An Olive Tree for the Near East School of Theology
Visitors to NEST will find that there is a newly planted olive tree at the entrance of the building. The tree is a gift from the local committee of the Women’s World Day of Prayer (WDP). In gratitude and appreciation for many years of holding the annual service of the WDP in the Large Chapel of the Seminary, the local Committee donated and planted an olive tree on February 27, 2018. NEST has been hosting the event for over 25 years.
In my words of thanks to the WDP Committee I highlighted the long history that binds NEST to this international prayer event, and how NEST is a natural home for this ecumenical event that is led and done by women. “Ecumenical” and “women” are two concerns and themes that are at the heart of the mission of NEST. The Seminary has been a pioneer in founding and promoting ecumenical cooperation and institutions; it participates actively in all ecumenical activities, and it teaches in an ecumenical and inclusive manner. And NEST has been a major supporter of women’s causes and issues: it had the first woman pastor and professor (the Late Rev. Elsa Farr), the first woman Seminary president in the Middle East (Dr. Mary Mikhael); half of its full time faculty today are women; it has the highest ratio of female to male students among all seminaries in the Middle East; and the first two Middle Eastern women who were ordained last year are alumnae of NEST.
It is indeed most appropriate and very symbolic to decorate the entrance to NEST with an olive tree a rich and profound biblical symbol. The olive tree and its branches signify “peace” in the Bible, especially in the Genesis story of the flood. But olive trees are also associated with prayer, for it was on the Mount of Olives that Jesus prayed.
An olive tree, symbolizing Peace and Prayer, welcomes and leads you into our Seminary!