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Alumni: The Fruits of Our Labor

Since Lawrence Barker, Paul Van Ness, and Anne (Webster) Weaver made history as the first graduating class of Earlham School of Religion, as of 2005 the school has graduated 461 students from its degree programs. Over 500 additional students have studied here for a period of time without earning a degree. Together, these figures demonstrate that over 1000 persons have benefited directly from the educational ministries offered at ESR as they prepared, in the words of George Fox, to "walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone" (George Fox, Journal or Historical Account of the Life, Travels, Sufferings, of George Fox, p. 289).

Persons who leave ESR scatter to all parts of the world, from Belize to Kenya to Japan, from Maine to California, and many points between. They engage in ministry that is as varied as the gifts that have been shared, discovered, and nurtured during the ESR experience. The following table provides a representative sample of the types of ministries through which ESR graduates are bearing fruit in the world.

 

 

 

Yearly Meeting General Secretaries Assistant Yearly Meeting Superintendent
Friends United Meeting senior staff Pastoral ministers
Habitat for Humanity Faculty at institutions of higher education
Teachers and administrators at Quaker secondary schools Administrator at a not-for-profit dedicated to congregational life and health
Hospice caregivers Spiritual directors
Friends Centers on college campuses Conflict mediation centers
Chaplains Friends World Committee for Consultation
Quaker missionary Acclaimed authors
Pastoral caregivers Retreat leaders
Artist Musician

As the table indicates, some graduates practice ministry within the usual structures of meetings and churches. Several meetings located in Friends United Meeting affiliated Yearly Meetings, a few churches belonging to Evangelical Friends International, and numerous churches in other denominations have enjoyed long-term, fruitful pastorates with ESR alumni/ae. Other graduates pursue further studies in preparation for ministries of teaching, as Earlham College, George Fox University, and indeed the ESR faculty demonstrate. College campus focal points for Quaker identity and leadership cultivation, such as the Friends Center at Guilford College, benefit from the vision and commitment of graduates from the School of Religion. Friends schools such as of Olney and Westtown, to name only two, have received superb teaching and administrative ministry from ESR graduates.

Of course, given Friends' penchant for charting the nontraditional journey, it is of no surprise that some ESR graduates discover their most profound ministry occurs through channels often not acknowledged as ministry. Thus, an ESR graduate who expressed particular appreciation for theological reflection at ESR found her book perched atop the New York Times best seller list. Another discovered that her ministry of harp music brings comfort to the sick and dying. Yet another took his conclusions about conflict resolution to Australia, where he attempted to help address issues causing civil strife.

Despite the diverse forms of ministry ESR graduates embrace, they share important common ground—their experience within the ESR educational community. They entered Earlham School of Religion seeking to discover or nurture their calls to ministry; they left having received more than education. They were theologically shaped and formed by the work of God's Spirit as experienced in the midst of an educational process anchored in a Quaker understanding of Gospel Ministry. They found passionate ways to articulate their own faith journey, and they learned to listen intently to the questions, convictions, and struggles of others. In the midst of that process they learned much about themselves, and even more about authentic ministry that arises from a life lived in the Spirit rather than from following a set of neatly organized platitudes. They learned much about God, but they discovered how much more remains to be discovered. They learned the simplicity of faith, the strength of love and the power of hope while also encountering the complexity of living faith with integrity in the face of a world gripped by the love of power and the power of fear.

Whether equipped with a Master of Divinity or a Master of Arts degree, whether earned in residence or at a distance, Earlham School of Religion graduates go forth into ministry with a bridled optimism—optimism because they have experienced the power of the God who has called them, the Gospel that compels them and Common Good that encourages them; bridled because they understand the reality of being messengers of hope and healing in a broken world.