NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College was only 10 years old when, in 1897, a group of faculty and staff started the Mennonite congregation that bears the college’s name. As Bethel prepares to inaugurate its 13th president, Barry C. Bartel, that special connection between church and college is a central theme.
This year’s annual Fall Festival celebration at Bethel College will culminate in the inauguration events on Sunday, Oct. 8.
“The start of the school year is an exciting time of transition and newness,” Bartel said. “The campus comes alive. There is a certain rhythm, punctuated when campus, church and community come together at Fall Festival.”
Bartel, a 1984 Bethel graduate, became president-elect as of June 1. He and his family – Brenda (Isaak) Bartel is also a 1984 graduate – moved to Goerz House on the college campus Aug. 1.
The inauguration will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday with a worship service in Memorial Hall led by Heidi Regier Kreider, senior pastor of Bethel College Mennonite Church, and Amy Barker, campus pastor.
The Bethel College Mennonite Church Choir and the Bethel College Concert Choir will combine to sing several anthems conducted by BCMC Choir director Marles Preheim, Bethel professor emeritus of music. Eleanor Kaufman will be the organist. The BCMC Chancel Bells will play an offertory.
The service will include “An Affirmation for Congregation and College,” written by professor of Bible and religion Patricia Shelly and based on Scriptures from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Psalms, Isaiah and Hebrews to reflect the worship theme “On eagles’ wings.” Angela Opimi, country representative for Mennonite Central Committee in Nicaragua, will read the New Testament Scripture, Romans 12:1-8.
Bartel noted that “at Bethel, both the college and the church have always looked beyond themselves and inspired service to the community and the world.”
Students will participate in the worship service through the Concert Choir, a brass quartet, a readers’ theater leading the “Affirmation,” and in offering one of the morning reflections, which will be done by Peter Goerzen, senior from rural Newton. Other reflections will come from Linda Shelly, Latin America director for Mennonite Mission Network, and Duane Friesen, professor emeritus of Bible and religion.
Inauguration ceremonies begin at 2:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall.
Musicians will include organist Roseann Penner Kaufman, adjunct instructor of organ, the Bethel College Concert Choir, Men’s Ensemble and Women’s Chorus under the direction of professor of music William Eash, and a brass ensemble conducted by assistant professor of music Richard Tirk. The brass group will perform the world premiere of “Bethel College Processional” by Jeff Kurtenacker.
As is standard for college presidential inaugurations, there will be a number of representatives from organizations and groups connected to Bethel bringing their greetings. For the first time in Bethel College’s history, an officer from a Mennonite institution of higher education outside North America will be among those: Willi Hugo Pérez, president of the Seminario Anabautista Latinoamericano (SEMILLA) in Guatemala City.
Ronald J.R. Mathies of Waterloo, Ont., executive director emeritus of Mennonite Central Committee, will give the commissioning address, entitled “Breaking barriers, building bridges,” with a response from Bartel after his investiture by Greg Gaeddert, chair of the Bethel College board of directors.
Barry Bartel graduated summa cum laude from Bethel College in 1984 with majors in mathematics (computer science emphasis), peace studies and Bible and religion. Following graduation, Barry and Brenda Bartel served for three years as rural community development project coordinators for Mennonite Central Committee in Haiti. Later, they accepted a five-year leadership assignment with MCC in Bolivia.
In the meantime, Bartel earned a law degree from Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore. The Bartel family came to Bethel from Lakewood, Colo., where Bartel was an associate attorney with Holland & Hart LLP in Denver. He also served as moderator of the Mountain States Mennonite Conference and chair of Glennon Heights Mennonite Church in Lakewood. He was on the boards of Mennonite Urban Ministries in Denver, the Colorado chapter of Mennonite Economic Development Associates and the Denver Conflict Center. Bartel is the author of Let’s Talk: Communications Skills and Conflict Transformation, recently released in a Spanish translation by Ediciones SEMILLA of Guatemala City.
The public is invited to the inauguration worship service and the inaugural ceremonies, as well as to the reception following on the Green (Schultz Student Center if rain).
As the 13th president in Bethel College’s 119-year history, Barry Bartel joins a company that includes John K. Sheriff, interim president 2005-06; E. LaVerne Epp, 2002-05; Douglas A. Penner, 1995-2002; John E. Zehr, 1991-95; Harold J. Schultz, 1971-91; Orville L. Voth, 1967-71; Vernon H. Neufeld, 1960-66; and D.C. Wedel, 1952-59.
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.