May 20, 2014

Commencing a New Chapter

            “Graduation Saturday” dawned with bright, crisp weather and hopeful expectations.  Central’s largest graduating class in years was poised to receive their diplomas and degrees, and the day did not disappoint.  As a seminary community we were able to savor the accomplishments of those who entrusted their ministry formation to Central.  The class of 2014 was a remarkably diverse, a core value we cherish.

            First, we heard an engaging speaker. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook offered the commencement address, which focused on a life well lived and what that means in particular for ministry leaders.  She also reflected on her service as 3rd Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom for the United States of America, from May 2011 through October 2013.  

            Second, we enjoyed the unparalleled hospitality of Friendship Baptist Church, a vibrant church in Kansas City, MO.  Ably led by Central Alumnus James Terrance, Jr., the church knows how to make folks welcome.  This commencement had many moving parts—translation, video, international guests, wardrobe malfunctions (not like Janet Jackson)—and the church met every challenge.  It is a wonderful thing to be in partnership with such a congregation.  We pursue different aspects of the same ultimate goal of equipping persons for the work of ministry. Central prepares congregational leaders, and Friendship makes disciples.


            Third, we conferred three degrees, one of them for the first time: the Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Health. Two stellar graduates represented this new educational initiative, one from the Shawnee-based cohort, and one from the Myanmar Institute of Theology cohort.  It was a significant moment in Central’s life, as we witnessed these two men—one serving in Topeka as associate pastor of First Baptist Church, the other as principal of United Theological College in Chin State-- receive their doctoral degrees.

            Fourth, we celebrated the significant contribution of the Rev. Dr. Arlo R. Reichter, who received the Central Distinguished Service Award.  He has been instrumental to the development and flourishing of the CBTS-Wisconsin extension site.  Teaching, administering, recruiting, and encouraging are hallmarks of his service.

            Celebrating the 112th commencement, we are filled with gratitude.  The long history of Central speaks of God’s desire for well-prepared leaders for the church and larger community.  It also speaks of God’s providence prompting persons to continue to sustain this essential ministry.  It matters in the larger calculus of the varied ways in which we pursue the Reign of God.  We continue to seek that Reign as first priority, trusting that “all things will be given” as well (Matthew 6:33).

            Molly T. Marshall

            Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.

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