Essay Contest to Highlight Peacemakers

How and why are some individuals inspired and inspiring? The 2016 Bethany Peace Essay Contest—Inspired and Inspiring Peacemakers—asks student writers to share in a public voice about someone they consider to be an inspiring peacemaker. Sponsored by the peace studies program at the Seminary, the 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 $2000, $1000, and $500 will be awarded for the top three essays.

Student writerThis theme is intended to be inclusive and expansive in terms of possible topics. The World Council of Churches’ paper An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace has defined peace building and seeking cultures of peace under four broad categories: peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples. Essays are encouraged on individuals whose vision, voice, and work inspire peacemaking in any or all of these categories. Contestants may write on a familiar peacemaker like Martin Luther King or Wangari Maathai or cover lesser known figures such as Ted Studebaker, Leymah Gbowee, or Ella Baker. Submissions on peacemakers whose stories have not yet been told are also welcome.

“Words like inspired and inspiring have fallen out of fashion for many in an era of cynicism and the politics of realism. Yet we remain fascinated by the spiritual and social sources of inspiration,” says Scott Holland, Slabaugh Professor of Theology and Culture and the director of Bethany’s peace studies program. “The inspiration for this theme came in part from conversations I had with Gary Studebaker, a brother of slain Brethren peacemaker Ted Studebaker. Gary and his brother Doug are currently writing a book about Ted’s work and witness. It seemed appropriate this year to invite students to write on a peacemaker they find inspiring.”

The 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,” 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. 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.

Ecumenical partnership helps make the contest possible, with peace church representatives serving as judges along with Holland: 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. Bekah Houff, coordinator of outreach programs at Bethany, assists Holland in administering the contest.

Essays can be submitted between January 1 and January 25, 2016, and results will be announced by the end of February 2016. 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 Contact Bekah Houff at or 765-983-1809 for additional information.