It is hard to pack more into the second week of May than Central does. Board members begin arriving on Wednesday, and the pace accelerates until Saturday afternoon. It is a joyous time and demonstrates the good work the seminary is doing.
In the spring, the board meets for two days and does the major work of approving graduates, electing new faculty, passing a proposed budget, electing board officers and new trustees, and preparing for upcoming institutional review. It is a stringent schedule, and I give thanks for the commitment of these who hold the institution in trust.
Worship is a key ingredient of the board meeting, and faculty and staff join with trustees to sing and pray and think together about the seminary’s mission. These times in the chapel remind us of the holy work we are pursuing.
An additional event at this year’s festivities was the launch of the Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence. Dan Buttry spoke to board, students, and community leaders, sharing the promise of what the center might accomplish. A special workshop on Friday morning introduced his approach to the transformative work of peacemaking.
Prior to graduation rehearsal, we have a ceremony to bless the women graduates. For the past 23 years, women faculty, alumnae, members of the board, and graduating women have gathered to reflect together on the special challenges women face as they enter ministry. This year, several men gathered with us, sitting in an outer circle as a great cloud of witnesses. Men need blessing, too, of course. Yet women still face larger obstacles in obtaining ministry positions.
Friday evening celebrates our alumni/ae, including a fifty-year graduate, Eugene Allen. Our graduates are our “letters of recommendation,” as the Apostle Paul would put it. We give thanks for their ministries and faithful care for their alma mater.
Saturday dawned . . . cloudy and rainy, but we still got a little break in the weather for outdoor pictures. It is always festive to see students and their families and church friends in attendance. Of the taking of pictures there is no end! My toothy grin was frozen in place before too long.
We inaugurated a new ritual this year. The faculty gathered with the assembled class of 2018 in the chapel, surrounding them with prayer and blessing. A lovely surprise came when one of the seniors asked if she could also pray for and bless the faculty. Indeed!
The commencement service was lively, filled with good music, an inspiring sermon by Dan Buttry, many awards, a special recognition of the lead gift for our sustainability campaign, degree conferral, and a call to support the seminary. The board honored Ircel Harrison with its Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary contribution to the seminary.
We give thanks to God for this outpouring of joy and blessing, and we persevere in our mission. We trust that God will continue to call leaders for the church and society and that Central will play its formative role.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares entrepreneurial leaders for new horizons in ministry.