Dr. Beverly Lapp '87
Formed for a purpose
Beverly Lapp is a child of many different places—and all of them have helped shape her current work in ways that she could not have foreseen.
Sometimes in my current role I am aware that as much as I am indebted to my studies at Goshen College and beyond, it is my experiences before adulthood that prepared me best to be a seminary dean. I am a child of Lansdale, born at North Penn Hospital, and formed in Franconia Conference, now Mosaic Conference. I am a child of Mennonite Central Committee because when I was nine years old my family moved to Jamaica for two years with MCC. I am a child of Dock Mennonite Academy, where I began high school a few years after we returned from Jamaica. My roots in this area, our MCC Jamaica experience, and my education at Dock are all in some way part of what helps me navigate the complexity of perspectives represented by the diverse people we serve at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. These roots grounded me in a deep and abiding love for Christ and the church, and prepared me intellectually and spiritually to be a seminary dean, where now, to my surprise, I have more persistent hope in the role of the church in the work of peace building than ever before.
Like all children and youth, I had dreams and ideas for my future profession ranging from being an airplane pilot to an English teacher to a choir director to a famous folk singer. Becoming a piano teacher and music professor was a great joy and also not too much of a surprise. Becoming a seminary dean, however, was never once an aspiration or prediction. It is not typical for a music professor to help lead a theological school, and my college and graduate school training was not at all focused in the disciplines we teach at AMBS: bible, theology, ethics, ministry, and peace studies. However, my earlier formation in Franconia Conference and at Plains Mennonite, in Jamaica, and at Dock prepared me to be a dean at AMBS more than I could have imagined.
In my home congregation of Plains Mennonite I had baptism training with AMBS graduate Gerald Studer; I now realize what a rigorous theological education these baptism classes were. In Jamaica I learned to know a tiny part of the global south, saw the long-term harms of imperialism and colonialism close up, and experienced the intensity of intercultural learning. I also became a pianist in Jamaica. Here at Dock I was given opportunities as a student musician that built my confidence and fed my soul. Excellent courses in Bible, in Christian community, and in social studies contributed to my long formation as a Mennonite Anabaptist. I learned how to be a communicator at Dock. My Dock education was foundational in creative thinking and perceptive reading, speech making, and writing in multiple forms. One can scarcely believe their good fortune to have the kind of educational opportunity as the kind offered here. I feel blessed beyond measure, while all too aware that access to such a quality education, whether public or private, is far too limited.
The land that Dock Mennonite Academy is on represents so many stories—of devastated and displaced tribes, of settlers seeking opportunity, of people persecuted for their faith and yearning for religious freedom, of refugees and immigrants journeying for safety and peace. At AMBS we study the human story found in the Bible—this ancient and remarkably relevant story of displacement and violence, of lament and praise, of liberation and transformation. We study theology—the nature of God—with conviction that God’s yearning for the world, as told by the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and taught by Jesus in the New Testament, calls us towards peacemaking, justice, healing and reconciliation. I’m not here tonight to promote a seminary, though I can’t help doing that a little. I am here to say that without my time at Dock, I would not have followed an unlikely path to a small scrappy midwest seminary with a global reach, where we stubbornly persist in preparing people to serve a church that extends God’s reconciling mission in the world. Thank you, Dock, for forming me to do this life-giving work.
- Dock Class of 1987
- B.A., Goshen College
- M.Mus., Westminster Choir College, Rider University
- Ed.D., Columbia University Teachers College
- Vice President and Academic Dean of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, IN
Beverly is Vice President and Academic Dean of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, IN. She works with a dynamic team of faculty to deliver graduate programs, including the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees in theology, peace studies, Christian formation, and global Anabaptism. She recently developed a partnership with Meserete Kristos College to enable pastors and church leaders in Ethiopia to earn a master's degree in theology through AMBS.
Beverly was previously on the music faculty at Goshen College from 1995-2018, where she taught piano and chaired the Music Department. She received her master's and doctoral degrees from Westminster Choir College of Rider University and Teachers College of Columbia University. With her spouse Dale Klassen and their two young adult daughters, she enjoys frequent trips to the Lansdale area to visit family.
We study theology—the nature of God—with conviction that God’s yearning for the world, as told by the prophets in the Hebrew Bible and taught by Jesus in the New Testament, calls us towards peacemaking, justice, healing and reconciliation.
Dr. Beverly Lapp
When she received Dock's Alumni of the Year Award in October 2021, Dr. Lapp extended her stay on campus to share with Dock students in chapel on Monday. She titled her presentation, "Saying 'Yes' to Sacred Surprises," and it is a worthwhile read for anyone facing a potentially life-changing decision related to education or career. We invite you to read it here.