May 18, 2010

Sending Forth

                Saturday we celebrated Central’s 107th commencement; by God’s providence, we have not missed a year since 1903 when the first class graduated from the fledgling school. Through lean years and fat years (far fewer than lean!) Central has faithfully executed its mission of preparing women and men for faithful ministry. Early in the seminary’s history, women and minorities were part of the student body. By 1906, 7 of 37 students were women; in 1907 the first “foreign” student enrolled.  He was from Burma. Can you imagine the courage it took to come to Kansas from Burma in those days? Now, a hundred years later, we give thanks for the opportunity in our day to collaborate with Myanmar Institute of Theology.

                The class of 2010 is comprised of students from Milwaukee and Murfreesboro, as well as our Shawnee campus.  We rejoice in the flourishing of these extension sites and the opportunity to provide excellent theological education in these contexts. The faithful work of Dr. Timothy Ashley in Milwaukee and Dr. Ircel Harrison in Murfreesboro as site directors, and the partnerships with ABC of Wisconsin and CBF of Tennessee, have made this expansion of Central’s mission possible.

                Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield, Sr., challenged the graduates to adopt the Christological model of Servanthood for their ministries.  Remembering the dignity of each person as imago Dei, Christian ministers will be “demoted” to the place of genuine caring as they encounter the “least of these.”  What Dr. Hartsfield called students to pursue was the form his ministry has taken over the years. In the segregated South, he suffered the indignity of racism, but rose. He pursued the challenge of equitable education, and excelled. He has confronted the continuing white privilege in our culture and refused to be silent. He has protested the grave condition of our city, and lent his shoulder to establishing righteous alternatives. Thus, it was a joy to honor a perceptive preacher, a prophetic servant, and a wise elder with Doctor of Divinity honoris causa.

                At the Friday evening Alumni/ae Banquet, we recognized four 50 year alums: Rev. Robert Molby, Rev. Robert Pattie, Dr. Stanley M. Horton, and Dr. Jack Wilson. Hearing about the length and depth of their ministries was an inspiring testimony to faithfulness. We have a lovely tradition at the banquet; we anoint the hands of the graduates, reminding them that they serve in the power of the Spirit who generously equips for ministry. We assure them that they do not go forth unaccompanied as we intercede in their behalf: “May your hands over their hands remind us always of those who have seen in them and affirmed in them the good work begun—the good work you will complete both in and through them.” 

                                Molly T. Marshall

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