Yale Divinity School graduates 131, amid diverse traditions
By Gustav Spohn
Director of Communications and Publications
Commencement 2006 posed some unusual challenges for Yale Divinity School, as ongoing renovations to Marquand Chapel necessitated erection of an open-air tent on Sterling Divinity Quadrangle. However, the wind, rain and cold that gripped the Quad before giving way to warm and sunny weather did little to dampen the festive spirit-a reminder, perhaps, that YDS is more about people than about space.
On the afternoon of Monday, May 22, a total of 131 students received diplomas, presented by Dean Harold Attridge, Academic Dean Robert Wilson, and Registrar Detra MacDougall. Sixty students were awarded the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, 57 the Master of Arts in Religion (M.A.R.), and 14 the Master of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.). View the Commencement degree ceremony video.
Earlier on Monday, at communion, and during the preceding worship services on Saturday and Sunday, faculty members had delivered sermons that set the tone for commencement exercises.
At communion, Assistant Professor of Old Testament Carolyn Sharp raised up what she termed two "crucial" aspects of discipleship: bearing fruit and loving one another.
"These two things are intimately connected," Sharp told graduates, family and friends. "We cannot have one without the other: there is no fruitful ministry without love, and no love without fruitful ministry."
Given those dimensions of ministry, she ended with words of encouragement: "I want you to know that you are equipped. Think back over your time here... You are equipped. Rejoice! Enable people to become alive to the Word!"
In an increasingly global environment, part of that equipping includes exposure to cross-cultural forms of worship, and that feature of the YDS experience was abundantly in evidence over the two days of celebration. There was music performed by the Korean Traditional Musicians, the Ghanaian Drummers, and the Marquand Gospel Choir and musical selections from South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe, and Puerto Rico. Scripture was read during a Gospel procession, and as the Bible was carried from point-to-point a golden, fringed liturgical umbrella was held above it, following an Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition.
Emilie M. Townes, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology, delivered the sermon at Sunday's commencement worship, which began in rainy weather. She spoke of the need for "an embrace of the radical inclusivity that God comes to us beyond our narrow notions of election and tradition and sacraments and ordinances and doctrines." View the Commencement Worship video online.
Townes argued for the "variety of gifts of the spirit that are signs of the common good that can shape us into righteous witnesses for a justice-seeking love that will not hold its peace." Among others, Townes alluded to "bisexual, celibate, gay, lesbian, straight, transgender; conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, liberal, moderate, Pentecostal, radical; the propertied and the property-less."
Joseph Britton, dean of Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, challenged graduates at an Episcopal evensong on Saturday to listen to the variety of people who are "knocking at the church doors," welcome them in, and be unafraid of asking questions, which he called "the engine of discovery that draws us into creative and meaningful living."
Said Britton, "Now as religious leaders, you are to be the ones who will raise the hard questions that need to be asked in both church and society: questions that will force all of us to think more deeply, to look more carefully, to consider more thoughtfully what it is that we are to be as a church, as a community, and as a nation."
As is the custom, Dean Attridge pointed the way forward in his "Charge to the Graduates," given just prior to the presentation of diplomas. This year Attridge sent the class into the world with a prayer inspired by St. Francis of Assisi : "As you go forth may God grant you to be instruments of God's peace. Where there is hatred, may he help you sow love, where you find injury, may he make you an instrument of pardon, where doubt faith, despair hope, darkness light, sadness joy."
As they venture forth, the graduates of 2006 will employ various means in their ministries: Some will serve in the pulpit, some will work at nonprofits, others plan to continue their education and pursue teaching careers. Click here for a sampling of graduation plans for 2006 graduates.
In tribute to faculty, staff and administrators, members of the class offered words of thanks at the commencement worship to specific persons who were especially helpful. Class officer Elizabeth Marie Melchionna introduced the comments by noting that one constant at YDS is the "outstanding leadership and energy of our faculty, our staff and our administration."
But in addition to words of thanks the class offered something tangible as well, formally presented by graduating seniors Jennie Ott and Jared Stahler: a class gift of $4,700 to the YDS Annual Fund, which provides need-based scholarships to YDS students. As of June 5, that total had increased to $4,890, with a participation rate of almost 50 percent.