural studies at Bethany, oversees the contest, and Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany, assists with administration. In addition to Holland, judges for 2016 included Joanna Shenk, associate pastor at First Mennonite Church, San Francisco, California; Matt Guynn, director of organizing for On Earth Peace; and Judi Hetrick, assistant professor of journalism at Earlham College.

The Bethany Peace Essay Contest is underwritten by the Jennie Calhoun Baker Endowment at Bethany, funded by John C. Baker in honor of his mother. Described as a “Church of the Brethren woman ahead of her time,” Jennie 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.

With thirty entries this year, the contest continues to draw aspiring writers from all educational levels, including six high schoolers in 2016. With the additional fourteen undergraduate and ten graduate student writers, fifteen states and twenty-two schools were represented. Yale University and Princeton Theological Seminary appeared alongside institutions affiliated with the Historic Peace Churches. The highest represented state was Indiana.