A bright clear Saturday morning provided the start to a joyous commencement. Like the tabernacle of old, Central’s graduation ceremonies move from church to church in the metro area, celebrating our partnership in preparing women and men for effective ministry. Whereas the church can get along without the seminary (not well, in my opinion), the seminary will always rely on the church as the primary context to exercise the calling and gifts for ministry.
This year we gathered at Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, a beacon of leadership in the urban core. Dr. Wallace S. Hartsfield II, pastor at this good church as well as Fred E. Young Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Central, is a scholar-practitioner and offers witness for our students about how to weave good scholarship, congregational life, and community activism together.
We celebrated the graduation of the first create cohort, which was particularly significant since we had as our commencement speaker Dr. Michael Gilligan, President of the Henry Luce Foundation. A grant from the Luce Foundation has funded our global immersion experience in Thailand and Myanmar for create cohorts. In addition, these generous funds have underwritten the collaborative Doctor of Ministry degree with Myanmar Institute of Theology as well as continuing education for resettled persons from Burma (Myanmar).
In addition to those receiving the M.A. in Missional Church Studies, M.A. in Theological Studies, and Master of Divinity, twelve students completed Certificates in Ministry Studies through Central’s FOUNDATIONS program. Begun in the fall of 2010, this unique approach to ministry preparation requires completion of ten courses that strengthen pastoral and lay work in congregations. While a baccalaureate degree is not required, some have that prerequisite and move toward graduate level studies. For those who do not, particularly those for whom English is not their first language, the certificate offers a way to gain proficiency for leadership that is accessible. Central deeply cares about providing different entry points for learners to enter theological studies and perform successfully.
The commencement address, “Setting Out in the Season of the Empty Tomb,” reminded us all that the risen Christ is with us—not just immediately after the resurrection—but now, calling us to cast out our nets once again. Reflecting on the great text in John 21 where Jesus gathers once more with his disciples—after they have returned to fishing—Dr. Gilligan offered assurance that one does not set out alone. Not only is he with us, but he will even cook fish for us to nourish us and strengthen us for further work. As Dr. Gilligan moved among board members, faculty, students, and friends of the seminary, we perceived we had an remarkable christopher, a Christ-bearer, in our midst as he entered the Central story and called us to a more expansive mission.
Celebrating the 110th commencement brings joy to faithful faculty, alumni/ae, graduates, board members, and friends. God has sustained our mission since 1901, and we give thanks!
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about how Central provides accessible and affordable ministry preparation, continue visiting our website.