Tuesday, May 17, 2005

What Graduation Should Be

"It was what I thought graduation should be like," said Portia about our weekend celebrating Babs' graduation from college. How right she was! The weather was cool and mostly sunny with a brief couple of hours of rain when it didn't interfere with activities.

The ceremonies were traditional, moving and appropriate. Babs' college is owned by the the southern dioceses of the Episcopal Church and the chapel is modeled after the chapel at Oxford College in England. The baccaluareate service included the University Choir and lots of high Anglican chant and hymnody.

Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, an Episcopal priest, delivered the sermon. I had never heard her before, but she was a great preacher. Now I'm going to look up some of her books and publications.

Her texts were Genesis 12: 1-4 ( Abram leaves Haran after God tells him to leave and he will "make of you a great nation") and John 5: 1-9 (Jesus heals the man waiting by the pool at Bethzatha). Interesting choices. I was wondering how Dr. Brown would use them. She made an analogy between the next stage in the lives of the graduates--which is fraught with uncertainty as they begin their life's journey as young adults--with the beginnings of Abram's travels and the new life set before the paralytic as he "took up his bed" and walked after the healing. Her point was that God is as much with you in times of uncertainty and change as he is in times of celebration, achievement or grief.

Commencement itself began with the academic procession and the singing of one of my favorite hymns: For All The Saints. We sang all verses using the Ralph Vaughan Williams arrangement, accompanied by the chapel's magnificent (and newly refurbished) organ. Wow!
After the awards and diplomas had been given out, the recessional was just as magnificent, accompanied by organ and the carillion in the bell tower.

Lunch was available on the quadrangle, which was decorated with balloons in the university colors. Having El Jefe's sister and her family join us for the weekend made the weekend a real family celebration.

We all became very attached to Sewanee over the past few years. (Babs' cousin graduated in 1999.) What will be the future for this school which is supported by the most conservative dioceses in the country? The student body and most of the faculty are very conservative (politically and theologically) while the Graduate School of Theology has a very liberal reputation. The dissention over ordination standards in the ECUSA could have a major effect on the school. That would be a real tragedy.

Now it's back to unpacking Babs and preparing to help unpack Portia at the end of the week as she is moving back to the area for her summer clerk job.


Songbird said...

BBT has won all sorts of preaching awards and written some great books. I sometimes feel depressed that I will not be as good a preacher, but then I try to rewind the thinking and be thankful that she shares her preacherly goodness in so many ways! What a treat to hear her at a graduation. Congratulations to your daughter!

the reverend mommy said...

I love BBT. I wanna be BBT when I grow up.

SpookyRach said...

I'm all for flexibility and bucking tradition, but I am often surprised and entralled by the beauty of ceremonies such as this. Congratulations!