Nazarene Theological Seminary hosted the annual Hugh C. Benner Preachers Conference September 29 and 30. This year’s conference, Local Flavor: Preaching in Context, featured seven preachers from a diverse set of local congregations across the U.S.
“Our preachers represent a wide range of settings, including a multi-campus church, a modern-day Mayberry, and a church in the heart of New York City,” said Jesse C. Middendorf, general superintendent emeritus and executive director of the NTS Center for Pastoral Leadership, which organizes the conference each year. “We invited them to preach a sermon as they would in their own local context and then reflect with our panelists and audience members on why that sermon was important for their congregation to hear. We were pleased to have more than 200 participants — from 24 states in the U.S. and one province in Canada — gathered in the J. B. Chapman Memorial Chapel here at NTS this week to hear Shawna Songer Gaines, Albert Hung, Javier and Annette Mondragon, Phil Stout, Althea Taylor, Daron Brown, and Brent Hofen. The preaching was powerful, the worship (led by Marvin Jones) was uplifting, and the fellowship was encouraging.”
Following the conclusion of the first day’s conference sessions, a group of nearly 200 NTS students, staff, alumni, faculty, faculty emeriti, and friends gathered at Kansas City First Church of the Nazarene to celebrate “70 Years of Preparing Kingdom Leaders.” During the evening, the seminary’s first president, Hugh C. Benner, was remembered with a special video tribute, as well as by his son and daughter, Richard Benner and Janet Miller. There were also special presentations made to families of those who have recently endowed scholarships in memory of a loved one, including the families of Larry Lott and Paul Orjala; as well as special recognition and thanks given to the family of Marge Smith, who donated a painting in honor of Delbert Gish, former NTS professor and registrar. Ron Benefiel, the eighth president of the seminary, helped to celebrate the importance of “place,” noting the significance of the seminary’s consistent presence in the heart of Kansas City.
Two members of the NTS first class were in attendance at the special dinner: James Holman and Reuben Welch, both of whom entered the seminary in 1945 and graduated in 1948. Steve Estep, president of the NTS Alumni Association, acknowledged all alumni in attendance, asking them to each stand decade by decade, beginning with the 40s and ending with members of the most recent graduating class.
General Superintendent Jerry D. Porter read a letter from the Board of General Superintendents congratulating NTS President Carla Sunberg and the seminary.
“Dr. Sunberg, you and the NTS faculty and staff are part of a rich heritage. You stand on the shoulders of great leaders who have gone before you. Alumni, you are the torchbearers faithfully proclaiming the message entrusted to you. Students, you have answered God’s sacred call and are preparing yourselves to encounter a hurting world with the radical message of amazing grace. This celebration is not merely about the history of an institution, but about God’s faithfulness to and through His servants who have gone before you, and an affirmation that you may rely on this same God to see you through no matter what may come.”
“This week has been a wonderful celebration of what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do at Nazarene Theological Seminary,” Sunberg said. “Many great things have happened over the course of the past 70 years and we look to the future with great anticipation as we sense that new winds are once again blowing in and among our community—great things are STILL happening at Nazarene Theological Seminary! Truly God has been faithful, and we give Him all the praise for what he continues to accomplish through our thousands of graduates around the world.”