Saturday dawned bright and crisp, perfect for outdoor pictures and an academic processional. Graduation day is the joyful culmination of years of perseverance and sacrifice, for both the student and the family and friends that supported their long obedience in the same direction. It makes visible the reality that God continues to call leaders for the church and other fields of service.
Commencement celebration has been a tabernacle event for Central over the past several years as we have moved from church to church for the graduation ceremony. This year, our wandering ceased, and we were able to host the service in our own 21st Century Learning Center on campus.
Though we were packed in a bit, we rejoiced in being home for the school’s 115th commencement. Now that the most recent building project has been completed, we have space for our varied traditions: the blessing of women graduates; celebration of alum achievement; and post-graduation reception. With the addition of Smith Courtyard, we can spill out of the building into a lovely outdoor venue.
As the multicultural dimensions of our school have grown in recent years, we have been intentional about putting this diversity on display. A Chin youth choir and ensemble provided special music for the ceremony; translation for the whole service was offered in Korean; and we heard Scripture in Burmese, Korean, and English.
Our commencement speaker, the Reverend Doctor Pamela R. Durso, Executive Director of Baptist Women in Ministry, challenged the graduates to think deeply about the call to friendship as their mode of ministry. God’s befriending of the world has been displayed in self-giving, and those called in Christ’s service must follow the same pathway.
One of the privileges of being President is to confer the degrees. The Provost, Board Chair, and I share this task, but I get to say the words that ritualize the new status the graduates hold. As I was offering the traditional words for the Master of Divinity students, it struck me that no one can possibly “master Divinity.” We can only be grateful recipients of the grace upon grace we have received. Divinity masters us, not the other way around.
Our faculty is superb in nurturing the very best in our students, and their character is essential in shaping these graduates for effective service. For years to come, they will remember examples and insights from these gifted scholar-practitioners. As the rabbis say, “to remember the words of a teacher is a holy thing.”
We send the class of 2017 forth with blessing. We pray that God will guide them toward places where they might participate in the Reign of God, as the resurrecting power of the Risen Christ is making all things new.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.