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Last updated January 11.

Jan. 17, 2011 issue

Mary to be in the spotlight at AMBS

By Mary E. Klassen Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Elkhart, Ind. — Mary, the mother of Jesus, shows up on Christmas Eve and Good Friday and never says anything.

“And yet she sings the most powerful, prophetic words in the New Testament,” said Marlene Kropf, a professor at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

This lack of awareness and understanding of the biblical Mary prompts a conference at AMBS March 24-26.

Kropf and other members of the planning committee for “My Spirit Rejoices in God, My Savior: Mary in Anabaptist Dress” recently reflected on their growing appreciation for Mary and hope for new understandings.

“Having a female model of discipleship has been valuable to me, and gaining a deeper understanding of the biblical story of Mary and of how other traditions see her has been enriching,” said Rosanna McFadden, an AMBS student and Church of the Brethren pastor.

Mary Schertz, AMBS professor of New Testament and director of the Institute of Mennonite Studies, observed that Mary captures imaginations in many different cultures and faith traditions. Because she crosses so many boundaries, “Mary might just help us to be more missional,” Schertz said.

Kropf, who teaches spiritual formation and worship, added, “Mary gives us a biblical source for peace theology. When we look at Mary we find potential for a new way of looking at our own call to peacemaking.”

The conference, coordinated by the Institute of Mennonite Studies, will bring together pastors, scholars, church members, artists and church leaders who are Mennonite as well as representing other Christian traditions. The goal is to have conversations about Mary on many different levels: biblical, theological, pastoral and practical.

The conference will explore “how we embrace Mary and how she fits into our theology,” said Kay Bontrager-Singer, pastor at Faith Mennonite Church in Goshen. “We hope to create an Anabaptist perspective on Mary.”

Plenary speakers for the event include Wendy Wright, professor of theology at the University of Creighton, Omaha, Neb.; Elizabeth Soto Albrecht, coordinator for field education at Lancaster Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the Colombian Mennonite Church; and John Rempel, AMBS professor of theology and Anabaptist studies.

A combined hymn sing and choir concert with the Goshen College Women’s World Music Choir will be led by Paul Dueck and Deb Brubaker. Breakout sessions will provide opportunities to discuss scholarly papers, meditate, join in gallery talks and share with other participants.

“My hope is that people will go away from the conference with ideas for a Sunday school series, preaching series or a study group,” Kropf said.

Information and registration materials are available on the AMBS Web site. Discounted registration is available until March 1.

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