May 21, 2013

Graduating to Serve

           Central celebrated its 111th commencement on Saturday morning, with all the pomp and blessing a seminary can muster.  I surely do not mean to imply by this title that Central’s newest graduates have not been serving all the while.  Among those who “walked” on Saturday morning were pastors, a communications instructor, a church planter, a college admission counselor, a public school teaching assistant, and a peace activist, among others.  Awarding Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Theological Studies degrees, as well as FOUNDATIONS certificates in ministry studies, does not launch ministry for these, it simply recognizes a further level of preparation for effective service.

            On display Saturday (the eve of Pentecost) was the increasingly global nature of Central’s mission.  One M.A. student greeted us by video from his native Kenya; a resettled Chin received his M.Div.; Judson Community students (FOUNDATIONS) in Ft. Wayne, IN, bore witness to the great assistance these classes provided for them as Karen leaders.  Central is surely encountering the world!

            One of the miracles of the Spirit coming in power was that each heard in his or her own language (Acts 2:7-8).   Presently, Central employs Korean, Spanish, Chin, English, and Karen (and some occasional Burmese) as languages of instruction.  It is important that theological studies be ever more accessible to those God is calling to leadership service.
            Our distinguished commencement speaker, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, offered a compelling message, “Those Who Are Different, Those Who Are Evil, and How to Tell Them Apart.”  Graduates serve in contexts where religious difference is inevitable.  How will they grow in tolerance?  Also, much evil is perpetrated in the name of religion; how will they say a resounding “NO” to this?  One must be able to hold these realities together as faithful Christian ministers. 

            As President, I always take note of faculty members at commencement, for they embody the good work of the school.  Graduates bear their graceful imprint.  Not only do they engage their professors in class, but also they observe their faithful lives—how they do family, minister through churches, and practice their values.  Behind the scenes the staff is always working, ensuring “all God’s chillun got a robe,” making sure the diplomas and awards and programs are ready, the pictures are taken, and the cookies arrive.  If the faculty constitutes the soul of the seminary, then surely the staff is the spine!  I am grateful for each one who works to bring a student’s career to successful completion.  Thus, they graduate to serve with excellence, marked by their formation at Central.

Molly T. Marshall

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