The Saturday deluge did not dampen the joy of Central’s commencement service. We even managed to get outdoor pictures before the sky opened with heavy rain. It was quite the gathering with feted graduates, their families and friends, faculty, staff, and board members. The music was superb with a quartet from Central’s Sacred Arts Chorale and a violist who plays with the Kansas City Symphony.
The commencement speaker, Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, encouraged the class of 2019 to make room for lament in a broken world. As an author, scholar, church planter, pastor, and reformer of American Christianity, his ministry has focused on racial reconciliation and social justice. He offered a challenging and constructive word, giving special attention to the role of the immigrant.
Central’s global identity was on full display. There were 10 Doctor of Ministry students from Myanmar and four from Korea; the Masters level graduates were similarly diverse. This transnational tapestry is one of the distinctives Central celebrates and learning how the gospel takes root in different cultures is ineluctably a part of the curriculum.
When it came time to confer the Doctor of Ministry degree, I was overcome with emotion and could hardly speak. I thought of the extreme challenges and sacrifices required of these students to complete their study. Some come from regions where armed conflict continues; others have suffered significant grief over their time in the program; and, others experience the liminal space of being an immigrant. They persevered, and thus their celebration is full of joy.
I am always amazed at what our staff manages to accomplish in this very busy time. There were 14 different events over a three-day period, which includes board meetings and meals. If the faculty is the soul of the seminary, the staff is surely the spine. With resolve and good humor, they swarm the tasks so that the school may be at its hospitable best when the board and other guests arrive.
Watching graduates proudly introducing faculty members to their families is moving to me. The faculty leave a graceful imprint on the lives of students, so it is not surprising that many desire to have their pictures made with treasured professors.
So the 117th commencement is in the books, and Central’s mission continues. We give thanks for those God is calling to ministry, and we rejoice in the part our seminary can play in preparing them for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.
Molly T. Marshall