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FALL 2012

The Commons How Well are We Doing? by Dr. Kyle Small

For the past few years, Megan Mullins (from the Frost Center for Social Research) and I have been studying the leadership competencies of recent WTS graduates in their first five years of pastoral ministry. The seminary invited this research as it sought to understand how well it was preparing its graduates for pastoral roles. Also, the seminary wanted to understand what leadership muscles newly-minted pastors were using immediately following their graduation. We discovered seven core leadership competencies (see chart on next page) as well as an “ecosystem” for leadership development that reaches across the seminary. During our research, which focused on understanding the relationships between theological education, local congregations and the vocation of pastor, we continually heard from faculty, administration and graduates that Dr. Kyle Small WTS is committed to “preparing Christians Associate Professor of called by God to lead the church in mission.” Christian Leadership This is a good sign—there is a strong and Interim Formation for Ministry Director alignment between what the seminary says it does and what it actually does. We also discovered that faculty, administrators and graduates share similar perspectives of the strengths and weaknesses of the WTS experience, which shows a healthy awareness of where to focus forward and where to engage in change. Drilling a little deeper, we discovered three primary aspects of theological education that inform, assist and challenge WTS graduates in their first years of ministry. First, leadership formation takes place across what we’ve labeled the WTS ecosystem (see illustration above) and is not learned in one specific course, one experience or through one person. For example, students don’t just take a course in worship leadership; they also participate in chapel daily and communion weekly. Worship leadership is modeled, practiced and reflected on. We found

that learning to lead happens in a variety of settings and places, in and out of the classroom, as well as in and out of teaching churches. One important discovery we made in this area is that there is a strong correlation between how well graduates felt prepared for each competency and how well they perceived WTS faculty and administrators modeled those same competencies. Secondly, we recognized some ambiguity in terms of “readiness to learn” and “responsibility for learning.” It’s not unusual for new pastors to encounter situations and think, “They never taught me this in seminary.” Upon further reflection they realize, “They tried to teach me this in seminary, but I wasn’t ready to learn it yet.” “Responsibility for (cont.)


FALL 2012

learning” means appreciating that theological education has limits, and that new pastors must keep learning upon placement in ministry. We’ve recommended that students and faculty engage in ongoing strategic conversations about these two educational questions: who is responsible for learning? and what are the limits of a theological education? Finally, across the seven competencies of leadership, graduates feel most confident in what we’ve labeled Resourced Leadership, Learning Leadership and Sacramental Leadership. They feel least equipped for what we named Organizational Leadership and Public Leadership. By our definition, Organizational Leadership deals with things like the day-today operations and administration of congregations as well as planning and strategic vision casting. Public Leadership deals with broader community-based leadership outside of the congregation. WTS faculty recognize the limits of teaching Organizational and Public Leadership in the seminary and are looking for ways to model this leadership and formalize these practices in the curriculum. WTS is committed to continuous improvement, and WTS graduates, friends and affiliated congregations should celebrate that your school is listening in order to more fully prepare its students to lead the church in mission.

Seven Core Competencies for Leadership Competency


Collaborative Leadership

encourage, empower, and mobilize laity committed to God’s work in the world.

Organizational Leadership:

develop congregational culture through day-to-day administration, strategic and resourced planning, vision casting, and implementing change.

Public Leadership:

interact with, speak to, and provide courageous leadership in the broader, non-congregational community.

Reconciling Leadership:

engage in long-standing tension to identify and resolve conflict.

Resourced Leadership:

integrate Scripture, church history and tradition, as well as local history with organizational theory and best practices.

Learning Leadership:

be persistent in ongoing and informal learning through reading, writing, and reflection.

Sacramental Leadership:

be personally and corporately united with Christ through worship, spiritual disciplines, and through the participation and leadership of the sacraments.

New Program Helps Seminarians Transition into Ministry Western Theological Seminary is reworking and expanding a program to help its graduates transition into ministry smoothly. The program, now called “Learning to Follow, Learning to Lead,” has been expanded from three post-grad gatherings (in years 1, 3, and 5 after graduation) to an annual gathering done in partnership with the Reformed Church in America the first five years after graduation. Ministry formation is seen as taking place over eight years— the first three in seminary and the next five in a pastor’s first ministry placement. “Any student entering the seminary will know we have an eight-year commitment to him or her,” says Keith Derrick, director of Journey Center for Learning at Western. “We teach leadership in seminary, but there are some things that can only be learned in a context of ministry.” 2

From the very first day in class, questions like: what does it mean to follow Christ? how do we follow I have attended two events, first when it was still called "1-3-5" and then last year for the first "T.I.M. Summit." Reconnecting with friends and peers from seminary is the most exciting piece of these gatherings. When I hear the stories of others, I am reminded that I am not alone in this unpredictable vocation of ministry. Even more than that, I am reminded that I have gifted and faithful colleagues who can be partners in learning, persevering, and rejoicing. These events are also helpful milestones, marking the time that has passed and inviting us to reflect on the experience lived so far—the lessons learned, the transformation that the Spirit has prompted, and even the disappointments that have been part of the journey. Megan Hodgin Minister of Discipleship and Mission Fellowship Reformed, Holland, MI

others? and what does it mean to lead, first as a student and later as a pastor? are asked as part of the leadership formation ecosystem of the seminary. Learning to Follow, Learning to Lead begins from one’s call to seminary and is woven through core classes and a formation for ministry process, continuing with learning opportunities for five years after graduation. In their first call to ministry, Rodger Price, RCA Coordinator of Leadership Development, connects new pastors with a coach and pastoral network. Pastors in their first through fifth year of ministry attend an annual Transition into Ministry Summit. The inaugural summit took place this past April, focusing on facilitated discussions for each graduating class, as well as opportunities for worship and reconnecting with faculty, staff, and classmates.


Retiring from Teaching, but Never from Learning In one of life’s strange twists, the student who arrived at WTS in 1965 with a very dim view of Christian Education became the very same person who was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Christian Educators Reformed Church in America in 2009. “I viewed Sunday school as a form of babysitting and wanted no part of it!” laughs Dr. George Brown, Jr. “Then along came Professor Hugh Koops, who made Christian education interDr. George Brown, Jr. “then and now” esting and even important.” 1988 & 2012 Providentially, George was assigned to an internship where the pastor was working on an advanced degree with a leading religious educator. George had lots of freedom to test out his newfound interest. By the time he entered his first pastorate in Pottersville, NJ, George Brown was seeing everything through educational lenses and approached ministry as a pastor-teacher. His passion for changing the stereotypical view of Sunday school led him to pursue a Ph.D. researching why adults avoid Christian education. “Unlike the movie, it is not true that if you build it, they will come,” he says. George identified several reasons for avoidance: painful childhood memories associated George Brown, Jr. with school, poor self-image as a G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor of Christian learner, no interest in the subject Education and Associate Dean or the teacher, and very little b. Philadelphia, PA 1942 peer pressure to participate. Married Willa Schaver in 1965; He found that the pastor is Three sons, Steven, Douglas, and Jeffrey, and five grandchildren key to a strong teaching ministry. “The pastor needs to be B.A. Central College, 1965 B.D. Western Theological Seminary, 1969 the congregation’s resident Th.M. Princeton Theological Seminary, 1971 theologian and teacher, modPh.D. Michigan State University, 1989 eling lifelong learning,” Dr. 1969-73 Pastor, Pottersville Reformed Church, Brown says. “When people Pottersville, NJ

At a Glance

see their pastor learning alongside them, they realize that teaching and learning are valued in their church.” Throughout over four decades of ministry, Dr. Brown has seen several critical shifts in Christian education. No longer is it thought of as mostly for children and youth— adults need quality learning opportunities too, and not just for personal enrichment, but to be equipped for ministry and mission. Most strikingly, George has seen staff and resources allocated away from Christian education and discipleship and into church growth and renewal, with one effect being poor biblical literacy, especially noted in students entering seminary. “In the past one could depend on students having Bible stories read at home and being taught in Sunday school,” Dr. Brown explains, “but that’s no longer the case. Some didn’t learn at home or at church, and others did not come to faith until college. What they know is not what they learned over a dozen years of faith nurture in a congregation.” The seminary has adjusted its foundational Bible courses to accommodate this new reality. George helped pioneer distance learning at WTS, teaching “Curriculum

1971-73 p/t Minister of Christian Education, Peapack Reformed Church, Gladstone, NJ 1973-88 Minister of Christian Education, Central Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, MI 1975-76 & 1983-88 Adjunct Professor of Christian Education, WTS 1988-2012 WTS, teaching Christian Education and serving in administration as Dean of Faculty and then as Associate Dean


Books: Herman J. Ridder: Contextual Preacher and President (editor), 2008 Religious Education, 1960-1993: An Annotated Bibliography (with D. Campbell Wyckoff) Honors: Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE) Educator of the Year Award, 2012 Christian Educators Reformed Church in America (CERCA) Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009 Teaching Sunday School at Central Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, in 2005


Teaching a Discipleship class to WTS students

Evaluation and Design” as Western’s first online course 14 years ago. Its success convinced him that one day Western would have to offer courses using the emerging computer technology. “I did not envision the scale that offering a degree via distance learning technology would entail,” he remarks. Currently half of Western’s students choose the distance learning method of delivery for their education. Whether in-residence or distance-learning, Dr. Brown aspires for his students to develop a hunger for learning to sustain them as Christians and to nurture their continued growth as disciples of Jesus Christ. In 2008 George Brown was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a chronic, progressive

Planning: The Right Stuff

George and Willa Brown

lung disease, which set him on a path of learning how to live each day as fully and with as much gratitude and grace as possible. “I’m convinced that teachers shouldn’t expect learners to do anything they haven’t done themselves,” George says, “So in the course, ‘Practice of Discipleship,’ I chose to research the Christian practice of ‘Dying Well’ (from Practicing Our Faith by Craig Dykstra and Dorothy Bass).” As he shares insights with his students, he is learning to “count my days rightly in order to gain a wise heart” (Psalm 90:12). Dr. George Brown, Jr. will be retiring from his positions as Associate Dean, Director of the Master of Divinity Program, and the G.W. and Eddie Haworth Professor of Christian Education in December of 2012. He and his wife, Willa, who has also shared in his vocation in education and discipleship, intend to continue to attend education conferences in retirement and never lose their hunger and love for learning.

Jeff Munroe Vice President of

Advancement and Have you heard this story about the late Neil Communications Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon? In 1969, before the launch of Apollo 11, Armstrong and his fellow astronauts were concerned about the financial security of their families if tragedy should befall them. They literally were going where no one had gone before. about someone having the foresight to plan wisely, I Would they survive the attempt? wonder about you and me and the planning we do. Because of the incredible risk, traditional life insurance would cost Sometimes, because of the work our Advancement $50,000 a year—a staggering amount today, let alone in 1969. They officers do, someone will say to us, “I don’t have a will, could not afford it. So Armstrong and his fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin but I’ve told my children my wishes and they will take and Michael Collins did something ingenious. They sat down together and care of things.” We recommend getting professional signed several hundred commemorative envelopes—what is known in the guidance at this point of life. Planning allows you to stamp-collecting world as “covers”—and had a friend take them to the post know where your assets are going and allows you to office to be postmarked on the day of their historic launch. The covers were give philanthropically in exponential ways. You can then distributed to their families as an insurance policy against the worstmake a difference and give wonderful transformational case scenario. They knew their families would be able to sell those covers gifts by having an estate plan. The old saying, “Do handsomely if tragedy happened. (Today they’re worth $30,000 each) your givin’ while you’re livin’ so you’re knowin’ where Isn’t their creative planning interesting? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; it’s goin’” even applies to the dispersal of your estate. after all, these men were our country’s best and brightest and had the “right Interested in knowing more? Let’s have a conversation. stuff” to become astronauts in the first place. But every time I hear a story Jeff can be reached at 800-392-8554, x111 or


WTS News

All-Seminary Picnic, August 30, 2012

News J. Todd Billings, Associate Professor of Reformed Theology, and I. John Hesselink, Albertus C. Van Raalte Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, announce the release of their co-edited book, Calvin’s Theology and Its Reception: Disputes, Developments, and New Possibilities (Westminster John Knox Press). The book gives a unique approach to interpreting and using Calvin’s theology, both for the academy and the church. On November 9, the seminary celebrated with a booksigning event and a public presentation including remarks by contributors Sue Rozeboom, Assistant Professor of Liturgical Theology, and Mark Husbands, The Leonard and Marjorie Maas Associate Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope College.

New Curriculum After a two year process of revision, a new curriculum for the Master of Divinity program was implemented this semester. The values that drive the “heartbeat” of the curriculum are that it is theological, Reformed, missional, sacramental, formational, and contextual. Most significantly, the members of the faculty are excited to offer more electives for students to pursue their deep interests.

Kyle Small, Assistant Professor of Christian Leadership, is serving as Interim Director of

was ordained in 1993 as co-pastor at Northside Chapel Community Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, NJ. Since 1994 he has been senior pastor at Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church, a multiracial ministry in Grand Rapids, MI. John Hesselink and Todd Billings Reggie received his Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Theological Formation for Ministry. (At the Seminary in 2004. end of June, Matthew Floding, Resident preachers serve as a Dean of Students and Director of mentor to students, present a workFormation for Ministry, left WTS to shop and lecture for the community, become the director of ministerial interact with students in preaching formation and field education at classes, and take time to research the Duke Divinity School in Duron a personally selected preaching ham, NC.) Kyle Small is leading theme. Reggie Smith is passionthe Formation for Ministry team ate about leadership, teaching, through the entire academic year, preaching, community relations and implementing the new formation community development. We look curriculum in both residential and forward to welcoming him as our distance learning modes. He will resident preacher. also begin to transition into the Associate Dean role when George Brown, Jr. retires at the end of Special prayer request this calendar year. At the end of September, J. Todd Billings, Associate Professor of Reformed Theology, was diagnosed We are with Multiple Myeloma. We ask for pleased to prayer that chemotherapy would be announce effective against the blood cancer that Dr. and for strength and peace for his Reginald wife Rachel and young children, Smith will Neti and Nathaniel. Those in the be our Henry WTS community who would like Bast Resident updates about his condition are Preacher for welcome to join his CarePage Spring semester, 2013. A native at: Search of Chicago, Reggie earned his “ToddBillings” (no spaces) to join his Master of Divinity degree from page. Calvin Theological Seminary. He

Teaching & Preaching... President Tim Brown Dec 2 Grand Rapids, MI Standale Reformed Dec 16 Hudsonville, MI Fairhaven Ministries Jan 13 Holland, MI Christ Memorial Church Feb 3 Illinois InterVarsity event Mar 17 Zeeland, MI Faith Reformed Mar 24 Des Moines, IA Meredith Drive Reformed

Dr. Carol Bechtel

Professor of Old Testament

Dec 2, 9, 16 (class) Grand Rapids, MI Thornapple Community Dec 23 (class) Holland, MI Hope Church

Dr. Kyle Small

Asst. Professor of Christian Leadership

bi-weekly Sawyer, MI Harbert Community Church

Rev. Jeff Munroe

Vice President of Advancement & Communications

Dec 30 Grand Rapids, MI Central Reformed Jan 13, 20 (class) Grand Haven, MI Second CRC Feb 17 Hopewell Junction, NY Hopewell Junct. Reformed Mar 8-10 Lake City, MI Third Reformed Church (Holland) retreat at TimberWolf Lodge

Rev. Steve VanderMolen

Associate Director of Advancement Specializing in Church Relations

Feb 17 & 24 Bradenton, FL Bradenton Chapel


FALL 2012

Welcome Steve VanderMolen

Julie VanDerVeen Van Til

Associate Director of Advancement Specializing in Church Relations

On September 4, Rev. Steve VanderMolen joined Western Theological Seminary to serve as the Associate Director of Advancement Specializing in Church Relations and as the Facilitator of Ridder Church Renewal for Canada, New York/ Albany and Wisconsin. Steve is a native of Kalamazoo, MI and a 1977 graduate of Western Theological Seminary. He has served several congregations: New Era Reformed in New Era, MI; Hager Park Reformed in Jenison, MI; First Reformed in Orange City, IA; and Christ Memorial Reformed in Holland, MI. He has provided leadership as a Trustee at Words of Hope, Western Theological Seminary and Northwestern College, in addition to serving as the President of the General Synod of the RCA in 2004-05. “My passion is pastoral ministry in the local church,” says Steve. “I am excited to work here because of my love for both the pastors who serve in the trenches and for the students preparing to lead the church in mission.” Steve and his wife, Corinne, are the parents of four daughters and a son and have four grandchildren.

Interim Dean of Students

Upcoming Events Rev. Julie VanDerVeen Van Til is serving as the interim Dean of Students, a one-year appointment allowing the seminary time to determine the future needs of Student Support services. In this role, Julie supports and encourages students and their families in their pastoral care needs. Julie is a 2001 graduate of WTS and served The Community, an RCA Ministry in Ada, MI with distinction. Prior to seminary, she was the youth pastor at First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL. She also has taught at Kuyper College in Grand Rapids as the Assistant Professor of Youth Ministry. Julie’s experience as a pastor and teacher, combined with her deep commitment to the seminary, makes her an effective dean working with students. “I am honored to join students’ journeys as they navigate their inner life, family, practical ministry, and transformational education,” Julie says. She resides in Lowell, MI with her husband, Andrew Van Til, and two children.

The new look Notice something different? We hope you like the new look of The Commons. Taking inspiration from the vibrant colors of the beautiful art glass in the renovated John R. Mulder Memorial Chapel, Western Theological Seminary has a new logo and new “corporate colors and standards.” Would you like to learn the story behind the windows and the transformation of the chapel? A booklet is available online at You may request a copy of the printed version by contacting Advancement at 616.392.8555, x109 or 6

January 14 - March 24, 2013 World Faiths Seeking Understanding Online Learning with Dr. Robert Van Voorst February 15-16 Discipleship and Mission: Practicing Witness Benjamin Conner, George Brown, Jr. and George Hunsberger March 5-8 Preachers, Poets, and Teachers with Walter Brueggemann in Cincinnati, OH Registration Limit 35 April 11-12 Living into Community with Christine Pohl April 16-18 Transition into Ministry summit for graduates from classes 2008-2012 May 1 Journey Group Celebration Stories from our Journey - public welcome May 9-10 Annual Youth Conference with Pete Ward May 28-31 Henri Nouwen: Legacy Retreat with Will Hernandez at Camp Geneva For questions or to register for any of these events, call Tara Macias at 616-392-8555, x133 or go to

Updates Ridder Church Renewal Two Introductory Events took place this fall. The Canadian event attracted 26 pastors and lay people from the RCA and the CRC; the Albany/ New York event gathered 78 pastors and lay people for two days of learning and introduction to Ridder Church Renewal. A third introduction is scheduled for February, 2013 in Wisconsin. All events include representatives from the RCA and CRC. The Synod of the Great Lakes is launching the process in April of 2013. When each of the three introductory areas launch Ridder Church Renewal, the program will be at capacity for the next two years. Welcome Tara Macias On August 1, Tara Macias became the new Administrative Assistant to Journey. Tara provides administrative and organizational support for Journey staff and learning events. She has been part of the WTS community for many years. Her husband, Jose, graduated in 2010. Tara and Jose reside in Holland with their three children.


Writing Outside the Sermon Read anything good lately? This Fall students were offered a new class, “Writing Outside the Sermon: Devotionals, Blogs, and Articles.” Adjunct Professor Adam Navis says, “Opportunities to write are more available than ever, but good writing is often hard to find.” Adam, a 2006 graduate of WTS and editor with Words of Hope, pushes students to develop their voice and venue, so that thoughtful, reasoned, and Reformed theology will not be

On to glory... Willis J. Vander Kooi '37 b. Sioux County, IA 4/26/1913 d. Broomfield, CO 6/28/2012 Central College '34; WTS '37 Reformed Churches served: (1937-45) Ontario, NY (1945-50) Chancellor, SD (1950-56) Zion, Amherst, SD (1956-62) Herman, MN (1962-66) Trinity, Allison, IA (1967-75) Fairview, IL Chester Postma '43 b. North Blendon, MI 6/30/1919 d. Holland, MI 9/2/2012 Hope College '40; WTS '43 Reformed Churches served: (1943-47) First, Decatur, MI (1947-52) First, Boyden, IA (1952-56) Emmanuel, Waupun, WI (1956-64) Third, Kalamazoo, MI (1964-69) Beechwood, Holland, MI (1969-76) First, Grandville, MI (1976-84) Fourth, Holland, MI Russell Lee Norden '52 b. Grand Rapids, MI 2/18/26 d. Holland, MI 10/22/12 Hope College '49; WTS '52 (1953-91) RCA missionary to Japan Carl J. Schroeder '56 b. Zeeland, MI 5/26/32 d. Holland, MI 9/3/12 Hope College '53; WTS '56 Reformed Churches served: (1973-82) Minister of Care, Central Reformed, Grand Rapids, MI (1999-2009) Minister to Seniors, Central Reformed, Grand Rapids, MI Other service to the church: (1957-68) Missionary, Taiwan (1969-73) Secy. for Evangelism, RCA (1982-92) Marriage & Family Therapist

drowned out by social media, marketing hype, sensational viral videos, or bad theology. “I want Western students to be characterized by excellent writing and a willingness to participate in the wider theological discourse.” To this end, the students are contributing a complete quarter of devotionals for Words of Hope daily devotional (Fall of 2013). They are also writing a lenten devotional exclusively for Western Theological Seminary that will be available in February.

Professor Navis listens to students discuss how church leaders can use blogs and social media in their ministry.

AlumLine Kermit G. Hogenboom '58 b. Fairview, IL 11/18/30 d. Gerry, NY 9/22/12 Hope College '53; WTS '58 Reformed churches served: (1958-65) Leeds, NY (1965-71) Montgomery, NY (1971-78) Riverford Hghts, Detroit, MI (1979-85) Sherman, NY (1985-95) Second Berne, Thompson's Lake, NY and Knox, NY Russell Sybesma '62 b. Holland, MI 11/26/28 d. Holland, MI 8/30/12 Moody Bible Inst; Hope '59; WTS '62 Reformed Churches served: (1962-66) Faith, Muskegon, MI (1966-82) Grace, Lansing, IL (1982-90) Hope, Kalamazoo, MI Adrian Van Wyk '63 b. Sheboygan, WI 8/14/30 d. Apple Valley, CA 4/17/12 Central College '60; WTS '63 Reformed Churches served: (1963-68) Ebenezer, Scotland, SD (1968-75) First, Mitchell, SD (1975-77) Zion, Artesia, CA Jan Willem (Bill) VandenBerg '65 b. The Hague, Netherlands 1/2/30 d. Vineland, Ontario, Can. 5/21/12 Northwestern '62; WTS '65 Reformed Churches served: (1965-69) Guelph, Ontario (1969-78) Whalley, Surrey, British Columbia (1978-84) First, Cambridge, Ontario (1984-04) First, St. Catherines, Ontario Edward Fikse '69 b. Hills, MN 5/29/30 d. Visalia, CA 7/1/12 California Baptist Coll '66; WTS '69 Reformed Churches served: (1969-72) First, Portage, MI (1972-75) Zion, Artesia, CA

(1975-82, 96-98) Community, Tulare, CA (1982-86) First, Maurice, IA (1986-90) Lincoln Ave. Com., Pomona, CA (1993-95) Church on the Hill, Norco, CA (1998-99) Cornerstone Community, Chowchilla, CA L. Kieran (Loren) McClanahan ’82 (DMin) b. West Warwick, RI 4/18/35 d. Nashville, TN 7/20/12 Catholic U of Am ’63, Loyola U (MRE) ’73, WTS (DMin) ‘82 (1963-73) St. Jude’s & St. Charles’ Catholic churches, Toledo OH (1973-onward) Episcopal churches in Hagerstown, MD, Canton, OH, Flint, MI, and Shelbyville, TN Also taught at Mary Manse College (Toledo) and U of MI-Flint. Jone Bosch ‘85 b. South Olive, MI 8/7/50 d. Grand Rapids, MI 9/10/12 WTS ’85, Fuller Sem (ThM) Worked for Evergreen Commons, a retirement center in Holland, MI John Huntley, Jr. ‘94 b. Detroit, MI 11/14/40 d. Hastings, MI 10/28/12 Mich State U, U of Mich (law), WTS ‘94 30 years practicing law Ordained as a Presbyterian minister Also served as a hospital chaplain Susan Bolt Gill ’01 (MRE) b. Lansing, MI 5/29/61 d. Grand Rapids, MI 6/6/12 Calvin ‘87, WMU ‘94, WTS (MRE) ‘01 (1998-2001) Youth pastor, Fruitport UCC, Fruitport, MI, St. Paul’s UCC, Grand Haven, MI and McGraft Mem. Cong. Church, Muskegon, MI (2002-07) Youth Pastor, Unity Reformed, Kentwood, MI (2008-2012) Dir. of Children’s Ministry, Immanuel Reformed, Grand Rapids, MI


Andrea Baare ’88 (Th.M.) completed the Beeson International Leadership program and earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at Asbury Theological Seminary in 2009 and lives in Bonn, Germany. Andrea has been working for several global companies as a business professional and theologian, helping Christians integrate their faith actively at work through an employee network. In July Vishal Varghese ’03 and her family moved to the United States from Bangalore, India. They have made Dallas, TX their home. Amy Avery Hampton ’05 is an Outpatient Therapist at the Center for Balanced Living in Columbus, OH, an organization specializing in the area of eating disorders. Jessica Kast-Keat ’11 is Associate Pastor at West End Collegiate Church in New York City. Noah and Kristen Livingston ‘11 are now the co-pastors of Abbe Reformed Church in Clymer, NY.



I am so deeply grateful for your generosity and care for the school that we love. Because I know you care, I feel free to confess that I write with a heavy heart. As you read in this issue, one of our youngest and most brilliant faculty members, Dr. J. Todd Billings, received the staggering news that he has been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. He is in desperate need of our prayers. Todd is an absolutely wonderful young man whose teaching and presence among us is so important. He is loved by students and faculty, and his brilliant writing has already begun to bless the church throughout the world. Also in this issue we feature our beloved Dr. George Brown, Jr. who is facing his own health issues and is

retiring in December. George lives daily with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a lung disease which is progressively sapping his strength. Please join us in praying for George and his wife, Willa. When the faculty gathered in a special session to learn of Todd’s diagnosis, he reminded us of the biblical truth in the opening Q & A of the Heidelberg Catechism: What is your only comfort in life and in death? That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. Do I hear a resounding Amen?

Fall 2012, Vol. 16, No. 1 Editor and Graphic Designer: Carla Plumert Capotosto Editorial Council: Dr. Timothy Brown, Dr. George Brown, Dr. Dawn Boelkins, Rev. Jeff Munroe. The Commons is published three times a year for alumni/ae and friends of Western Theological Seminary by the Office of Advancement and Communications, Jeff Munroe, vice president, 101 E. 13th Street, Holland, MI 49423. 616-392-8555; fax 616-392-7717. Reproduction in whole or in part by permission only.

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WTS Fall 2012 Commons  

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WTS Fall 2012 Commons