Like so many other schools, colleges, and seminaries, Christian Theological Seminary had to adjust its annual commencement ceremonies this year, but the administration, staff, and faculty worked hard to honor its 2020 graduates.
Although pre-commencement events and the annual graduation reception were canceled, CTS marked the occasion by sending each of the graduates a party box that contained graduation-themed plates and napkins, CTS swag, and gifts from the CTS Alumni Association, Board of Trustees, and Dean’s office. Each graduate also received a Southern layer cake from Caroline’s Cakes. Local boxes were hand-delivered by members of CTS staff and administration the week prior to commencement.
Watch a slideshow of the graduates, the ceremony, and the people who helped make it happen at the end of this article.
Unable to host an in-person ceremony in Shelton Auditorium like years past, CTS streamed a pre-recorded commencement ceremony on Facebook Live, Periscope, and YouTube, allowing family and friends to watch from their homes. Graduates joined the ceremony via Zoom and celebrated one another as President David M. Mellott and Dean Leah Gunning Francis read the names of each student and announced the conferral of degrees. The ceremony included members of the CTS faculty, staff, and board of trustees. Prof. Frank Thomas offered a Call for Lament and Celebration written especially for our graduates, acknowledging that while we celebrate the day, we lament our inability to gather together for the occasion. Prof. Scott Seay offered an original Communal Litany of Thanksgiving for the ceremony as well. Special music was provided by CTS alumnus Rev. Jason Powell and recording artist Carrie Newcomer.
Prolific author, teacher, preacher, and public theologian Barbara Brown Taylor was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from CTS and offered the commencement address (begins at 34:20). Taylor began her address by greeting the graduates digitally and offering words of affirmation: “The green grass of God’s goodness is pushing up through the cracked sidewalks of these days, and you are exactly the sort of people to see it, celebrate it, and help it grow.”
Referring to the passage into new phases of life, Taylor spoke to transition and the moment of commencement itself: “You’re in process. Your wings are still wet. You are as alive to the divine unknown as you will ever be. With one foot on the ground and one foot in the air, you’re about to step through into who knows what… So if you’re feeling a little dizzy, take heart, because you are not alone. The whole world is in process with you today, stepping into unknown ways of working, being family, going to school, doing church. The idea of getting back to normal is beginning to shimmer like a mirage. The least of these have less than ever. The death toll includes businesses and institutions along with jobs and human lives. There is no precedent for what to do next. The only difference between you and everyone else right now is that you are crossing over this threshold as leaders.”
Taylor closed by offering vows for the graduates to take:
Will you accept the mantle being laid on your shoulders today, to be doulas of justice and peace, wholeness and compassion?
In a world that is in hard labor, though your protective gear is inadequate and there are no operational manuals to read, will you be responsible for passing on what you’ve learned in your course of study about being human and being holy, being many and being one, being educated and being wise?…
Will you honor the plans you made for your life, while you practice letting them go as Jesus himself did, surrendering certainty about the future for the improvisational power of faith?…
And, finally, will you do your best to be the good news you seek in this world?
View the commencement slideshow here:
Watch the entire 2020 CTS Commencement Ceremony here:
Also included in the June 2020 Christian Theological Seminary Connection
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