I write this letter to you from a hotel room in Bellingham, Wash., where I am teaching our course on “The Wild God.” It is “Eastertide.” Eastertide is a festival season in the Christian liturgical year that focuses on celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
The early church got it right. We should not simply celebrate the resurrection—the world-altering divine event that changed history—on one day in the Spring. We seem to have reduced Easter to bunnies, eggs, baskets, candy, ham dinner, and a special Easter movie, like “Ben Hur,” “Easter Parade,” or even a baseball game. But Easter, commemorating the most important event in history, more than deserves our extended celebration.
Think about it: Easter makes Christmas worth celebrating. The resurrection of Jesus gives new meaning to the change of seasons at the spring equinox. The resurrection transforms death to life. For Christians, Easter is not something we simply “celebrate,” rather Easter is the life we live in Jesus.
Facing the Chaos
As Spring 2022 finally begins to take root in the mountains, we find ourselves increasingly anxious in a chaotic culture. The turmoil caused by COVID-19, raucous national politics, skyrocketing inflation, and a world on the brink of multi-national war has exponentially multiplied anxiety, depression, and general mental illness, but has also found the church in disarray, not knowing how to respond meaningfully to this new world. Pastors are retiring sooner or simply changing careers; churches are closing their doors because with a declining membership, they can no longer pay their bills and are now disbanding. Churches are becoming increasingly political to “attract” attendees; what new church starts are being attempted often find that their methods are not relevant for this situation and close their doors soon after opening. Seminaries are struggling to provide answers to this new paradigm shift, and thus supply new ministers for this chaotic era.
On the other hand, YTI is finding Christ-centered solutions and training men and women for ministry in this new world. As we wrap up the 2021-2022 school year, we find ourselves in a good, healthy position. Our students are healthy and thriving, our faculty is constantly discussing possibilities for the church of the future, and our own funding is in a phase of positive growth. Our donors understand the need for YTI to provide creative and critical thinking men and women for the sake of the church and work of the Kingdom in the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Northwest.
New Faculty and Growing Programs
We have added one full-time and several part-time faculty members to teach in our programs. Dr. Joshua Schendel is our new Professor of Theology, and will start with us in September. Rev. Vern Streeter is our new part-time Lecturer in Adventure and Theology. Rev. Kurt Caddy is our new part-time Lecturer in the Arts & Theology. Carol Mealer is our new part-time Lecturer in Christian Art History. Rev. Tim Knipp is our new Lecturer in New Testament.
Although our Master of Arts degree is our most popular Master’s degree, it is our EQUIP program that is growing exponentially. This past year began with an EQUIP cohort in Bellingham, Wash. In February, a new EQUIP program was started in Billings, Mont. This fall, a second cohort begins in Bellingham, and we are projecting another cohort in Great Falls, Mont. The EQUIP program is a diploma program delivered in local churches or consortiums of churches. It is a two-year program, delivering courses once a quarter to provide interns, laypersons, and church staff members with a quality, base-line theological education for ministry. The success of this model has been impressive, and the staff at YTI is working hard to keep up with the demand.
Finally, YTI is looking forward to moving “dirt” later this fall in order to begin putting infrastructure in place for our campus. It has been a long journey, and construction costs have risen astronomically; yet the need for what we provide for our community and for our students is pressing. Construction costs three years ago were roughly $280/sq. foot; today they are $610/sq. foot! If you would like to help with our project, we continue to accept donations of any amount!
I pray that each of you is blessed this summer. I pray that your anxiety, depression, and anger subside as the peace of Christ permeates your life.
Dr. Jay Smith, President
Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics