Ben Rudeen Kreider’s, approach to life is one of curiosity. This thoughtful and healthy dose of inquisitiveness about the world, its history, the church, and his own life eventually led him to Princeton Theological Seminary.
After receiving an undergraduate degree in Bible & Religion and Social Work from Bethel College — a small, Mennonite liberal arts college in North Newton, Kansas — Kreider's MDiv ’23 began to wonder about seminary. At the time, he served at a restorative justice nonprofit where he was the director of the prison ministry. There, his personal interest, skillset, and faith converged. Kreider tapped into the Mennonite values of peace and reconciliation, recognizing his love for connecting with churches and hearing stories of how faith sustained men inside of prison. This furthered his curiosity.
“I wanted to explore questions for the question’s sake, like where's God in the midst of this world? How do we think about justice? What does justice mean? I’ve always been interested in history and religious history,” says Kreider, whose mother is a Mennonite pastor. “I knew seminary was the faithful next step. I just had all these questions that I knew I wanted to explore in seminary.”
One reason the Kreider chose Princeton Seminary was because of its connection to the church and strong academics. Princeton Seminary’s commitment to field education, the worshiping life of the community, the opportunity to take classes at Princeton University, and its proximity to Rutgers University were also appealing. (He received a master’s in social work with a concentration in management and policy from Rutgers last year.) Another reason for Kreider to attend Princeton Seminary was the 2018 release of its historical audit on involvement in slavery.
“It was important for me that the institution was grappling with its own involvement with racism,” he says. “So many communities are thinking about how we respond to historical and continuing injustice. I felt grateful Princeton Seminary was thinking about and working on itself, and I wanted to be a part of that.”
Last summer, Kreider was chosen as a seminary fellow with the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE). He traveled in Germany and Poland with an interdisciplinary cohort of interfaith seminarians, medical and journalism students, and professors. FASPE examines how professionals were complicit in the crimes of Nazi Germany while reflecting on contemporary ethical challenges. Kreider was drawn to FASPE out of his interest in histories of Mennonite complicity during and after the Holocaust and contemporary Christian work confronting antisemitism.
“I'm really interested in how the church remembers especially difficult things and what we do about that memory,” he says. Kreider drew from FASPE an interest not just on questions about the past, but on how its study can serve contemporary ethical responsibility.
Kreider’s field education was a key factor in helping him discern what he wanted to do after seminary. During his time at the Hopewell Council of Churches in Hopewell, New Jersey, he realized a love for local, small-scale, and community-focused congregational ministry. In another field education experience at Columbus Mennonite Church in Columbus, Ohio, Kreider was affirmed as he tried out the multifaceted aspects of ministry in a Mennonite setting and looked forward to stepping into a pastoral call.
There have been many highlights during Kreider’s time at Princeton Seminary — discussions with professors and fellow students following class, small seminars, daily chapel services, and especially Friday communion.
“I am going to miss the laughter, joy, and curiosity of both the professors and the students. People take their learning really seriously, but I've never felt pretentiousness from my professors,” Kreider says. “There's always been a joyful curiosity that makes me want to learn more and stay open myself. I'm incredibly grateful and joyful that I was able to learn here. It launched the journey of more learning, but I also feel prepared and ready for what's next.”
After seminary, Kreider will be stepping into a call as pastor of Chapel Hill Mennonite Fellowship in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Ben shared his time at seminary with his wife Alli, a fellow MDiv ’23 graduate. They are excited for a move to North Carolina, where Alli will be doing a chaplaincy residency. Ben will continue to ask questions and listen well. “I'm really excited to be a part of those conversations and to see what God's doing.”