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September 1, 2008

The new school year was scheduled to begin on Monday, August 25, with an opening “orientation” and chapel speech by the rector. This is normal for the day before regular classes. The students receive assignments and reading lists, purchase the required books at the seminary bookstore, and receive their “practice preaching” text assignments. The rector makes important announcements, reminds the students what to expect, and opens with a devotional exposition of Scripture and prayer. The new students feel their way around. The older students take a deep breath. Ten students will grace our halls in the year 2008-2009. As I write (August 6), we’re already gearing up to begin. Summers are short.

During the first semester our only fourth-year student—Cory Griess, from Loveland, CO—is serving in an internship under Rev. Steven Key in Hull, Iowa. Mr. Griess and his wife (expecting twins in December!) will work there until January, when he returns for his last semester. Our third-year students include one from the PRC—Mr. Dan Holstege, member of Southeast PRC, Grand Rapids, MI; one from the Covenant PRC in Northern Ireland—Mr. Martyn McGeown (attending Hudsonville, MI, PRC); and one from the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia—Dr. David Torlach (attending Byron Center, MI, PRC). Mr. Holstege and Mr. McGeown have been licensed to preach in the churches and have been busy this summer filling pulpits, not only in Michigan but in Northern Ireland and across our country. The second-year students are Mr. Nathan Decker (Faith PRC, Jenison, MI); Mr. Brian Huizinga (Grandville PRC, Grandville, MI); Mr. Vernon Ibe (Berean PRC, Manila, the Philippines); and Mr. Jonathan Mahtani (Georgetown PRC, Hudsonville, MI).

The two new students are Mr. Stephen Griess, from Loveland, CO PRC, and recently married to Jaimy (nee VanDonselaar); and Mr. David Mahtani, from Bethel PRC, NW Chicago, and married last year to Madri (nee VanderWalt). Both of these men graduated from Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

All but one of the students are enrolled in a full, four-year curriculum. The rigorous schedule includes courses in Theology, Exegesis, Old Testament, New Testament, History, Languages, and all the courses that give instruction in making sermons, teaching catechism, church government, and much more. Each student takes at least 16-18 credit hours per semester.

The students in years 2-4 are required to make two sermons each semester to be preached on a Monday morning before the student body and faculty. They submit their written sermon on the previous Friday, so that students and faculty alike can examine them carefully for discussion and critique on Monday. Delivery, organization, and content are discussed. The first-year students make one or two sermons, and deliver them just to the homiletics professor and their fellow students. This is a difficult but very important part of a student’s training.

Classes take place on Tuesdays through Fridays. Each day, mid-morning, one of the students leads the seminary in devotions, and all break for 15 minutes of coffee and fellowship. Each Wednesday, one of the faculty or area ministers speaks in a special chapel exercise. Afternoons are devoted to study; most of the students retire to their carrels in our library.

But the seminary training includes much more. This year, classes will be cancelled for a day so that all can attend a special conference on Herman Bavinck at Calvin Seminary. Last year between semesters all the students traveled to Escondido, CA, to attend a conference on missions at Westminster Seminary. The seminary also invites guest lecturers to speak, and has usually opened up these lectures to any interested visitors.

Other activities of the seminary, official and unofficial, include: Student Club meetings once per month at the professors’ homes; a picnic at the beginning and end of each school year; and fellowship among the wives with the professors’ wives to have discussion on the special calling of the minister’s wife.

The life of the seminary is busy and very interesting.

The faculty—Profs. Ronald Cammenga, Russell Dykstra, and Barrett Gritters—ask for your prayers. Pray that we may be faithful in our work so that God blesses it with able and faithful ministers. Pray for the students, that they may take up their very heavy load with zeal and joy. Pray for their wives or wives-to-be, that they may be fit helpers and qualified for the unique and demanding calling of a pastor’s wife. The rewards God promises the faithful are rich.

Last Sunday evening before the council and I left the consistory room in the church where I was to preach, I said to them what now we say you: “Pray that sons in your congregation may aspire to the high and glorious calling of the gospel ministry. Send us your sons!”

What I did not say, but could have, was, “Come visit us some time.” Sometimes teachers bring whole classes for a morning. Other times individuals sit in on classes. Those in the area are welcome! Call ahead if you come with more than a few.

Prof. B. Gritters, Rector