During the 2019-20 academic year, Bethany Theological Seminary is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary as part of the Richmond, Indiana, community. To mark the occasion, the Seminary is hosting an open house for the public from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 27. Bethany is located at 615 National Road West.
A ribbon cutting by the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce will be conducted at 4:00 p.m. in recognition of recent renovations to the Bethany Center. President Jeff Carter of Bethany, Mayor Dave Snow, and President Anne Houtman of Earlham College will offer remarks. The Seminary’s public spaces have been redesigned with expanded kitchen, seating, and storage space and new furniture. Technological improvements have been made to Nicarry Chapel and classrooms, two of which are equipped to connect participants both on- and off-site via synchronous video. The open house will also feature informational displays and educational materials.
“Bethany’s move to Richmond has enabled the Seminary to maintain long-held commitments to academic rigor and service to the church and world in new ways,” says Carter. “In seeking a sustainable way forward, Bethany has made Richmond home as we have welcomed students from near and far, continued to develop innovative teaching and high-impact learning, and created partnerships both sacred and secular. Thanks to the vision of our forerunners and the gifts of our faculty, administration, staff, and students, Bethany is flourishing.”
Over the years, many Bethany students have carried out field placements in Richmond-area churches and organizations. Students in the new Pillars and Pathways Residency Scholarship are volunteering in local nonprofits. Bethany has been a sponsor of various Richmond events, including the Richmond Symphony Orchestra’s Kids of Note program. The Seminary currently collaborates with the RSO to present The Recital Series, performances by RSO members and guests in Bethany’s Nicarry Chapel. Bethany also makes meeting space available to outside groups.
Bethany relocated to Richmond from Oak Brook, Illinois, in 1994 as it sought long-term viability. A large campus with deferred maintenance had become too costly, and Bethany was exploring partnership with another seminary. This became a reality with Earlham School of Religion, and the new Bethany Center was built next to ESR on the Earlham College campus. Bethany and ESR are both of the Historic Peace Church tradition, Church of the Brethren and Society of Friends (Quakers), respectively. Founded in 1905, Bethany was first located in Chicago for nearly sixty years.
Today, the two seminaries have open cross registration, allowing all students to enroll in almost any course at either school, and the faculties meet together regularly. This fall, the schools launched the new Master of Arts: Theopoetics and Writing, developed cooperatively and offered independently by each school. The seminary communities have also long benefited from shared community life and events.
“Our experience of thriving partnership stands out as a shining example of what seminaries can accomplish when they work together,” says Matt Hisrich, dean of ESR. “In 2019, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bethany’s move to Earlham’s campus, we rededicate ourselves to our shared calling—helping prepare students for creative ministries that truly impact the world.”