Seminary Students Celebrate Graduation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Classes are ending for some college students, while others are already celebrating graduation. Eastern Mennonite Seminary students celebrated finishing masters degrees and ministry studies on Saturday.

One student said his seminary experience has given him a chance to see a difference of perspectives on social issues. Speaker Elizabeth Soto Albrecht asked students to focus on community. As a church, Soto Albrecht said that means making the church a safe place for everyone.

"It's a mandate, conectate. If you want to see those changes, you have to be that change," said Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, Moderator of Mennonite Church U.S.A.

Conectate is the Spanish word for "be connected." For Jonathan Swartz, who now has his Master of Divinity, that means working with students at EMU on restorative justice.

"Something happens in a community, when harm is done, when there's wrong doing or crime, something needs to happen," said Swartz.

Swartz said his time at EMU showed him how people are different.

"Diversity of perspectives here. And you will come here, and you will learn," said Swartz.

Even with differences, Soto Albrecht asked graduates to make sure as new leaders that their churches are inclusive.

"Because in this holy box that we call church, not everybody fits neatly," said Soto Albrecht.

"I'm talking about preventing. Sometimes it hasn't been safe even for us as women. It hasn't been safe for our brothers and sisters LGBTQ and that hurts me profoundly," said Soto Albrecht.

As students accepted their degrees and certificates, they celebrated their time at EMU.

"It's a great place, I've loved my time here, I'm sad to leave," said Swartz.

When the new group of leaders enters the workforce, it's the diversity and change that current leaders say will make the community.

Other students at Eastern Mennonite University will get their degrees at the 96th annual commencement on Sunday.