Goshen College president opens school year by asking peacemakers to help heal the world

Goshen College President James E. Brenneman speaking Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the first all-campus convocation of the 2009-2010 academic year, offered hope and inspiration during his speech titled “Healing the World: Peace by Peace.”
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GOSHEN, Ind. – Goshen College President James E. Brenneman opened the new school year by inviting members of the campus community to become peacemakers as they pursue their professions, passions and callings.

“Making peace is as possible as our imagination is strong. And I invite us, all of us, peace by peace, little by little, every person, every minute to make a difference,” Brenneman said.

“The world needs more people like you – more students, more peacemakers, future researchers, teachers, entrepreneurs, diplomats, artists, professional sports folks, pastors, mothers, fathers and even college presidents. The world needs you – anyone whose work is an expression of his or her faith in the One God, whose name is Peace.”

Brenneman, speaking Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the first all-campus convocation of the 2009-2010 academic year, offered hope and inspiration during his speech titled “Healing the World: Peace by Peace.” His 15-minute message, which contained a mixture of theology, practical examples and humor, was delivered to more than 800 people in the Church-Chapel.

Brenneman, a 1977 graduate of Goshen College who is starting his fourth year as president, opened by offering a rousing welcome and led the audience in cheering new and returning students as well as faculty and staff members. He expressed his joy and gratitude at having the campus community reassembled and augmented by a larger than usual first-year class.

The president’s main message focused on an explanation of the college’s claim and goal of being a community dedicated to “healing the world, peace by peace.”

“We have been heard to say sometimes that Goshen College is ‘more than a college; it’s an academic think tank, an international change agent, a community of the spirit and a whole new kind of peace movement.’ And that, it is. Among the hundreds, and even thousands, of colleges and universities all over the world, we are – to borrow a phrase – ‘the few, the proud and the brave’ who believe when Scripture, both older and new testaments, says that God, the Creator of the whole universe, is Peace.”

Brenneman explained that the Old Testament states that “God is peace” while the New Testament, states: “God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is Our Peace.”

“I hope that as you see this expression ‘healing the world, peace by peace,’ and you see it on pamphlets and on signposts … that you’ll see that it’s more than simply a clever slogan. Rather, it’s an awesome challenge, a double-dog dare, if you will, an invitation to a profound vocation – even a holy calling for each and every one of us.”

Brenneman said the concept of “healing the world” comes from ancient Jewish tradition, the Hebrew word being Tikkun Olam, which means, repairing the world or healing the world. “It’s an invitation for everyone, no matter how young or old, no matter what gender or creed, no matter what race or ethnic group … to be a part of God’s great plan for the universe to help heal the world’s wrongs, to mend what is broken, and repair any violation.”

He continued, “When I think of the most basic of all human longings, found in all religious traditions the world over, and especially in Christianity, I think about the longing to be at peace with God, at peace with each other and at peace with ourselves.

“Making peace in all its forms seems to me to be so fundamental to human flourishing that one would imagine that every college and university on the planet would claim such a message for itself. And yet, few do. I’m so pleased that Goshen College does.”

Brenneman said the scope of true peacemaking must be broad – what the biblical text calls shalom – and not be limited to conflict resolution, advocacy for nonviolence, stopping war and protesting.

“Making peace must be about human flourishing, about joy and beauty and celebration,” Brenneman said. “Making peace means inviting God’s help to do good, to celebrate our accomplishments, to compete well, to discover new medicines and to create musical masterpieces. Making peace is that warm embrace, that thrill of a kiss, a word of encouragement and a job well done.”

Brenneman also called on people to broaden their definitions and understandings of peacemakers.

“A businessperson making a profit, hiring people, is in itself an act of peace. He or she need not be seen as a second-class peacemaker over against a voluntary service worker in some far away country,” he said. “An engineer is no less called to making peace than a preacher. A basketball coach who works miracles of heart and motivation, discipline and teamwork may in fact, outpace a bookish theologian in creating a more peaceful world. The social policy expert in Washington is no less a potential peacemaker than the social worker in Elkhart, the politician no less than the mediator, the wonky green economist no less a peacemaker than the radical prophet among us.”

Brenneman went on to point out that he has observed countless examples of peacemaking at Goshen College, including random acts of kindness, joyous celebrations, kind greetings, tutoring of local students, efforts to reduce pollution, artistic works, research, service projects and the preaching of the Gospel.

“So, I ask you, can a small college in the Midwest heal the world, and have a good time doing it?” Brenneman concluded. “I believe we can. I know we can. I want us to jump on board and get ready for the journey of a lifetime. Let’s heal the world, little by little, peace by peace. Let there be faithful followers, soccer games, poetry jams, movie nights, bursts of song, canoe trips and let there be peace on earth.”

Before Brenneman’s remarks, Professor of Music Debra Brubaker led the audience in singing “Amazing Grace.” Audience members also enjoyed a slide and music presentation on the 2008-2009 academic year and sang the Alma Mater.

As they left the Church-Chapel, ushers handed each attendee a gift from President Brenneman – a colorful fabric patch with the college’s new logo that includes the words: “Healing the World, Peace by Peace, Goshen.”

Afterward, and in what has become a nine-year tradition, the Goshen College “Tunnel of Welcome” or “Applause Avenue” formed outside the church. Faculty, staff and students walked past their peers to sustained applause, and then joined and extended the lines for seniors, juniors, sophomores and first-year students to pass by. The applause of welcome continued until the Church-Chapel emptied and the line stretched more than 100 yards to the center of campus.

–Written by Richard R. Aguirre

Editors: For more information about this release, to arrange an interview or request a photo, contact Goshen College News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.

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Goshen College, established in 1894, is a residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S. News & World Report‘s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit www.goshen.edu.

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