Top graduates pursue cutting edge ministries

05-26-2010 by

Geoff Ashmun
Justice in Latin America, healing through preaching, Emergent Church-Black Church connection among areas of creativity and concern for Class of 2010

At its May commencement ceremonies, several McCormick masters- and doctoral-level graduates were recognized for their academic achievements and contributions to contemporary issues facing the broader Church.

Linda Eastwood received the Bernadine Orne Smith Fellowship for highest academic achievement in the Masters Program. A native of England now living in Chicago, Linda entered seminary with not only a Ph.D. in Physics and a Masters in Business Administration but also with a strong desire to dedicate herself more fully to the work of the Church. She spent her final fall semester at McCormick researching the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Colombia Accompaniment Program, attending a mission worker’s conference and interviewing founding members and designers of the program before going to Colombia in the spring.

Having spoken to Sarah MacDonald (M.Div., Class of 2005), a veteran peacemaker who had just returned from accompaniment work in Colombia, Linda became increasingly interested in the ethics of land ownership and land use.

“Sarah had told me about a group whose claim to a piece of land was being thrown out in favor of a large company that exports palm oil products. It got me thinking about large agribusiness for export versus local, community-based farming and the sort of damage the former can bring to the land and to a local economy.”

The John Randall Hunt Prize, recognizing excellence in a Doctor of Ministry thesis project, was presented to the Rev. Dr. M.J. Romano, a graduate of the ACTS Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program, and the Rev. Dr. Alise Barrymore, who earned her D.Min. through the Ecumenical Doctor of Ministry Program, which is administered jointly by McCormick, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Catholic Theological Union.

Romano’s thesis, “The Long Journey Home: Preaching to Rebuild Trust in the Aftermath of Clergy Betrayal,” begins with the recognition that there are very few resources that specifically address the role of preaching in the wake of clergy misconduct. Romano offers practical insight into how a preacher may take up Nancy Myer Hopkins’s five components of healing after betrayal – truth telling, sharing and the validation of feelings, education, spiritual reflection, and answering the question, “Where do we go from here?”

“If we address clergy misconduct in our preaching and do it with tact and discernment, I believe congregations are able to heal sooner and more fully,” M.J. said.

Alise Barrymore co-founded Emmaus Community in Chicago Heights, Illinois, five years ago for “people who love God but don’t do church.” In her thesis, Authenticity and Relevance in a Postmodern Context: A Conversation Between the Black Church and the Emerging Church, Alise examined from within her own ministry context the viability of adopting an Emergent identity. While the Emergent Church movement’s inclusive, community-based model of ministry resonated with Emmaus Community’s values, Alise observed significant differences with respect to the level of consciousness about race and ethnicity, understandings of Hell, and the role of Scripture.

“We’d be hard-pressed to define ourselves as Emergent, but something is emerging in the African American context,” she said. “We hope it is relevant for the Black Church so it can be relevant for the 21st century and for the Emergent Church so that it can broaden its conversation to include other traditions.”

Full list of award, prize, and fellowship recipients as well as D.Min. thesis projects.