I am pleased to share with you this report on accomplishments and events at Seattle Pacific University. This year has celebrated a unique moment in our history, as we recognized our 125th anniversary. Much has happened in the 125 years since Seattle Seminary, the forerunner of Seattle Pacific University, was founded in 1891 by Free Methodist pioneers.
Our founders were bold, visionary, audacious, and hope-filled. They believed opening a Christian school in Seattle could not only change Seattle, but also our world. We are a university born in the heart of God, brought forth by thousands of men and women who believed in its purpose and capacity, founded on a 5-acre garden plot donated by Nils and Karen Peterson.
Our institutional rootedness in a garden is the clearest and loudest expression of SPU’s mission — paralleling Seattle’s rise and influence in our world, although reflecting a more meaningful transformation for how to live in this world.
Pastor Adam Hamilton of the nation’s largest United Methodist church recently reminded me that a garden is at the heart of the story of God. A garden reflecting the world as God intended it to be. A garden described by Jesus as the kingdom of heaven.
The human story begins in a garden. Paradise is lost in a garden. Redemption takes place in a garden. Death is defeated in a garden. And Paradise is restored as a garden.
Eugene Peterson’s The Message describes the Promised Land in Genesis 13:10, as “well watered … like God’s garden.” A land flowing with milk and honey.
Although Moses never reached the Promised Land, he was able to see it as he climbed Mt. Nebo and looked over the valley. You could climb Mt. Nebo today and you would see what Moses saw: very dry land with little vegetation — land similar to the desert southwest — not what one thinks of as flowing with milk and honey. Knowing this, Pastor Hamilton suggests the promised land isn’t a defined location, one bound by several square miles of real estate. But perhaps the Promised Land is an idea and ideal where people love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. A place where people love their neighbor as themselves, doing justice, loving kindness, walking humbly with their God.
This year, we have seen just a sample of what it means for SPU to be a land of promise. The fruit of our donated garden is seen in the lives of over 45,000 alumni. These alumni have broken through barriers, made world- and life-shaping discoveries, worked to solve society’s greatest problems, served the common good, and advanced the kingdom of God. I am inspired by our graduates as they embody the promise of SPU. A promise that moves beyond living life, to giving life.
Thank you for continuing to participate in the promise of SPU, and I hope to see you on campus in the future.
Daniel J. Martin