Thesis Pen Ceremony  |  Faith Christian School Life Story Header

The Capstone of a Faith Christian School Education is a senior thesis: a year-long research project on a debatable topic which, as a requirement of graduation, seniors research, write, orally present, and defend. 

The Capstone of a Faith Christian School Education is a senior thesis: a year-long research project on a debatable topic which, as a requirement of graduation, seniors research, write, orally present, and defend. 

Each Senior invites family and friends to their thesis presentation. Pastor Pete Schemm, Cave Spring Baptist Church and Faith Christian School parent shared the following with Alena DeMott after attending her thesis:

Alena - Congratulations! And wow! What an excellent thesis presentation. It’s clear that you have been working on this for a long time. As your pastor and family friend, I wanted to share my reflections. 

First, I want to observe the theological orientation of your work. It is rare that someone your age would engage responsibly with several primary theological sources in one paper (Dante, Edwards, Boethius, Isaiah, and Moses!). Not only did you, but you synthesized them with clarity, concision, and coherence, the three c’s that seldom live in the same house. Music reflects the nature of God but so does a well-written, theologically shaped argument from an image bearer like you.

Second, I loved the topic itself. You presented a compelling case for the creative genius of God and the beauty of God—as revealed in the stars above, music theory, and many other natural expressions of God’s beauty found in the created order. Once you went "Edwards-ian" on beauty…you had me!

Third, your delivery was excellent. I have listened to enough master’s level students in homiletics class to say, without reservation, that you are a gifted young lady. You delivered with poise and composure. There is an ease about you that is winsome and compelling. You have a music of your own! (Pastor Pete Schemm, Cave Spring Baptist Church)

After all the seniors have completed their thesis presentations, a special chapel is held in their honor, the Thesis Pen Ceremony. Faculty advisors presented each senior with a pen, handcrafted by former Faith Christian School faculty member, Mr. Tobias Riggs, as a symbol of the journey. Families, advisors, and students celebrate with a reception after the ceremony. 

Various alumni have shared with the seniors over the years during this event.  This year, seniors heard from FCS alumni and current Latin teacher, Sarah Graninger:

When reflecting on my senior thesis, I couldn't initially recall my specific sources or succinctly give you all the main points. I don't necessarily work in a vocation influenced by my senior thesis, except for the one Latin quote that I use to teach comparative adverbs. 

However, what I can tell you about my thesis is that the process changed me. Standing behind this podium defending my thesis was a moment marked by God.

The years immediately following graduation were some of the hardest of my life, marked by the loss of loved ones and walking through a season of grief and at times confusion while also trying to graduate on time. 

But I’m so thankful for the thesis process. It acted as a classroom for life’s process. Through my thesis, God had cultivated a fortitude to ask difficult questions and walk through a process to its completion, however rigorous or uncomfortable. No longer with Mrs. Hopkins as my guide through the process, but now with the Holy Spirit as my advisor. 

Of course, there were academic skills gained and mastered through my senior thesis project. But even richer were the intangible riches gained, unseen to the natural eye. 

The title of my thesis was: “A Bold Venture of Faith: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Role in the Assassination Plot Against Hitler.” 

The topic of biblically justifying an assassination plot was slightly off-color for a soft-spoken, rule-following 18-year-old girl. I never wanted to stir things up and yet God led me to the life of the German martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and I couldn’t escape the questions: “What would I do?” “Did God really call Bonhoeffer to do that?” “What is holiness and obedience to God?” 

So hand in hand with Stephanie Hopkins, my advisor, I dove into German history and philosophy. Lutheran theology, and Scriptural texts in addition to Bonhoeffer’s writings, life, and spiritual journey. There were so many times, in which I felt completely out of my depth, trying to make sense of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics. 

So many days I wanted to switch my topic—just ask an easier question. But (with the help of Mrs. Hopkins) I stayed with the topic. I wrestled through hard questions that I couldn’t tie up in a nice bow. And I eventually landed on Luther’s quote in Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship

“Pecca fortiter sed crede et gaude in Christo fortius.” 

“Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.” 

Again I was a soft-spoken, rule-following 18-year-old girl. And I knew that this wasn’t an invitation to do whatever I wanted. But this was a liberation of my mind and heart from fear and an invitation to listen to God’s voice in the void. 

Fast forward to last Tuesday, and I’m reading my senior thesis in my classroom for the first time in 14 years. I had to close my classroom door for a bit, overwhelmed by how God was speaking so clearly to me through my 18-year-old voice. 

Through reading my thesis again I learned two things. 

First, I realized exactly how much my senior thesis had formed who I am today. I didn’t go on to become a theologian, ethics professor, or social justice worker necessarily. But in each place of my life and each job, I’ve been carried along by an earnest desire to hear God’s voice, something I first witnessed in the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 

Second, I realized how much richer my understanding of my topic is today. This didn’t come through continued research, but through the wisdom that only comes through living. The reality and truth of what I had written were not nearly as weighty at 18 years old as it was in my classroom last week. God revealed to me new truths through my writing that I had never discovered before. 

So be encouraged, this is not the end of your thesis journey. For you are God’s masterpiece and He as the Great Author will continue to weave its truth throughout your life.

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