Check Out a Map of Our Alumni in Grad School

Among its many other benefits, a Bethel History major is terrific preparation for anyone likely to continue their education in a graduate or professional program. Our graduates are well prepared for the rigorous reading, research, critical thinking, and writing required in advanced levels of education.

While a few of our alumni have continued further with their original field of study, most have gone beyond history and pursued master’s and doctoral degrees in everything from library science to social work, dentistry to nursing, education to public policy, archeology to business, seminary to law school. Some stay in Minnesota, but our graduates can be found studying around North America and the United Kingdom.

In fact, so many of our alumni are in grad school that it’s hard to keep up. So if you see anyone missing from this map — or if anything needs to be updated or corrected — please email Prof. Gehrz.

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Wednesday’s Webisode: Historians and the Church

After a week off, Past & Presence returns today with an episode dedicated to the relationship between historians and the church. That’s the subject of our faculty conversation, between Profs. Amy Poppinga and Chris Gehrz. Plus we interview Andene (Christopherson) O’Neil ’05, Pastor of Worship & Adult Ministries at Church of the Cross in Hopkins, Minnesota, and Prof. Gehrz hosts the episode from four sacred sites in western Europe: the great cathedrals of St Paul’s (London), Notre Dame (Chartres), and Notre Dame (Paris), and the concentration camp memorial at Dachau.

Wednesday’s Webisode: A Usable Past?

Episode five of Past & Presence is now available!

It’s a special episode on at least two counts:

  • It’s the first to be hosted somewhere beyond Bethel’s campus — at Bethel’s former campus across from the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul!
  • And it’s the first to feature two of our teaching assistants in place of faculty members for our weekly conversation. History major Jacob Manning ’15 and History/Social Studies Ed major Kelly Van Wyk ’15 join Prof. Gehrz to discuss what’s “usable” about history and how “the past is a foreign country.”

Plus look for an interview with alum/prof Amy Poppinga ’99, an ad for Diana Magnuson’s American Beginnings course (returning this fall), and information for students who might want to continue their studies in seminary.

From AC 2nd to… Leading Worship

It’s not uncommon for History majors to go on to seminary. But to go from studying the past to leading worship? Andene (Christopherson) O’Neil (’05) shares her journey from AC 2nd to her current role in a local Anglican church.

First off, did you come to Bethel knowing you wanted to study History? How did your choice of major come about?

I have always been curious about a million things — the sciences, business, education, philosophy, theology, the arts, and so on. Before college I’d anticipated becoming everything from a hospital administrator to a choir director to a lawyer. And to be honest, you could have talked me into a host of other unrelated career tracks as well. In Christianity in Western Culture (CWC) I saw how the discipline of history was not a series of memorization exercises but rather was the study of all things. I saw that a student of history studies the way in which God’s hand unfolds the complex, mysterious, and beautiful story of all time in terms of nature, the arts, the sciences, philosophy, social and cultural organization, etc. This, I realized, was for me. I changed from my Music Education major to History, and promptly became a CWC TA for the next two years. And with the flexibility of a History major, I took extra classes in Spanish, philosophy, secondary education, political science, music, and even business.

What courses or other experiences stand out most in your memories of Bethel’s History Department?

Due to its impact on my life, I loved many aspects of CWC. The primary source readings (everything from Plato to Augustine to Luther to MLK, Jr.) became stones that laid a foundation for my study of not just one isolated academic discipline, but of the depth and trajectory of God’s redemptive story in all of life. As a TA, I loved helping fellow students better understand the Fall of Rome or the Great Papal Schism. I think I may have even written a song to help students remember the transition from the Enlightenment to the Scientific Revolution to the Industrial Revolution. (Please, don’t ask me to sing it now). I loved seeing students’ eyes light up when they realized that history actually adds value to their understanding of the present. So if you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of CWC. And if you don’t believe me, I have a CWC T-Shirt and mug to prove it.

Additionally, I sincerely enjoyed the World War I class I took with Dr. Neil and Prof. Virginia Lettinga. We didn’t just study the Great War; we were immersed in it. We marched, we studied the trenches and the home-front, and my friend and I built a detailed 2D model of a U-boat. It left a lasting impact. In fact, I can still sing “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary,” a famous tune sung by the Allies, without googling the lyrics.

I’ll also never forget that crazy project I worked on under the direction of Dr. Kevin Cragg. As a part of the Honors Program I was required to do some extra projects in some of my classes. So naturally, in the class History and the Human Environment, I made a massive, color-coded, map-like chart demonstrating how the Black Death of the 14th century would kill a third of Bethel’s campus. Probably one of the more interesting and gruesome, if not entirely useful, projects I’ve ever worked on.

And lastly, I recall working on my senior thesis, which involved Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, the Peasant Wars, and the role of the printing press in all of the above. As I recall, this paper was not a particularly important addition to the field of Reformation history (i.e., not my best paper). It was significant, however, because this focus on the tumult of the Reformation (and the lure of its primary sources) helped set the stage for many years of further study to continue.

Tell us about your time in seminary: When did you decide to continue your education? How did you pick the program you entered? (Were you looking towards a career in ministry? Academics? Both?) How did you come to focus on Reformation history?

The end of my junior year I realized that I loved three spheres of life: teaching/learning, music/arts, and theology/ministry. When someone suggested to me that I should consider seminary, it was as though a light bulb went off: This is how I could continue to hone my interdisciplinary interests and see what God might make of it.  So I up and moved across the country after graduation, though I knew no one where I was going. I was simply turning the pages of my life and waiting to see what God might write next.

Logo of Gordon-Conwell SeminaryI chose Gordon-Conwell for two primary reasons. 1) It is a school with a very solid academic reputation. This school prepares you both for doctoral work and for vocational ministry. 2) It is located just north of Boston, MA. The rocky shores of the Atlantic, the colonial, cobblestone streets, the museums, pro sports teams, and the quaintness of the surrounding blue-collar fishing villages made for an amazing “home away from home.” [Ed. It’s also one of the alma maters of our own Prof. Ruben Rivera.]

Before I left Boston I had earned a Master of Divinity degree with a focus on the History of Worship Arts, a Master’s of Theology in Church History (a one-year academic capstone degree meant to help launch one into PhD work) focused on how the Reformation impacted the arts, and had spent five years as the Director of Worship at Gordon College nearby.

I chose to study the Reformation because I am awed by its nuance. Many Protestants look to the Reformation as a “starting place” for our Christian faith. This is faulty. Accounting for the first 1500 years of Christianity are imperative in order to have an accurate appreciation for our heritage. Furthermore, the Reformation itself is not simply to be lauded; while reform was needed and I value the efforts of many of the reformers, this period was not devoid of tragedy, destruction, and sin. As with any historical period, there are great complexities involved on a myriad of levels. I was particularly distressed to see the way in which aspects of the Reformation hindered or destroyed the use of arts within the context of worship, or even in its addition to the common good within wider society. It is my opinion, as a musician and a lover of fine-art, that Christian culture’s standard for good art is askew because of this. Among Protestants, the idea of art for the sake of God’s glory was not actually reformed in the Reformation, but was muddled, confused, and in many ways stunted. There is some evidence that in recent years this landscape may be changing for the better. If I choose to pursue PhD studies in the future, it would be write further on this subject.

As I look back, I feel very blessed to see how God has continued to intertwine my interests (just as CWC had done) into a more holistic path of study and vocation. God has taken my  love of teaching/learning, music/art, and theology/ministry and has directed me now into a position as the Pastor of Worship & Adult Ministries at Church of the Cross in Hopkins, MN. (Yep, back in good ol’ Minnesota).

What do you enjoy most about your current job? Do you think there are any connections between the work you do now and your studies as a History major?

Andene O'NeilIn my current job I get to continue to work toward one goal—to participate in God’s act of redemption—in multiple ways. Yes, I’m a worship leader. I was a worship leader before Bethel, during Bethel as a chapel or Vespers leader, and when in seminary I worked full time at a nearby college as the Worship Director. Earlier on in my schooling and ministry I would actually say that I didn’t want to head into worship-leading as a vocation. I didn’t want to be limited to being “the girl with a guitar.” I thoroughly enjoyed leading a congregation in singing praises, psalms, laments, etc., but I didn’t want to only do that. Well, I see now that I had a limited understanding of what being a worship leader meant.

A worship leader’s foundation should be comprised of a solid understanding of worship and liturgical history, of church history, of systematic theology, and biblical studies. Knowing how to play and sing within a church service are of less importance than knowing why you’re doing so. (And let me just add that all of life is worship — an opportunity to give God the value he is due; singing together just happens to be an enjoyable, concentrated, and unifying form of it.) I’ve discovered that being a professional worship leader is anything but limiting.

In my current role as Pastor of Worship & Adult Ministries at an Anglican church I might write music, prepare for a teaching or sermon, meet with people for prayer or counsel, learn an ancient chant, attend a theological conference, start a choir, mobilize teams of volunteers for various projects, oversee a fine arts committee, lead Bible studies, etc. In all of this I rely on and draw from my education.

Furthermore, as an Anglican my personal devotional life is inextricably tied to the brothers and sisters of the faith that have gone before me. I understand myself as a part of their communion and delight in praying the same prayers and reciting the same creeds as they did centuries ago.

Suffice it to say, history is not what I studied, it’s how I think. I have the privilege of standing on the foundational liberal arts education I received as a Bethel History major. By studying history, my world was not narrowed down to names and dates but cracked open to reveal a great story — a story I get to live in.

<<Read the previous post in the From AC 2nd to… series

Thinking about Going to Seminary?

It didn’t crack our list of the top five professions where our graduates end up, but Bethel’s History Department has graduated its fair share of pastors, youth pastors, worship leaders, missionaries, and others who work for and in the church. (Our first From AC 2nd to… interview was with Seth Rima, a 2009 grad pursuing his M.Div. at Southern Baptist Seminary.)

If you’re thinking about a career in ministry, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul) will be holding an informational session on Tuesday, Feb. 19th, 7pm. From the announcement:

Have you ever felt like you were meant to lead, preach, or teach? When you minister and serve others, do you feel alive and full of passion? Do you have a love for Scripture and a desire to lead others in the practical application of the great and epic story of God?

Those interested are asked to register by the 15th: online, by e-mail, or by phone (651/638-6288.)

From AC 2nd to… Seminary (part 2)

Our new series “From AC 2nd to…” profiles former History majors who have followed a variety of professional and educational tracks in their post-Bethel careers.

Today we’ll conclude our interview with Seth Rima (‘09), M.Div. student in Pastoral Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. (Read part 1 here.)

What about your Bethel History major best prepared you for seminary? Is there anything you wish you had done differently in preparation for that track?

My transition into seminary has been remarkably smooth, largely due to the similarities I’ve found in preparation. If you are going to write on a topic in theology you need to find your sources, and the History track has prepared me well for the gathering of obvious sources as well as the sources that on first glance have nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s also been helpful as I’ve worked to form theses and defend them, to know that there are several layers one has to peel back in order to get to the root of many topics. It is hardly ever right on the surface, and that is how it is oftentimes when we analyzed historical movements or the revolutions and coups that have taken place. There is always a spark, yes, but perhaps more importantly there is kindling to be lit ablaze as a result. So I guess you could say history made clear that context is crucial, so when I learned that in hermeneutics, it was only logical, and that appreciation for context has dramatically changed the way I read Scripture and apply it.

I also very much appreciated the discussion we would have and the market of ideas that would develop as time went on in classes I’ve taken from you [Chris Gehrz], AnneMarie Kooistra, and G.W. Carlson, to name a few. That has helped me not take offense when someone sees something in a different way than I do in conversation. It is much harder to harbor frustration with someone who you view as working with the same goal in mind, whether it is understanding a period or event in history, or discovering what the Bible says about faith vs. works.

I also just know the names that many of my peers aren’t quite familiar with, like Origen, Anselm, Martin Bucer, and the like.  So classes like CWC and The Reformations were just very helpful in a practical way. They provided a kind of historical and theological scaffolding that many don’t have when they decide to enter Seminary.

Do you continue to have an interest in history? How do you find yourself learning about the past now that you’re past college?

I absolutely love history still, and always will. There is just something about history that just makes it so much easier to put yourself in another person’s shoes. I love all kinds of history, whether it is sports-related, political (particularly Presidential), or ecclesiastical. I suppose it’s far too late to save myself from “nerd” status at this point, so I’ll cop to some of my modes of learning these days. I lump political geography in with history, and I have been known to play games that freshen up my memory of things like national flags, the border/shape of nations, and the location of various sites/cities on a world map. I also use a website called Sporcle to do all sorts of quizzes on anything from the roster of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, to the 50 most populous US cities, to the names of the Roman Emperors. I also enjoy reading blogs, like The Pietist Schoolman (and not just to suck up)and anything on the two World Wars, or church history, and I hope to someday keep up my own regular blog. I also have a system for reading, and historical books have their own category, so for instance the next historical work I will read is Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow.

On top of all that I have a younger brother who is like a more studious version of me, so I love talking to him about various subjects, and look forward to doing that the rest of my adult life!

Anything else you’d like to say to current or prospective students thinking about majoring in History at Bethel and/or considering going to seminary after college?

Wow, dangerous move, giving a History Major an open-ended question like this! I think majoring in history is the best decision I ever made while in college (besides asking my now-wife on that date!), because it was something I enjoyed. Beyond that though, history is such a far-reaching subject. It touches every aspect of life, because it isn’t just (as some would say) boring stuff that’s already happened, it’s the stuff that happened that has shaped the world in which we live. Having a firm grasp on history means you can talk to anyone about anything, and therefore work to understand the context that they are coming from, because Solomon was right… “There is nothing new under the sun” (Ecc 1:9).

With seminary, I think it’s crucial just practically speaking to make sure you are doing your research the right way, not cutting corners, and working hard on the little things, like formatting and procuring sources. History is a great proving ground for the work aspect of seminary, so it’s a natural fit. In reality though, no one should go to seminary if they don’t really feel the call to use the information that they gain. These days it’s pretty common to hear of a grad student who
is working in a completely different field, and it works pretty well anyway. With seminary, one should be making a covenant with their seminary that they are going to take the knowledge that they gain and put it to use in the world, because the one thing the world needs desperately is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and while that mission isn’t saved just for those who go to seminary, it isn’t something that seminarians can abstain from. The Seminary education has to flow out, or it’s just stealing.

Read the next entry in the From AC 2nd… series>>

From AC 2nd to… Seminary (part 1)

Today we’re starting a new series called “From AC 2nd to…” It profiles former History majors who have followed a variety of professional and educational tracks in their post-Bethel careers.

We’ll kick off with Seth Rima (‘09), M.Div. student in Pastoral Studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Why (and at what point) did you decide to major in History?

I bounced from major to major my Freshman and into my Sophomore year. After taking some of the intro classes for each, I was frustrated because it seemed like none of them sparked a passion in me. I just had no interest in the busy work, and someone had told me that a big factor in deciding what your future was going to look like was recognizing what grabs you that is tedious to others. Growing up my two favorite books that I can really remember were biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison. I had always been intrigued by the characters of history, and found myself looking at old maps and reading old stories and trying to picture myself in them. History was something I always loved getting lost in as a kid, and that continued into college, so I decided in January of my Sophomore year (2007) to change my major to History.

Did you consider a double-major?

I actually only had the single major, although in hindsight I wish I had done more. I did hold a minor in Reconciliation Studies for around a year, but I didn’t really feel like I was as committed as I should be to the classes, and in History I felt that I was getting thrice-weekly case studies in why reconciliation is important through all of my history classes.  But like I noted above, if I could go back, I would have double-majored in either Biblical & Theological Studies, or I would have created a major that drew from Philosophy, Political Science, and Theology.

Seth Rima in Rome
Courtesy of Seth Rima


Can you talk about your experience studying abroad? How did it complement or supplement your Bethel education in general, and the History major in particular?

My experience studying abroad was something that is almost impossible to not take for granted, if that makes any sense at all. The opportunity to study abroad, particularly for a History major, is something that just has to be taken if it ever becomes possible. For me, studying in Florence and Rome was an opportunity to really gauge where my life was at and where it was going. Extenuating circumstances at home meant that I longed to just be outside wandering the city, seeing every possible site and soaking it all in, and my love and appreciation for history really helped keep me sane. It also made it an unavoidable time of growth in many areas. When I came back, it was both a spring and a pit in that I was so much more energized and participative in my classes, but also struggled with the distance between myself and the characters and places I was studying, when for so long I felt like the world was my classroom.

More than anything, my experience in Rome really marks an incredible turning point in my walk with Christ, because just from an everyday living standpoint, you never know how much it costs to follow Christ until you are surrounded by those who you love, but don’t follow Him. I learned a lot about myself, like areas of temptation, and areas of strength in my faith, that I never would have learned while in college otherwise.

At what point (in college or after) did you first consider going to seminary?

I grew up with horror stories from life in ministry echoing in my mind, not because my parents (my Dad was and is again a pastor) talked about it around us a lot, but because those grotesque stories of hypocritical Christians are the ones that stick with you when you are a kid that is wrapped up in yourself more than anything else. I was always going to be “better” than those Christians that didn’t live it out, and it wasn’t until late in my Senior year that I really started to think seriously about ministry. Even then I wasn’t sure about seminary until after I got married in June after graduating in December of ’09. I started to realize that the body of Christ is the body of Christ, no matter how broken it seems, and to have the honor to minister to it and hopefully assist people as they search for their part in that Body was something I really felt drawn to. There was a distinct call that I felt to grow in my knowledge of the Word and the Church’s history, and to help convey the importance of those things to others who have distinct occupational callings outside of our usual definition of ministry.

[to be continued tomorrow]