Fuller Seminary Begins New Year With Celebration of Unity Among Diversity

PASADENA, Calif. — Fuller Theological Seminary celebrated the beginning of its 58th academic year with a special chapel service marked by the year's theme — "Unity."

The Festival of Beginnings, a celebration service for the first week of the academic year, was held on Sept. 28, at First Congregational Church, a minute's walk from Fuller's main campus in Pasadena, Calif.

Around 500 Fuller students, faculty, and staff representing various ages, denominations, and countries attended the event.

Dr. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, addressed the diverse audience, calling on them to create "A Fuller Unity." Mouw emphasized the importance of unity amid generational gaps, tragic incidents in history, and racial tension.

"What we have in common in Jesus Christ is far more marvelous," said Mouw, referring to racial tensions that have existed between Japanese and Koreans.

Following the message, Mouw called on the Fuller body to demonstrate their unity by placing their thumbprints on one of five "unity banners" to signify how they will uniquely stamp the Fuller community with their gifts. Mouw then approached the table in the front of the altar, pressed his thumb in an inkpad, and place his imprint on the banner. A handful of professors and a several event staff followed his example.

At the end of the service, event staff with unity banner in hand led the processional to the seminary's campus where a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly remodeled student life building, the "Catalyst,” and a reception were scheduled to take place.

The Catalyst, remodeled through a student-led and student-funded project, was reopened to house All Seminary Council (student government) offices and to serve as a place for students to gather, study, or take a nap.

Standing at the building's entrance, Mouw said he hoped the Catalyst could be a place where students could "hang loose" together and "where many of our unnecessary differences could be dissolved."

Mouw later joined Howard Wilson, Vice President of Student Life; Ruth Vuong, Dean of Students; and Ann Huffman, a Fuller Board member who focuses on Student Affairs, in cutting the purple ribbon in front of the building's entrance.

Throughout the reception, students took turns placing their thumbprints in different colored inks onto the unity banners, a reflection of the seminary's diverse incoming class of 750 new students from over 60 denominations and 30 countries.

Bikat Tilahan, who plans to major in Psychology, told the Christian Post that the seminary's diversity is one of the reasons she chose to study at Fuller.

"I feel like it's a very enriching community," she said.

Tilahun, originally from Ethiopia, said she wanted to go back to her country and work with people experiencing trauma. Fuller was also her top choice because it offered a high quality educational program in clinical psychology from a Christian perspective, she added.

Fuller provides a wide range of master's and doctorate degrees from its three schools of Theology, Psychology, and Intercultural Studies. Among new incoming students, more than 200 have been admitted to the Master of Divinity program alone. The seminary will celebrate the 40th Anniversaries for two of its schools in the upcoming months – the School of Intercultural Studies on Nov. 7-11, 2005, and the School of Psychology on Feb. 15-18, 2006.