Bethany Theological Seminary employees have a long history of service in the communities we live — just like our alumni and friends! Here are a few examples of the ways Bethany faculty and staff live out a commitment to service.
Administrative Assistant for Institutional Advancement and Finance
Organization: Morrisson-Reeves Library
Length of service: One and a half years, helps with book sales and events.
Why this organization: “I have a passion for reading books, and I love to support the library to keep it around. The day it all goes digital will be a sad day.”
Executive Director of Student Services
Organization: Richmond Civic Theatre
Length of service: Four years.
What sorts of work do you do? I currently sit as a voting board member as the Stage One Liaison. Stage One is the children’s theatre program, and I also act as committee chair for that group. I also sit on the personnel committee which handles policy and conflict resolution.
Why this organization? When my son was seven years old, he asked to audition for the upcoming Christmas production. We knew nothing about theatre! That was the beginning of Cohen’s theatre journey and after a production of Robin Hood, he stood at the back of the theatre and said, “This feels like home, I am a theatre kid.” It was at that moment that I knew that I wanted to get more involved with RCT to make sure this community gem stays around after my family is long gone from here. We love RCT!
Professor Emeritus of Theology and Culture
Organization: The McKeesport Community Gardens of Greater Pittsburgh.
Length of service: 10 years
What sorts of work do you do? Gardening tasks and community building activities
Why this organization? The biblical story of redemption begins in a garden (Eden) and ends in a city (the New Jerusalem); thus, an Urban Garden is an ideal location for the artful work of reconciling our relationships with creation, the Creator, our neighbors, and ourselves. Working together teaches implicit and explicit lessons about the intersectional web of life that sustains all relational flourishing. When we first started the community gardens, the ethical gardeners among us insisted that we would only grow edible food, no flowers or ornamental plants. After all, the McKeesport neighborhood was viewed as “an underserved and economically challenged community” after the steel mills shut down. Gardening, it was firmly stated, must address sustainability and food insecurity. Some of us dissented suggesting that gardening, like life, invites both ethics and aesthetics. Therefore, I introduced the cultivation of ornamentals alongside of edibles. My Elephant Ears (from a pre-Civil War mother plant), Royal Purple Smoke Bushes, and rare Black Coleus have become favorites for those who recognize that activism and advocacy are not the only paths to a Just Peace. In fact, just this week I had a productive conversation with a neighbor to the gardens who would not share either my religion or politics. Our mutual admiration for Smoke Bushes, and his curiosity about how they might be cultivated, led to a much more far raging conversation about local politics, marked by the same spirit of exploration around how a polis might be better organized for human flourishing. Several visitors to the gardens have asked about the Smoke Bushes in the midst of tomatoes, peppers and kale, “What are they for?” I answer, “To make you happy!”
Dr. Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm
Brightbill Professor of Preaching and Worship
Activity: No-cost monthly spiritual direction session to local pastors in the Richmond area and beyond
Why this service: I completed training with Oasis Ministries in 2020 (“Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides” two-year program). This service has afforded opportunities to not only support the ministries of pastors during COVID as congregations struggle to understand their ministry in a quickly changing society but has also kept me in touch with the issues and needs of pastors committed to various forms of congregational ministry and community outreach.
Director of Annual and Leadership Giving
What organization(s): Quaker Yearly Meeting Young Friends group, Court Appointed Special Advocate, Board Member for Women’s Fund of the Wayne County Foundation, Richmond Education Association Racial Equity Coalition, and HELP the Animals Shelter (fostering dogs with special needs).
How long have you been engaged in this work? Almost everything for at least two+ years, Women’s Fund and CASA a little less because I didn’t know about them until recently
What sorts of things do you do in these volunteer roles? Some of the many roles I fill are grant reviewer/recommender, child first advocate, DEI advocate, youth support, janitor, graphic designer, and tons of other things. Basically, if there’s a need, I’ll make sure it gets done.
Why these organizations? I give my time to all of these organizations because they fulfill a vital role in the places they exist. Almost always, they serve populations that otherwise might not have the support, advocacy, encouragement, celebration, and recognition they deserve. My faith is inextricably linked to my works, and the greatest expression of faith I’ve experienced is the humbling joy of serving others in my community.
Denise Kettering-LaneAssociate Professor of Brethren Studies
Name of organization(s): Girl Scouts, Assistant Troop Leader for Troop #3060; Academic Volunteer, Centerville City Schools, Centerville, Ohio
How long have you been engaged in this work? Girl Scouts for 3 years; Academic Volunteer for 2 years
What sorts of things do you do in this volunteer role? Girl Scouts — Provide support for Troop leaders, help the girls complete tasks, etc. Academic Volunteer — Last year I was a lunch monitor for first graders on a monthly basis; Last year and this year, I participated in a program called Masterworks where I go into elementary school classrooms on a monthly basis to teach kids about a famous artist and do a project related to the artist.
Why these organizations? It is a way to support activities that my kids are involved in at the moment. I love working with the kids in school because they are always excited when I come to do whatever project we are doing, and I always learn something too!
Financial Aid and Student Services Assistant
Name of organization: Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, specifically Helping Young Professional Engage (HYPE) and Awards, Celebrations and Events Committee (ACE)
How long have you been engaged in this work? 3 years
What sort of work do you do? HYPE has us volunteer with many organizations in Wayne County. I have helped at a local food pantry, Flower Farm Fridays at The Barn at Helm, Mathapalooza and more. The ACE’s committee allows me to help set up and plan many local community events such as the annual dinner, Flavor of Wayne County, the chamber golf outing, and the community improvement awards. We also attend ribbon cuttings for local businesses and Chamber pop-ins to show local businesses appreciation.
Why this organization? The chamber is a great place to volunteer! It has allowed me to learn so much about our community and to meet so many people! Wayne County is a great place to live, and I am happy to help serve the community through ACE and HYPE.