May 19, 2018
The following reflection was offered by the chair of our Board of Trustees, Linda Campanella, during the Commencement ceremonies on May 19 in Newton Centre.
To Our New Graduates…
President Copenhaver, distinguished guests, fellow trustees, members of the faculty and staff, alumni, parents and family members, and—especially—those among us who will receive certificates and diplomas today…
It is an honor to bring greetings to you all, and congratulations to the graduating class of 2018, from the Andover Newton Board of Trustees.
Commencement is the year’s most joyous occasion—the moment when we come together to celebrate the culmination of your studies, the reward for great sacrifices you’ve made along the way, the love and support you’ve received from family and friends who believed in you, and the fulfillment of your bold dreams.
Above all we celebrate and affirm your decision to answer God’s call to do His work in the world.
These past few years, as you have worked hard to earn your degrees, the trustees, as stewards of Andover Newton’s future, have worked hard to ensure that Andover Newton’s distinctive, desperately needed, 200-year mission would be sustained into a third century.
The Rev. Dr. James Kidd, an Andover Newton alum from the Class of 1959 and the minister whose sermons were the magnetic and irresistible force that drew me back to the church after two decades, once said the following in a sermon I’ve kept on file. I never knew it would have such relevance and resonance more than 25 years later in my role as a trustee. He said, “There is a reality, a spirit, which is at work behind the scenes. When life says no in one place, this spiritual reality, this reality of God, provides an opportunity to live our lives in an even better way than we had thought possible before we became aware of it.”
Today, we trust God has shown us the way forward and lit the path to a new home in New Haven. Of course, saying goodbye is difficult—for all of us. In 1995, another minister well known and widely acclaimed for preaching stirring sermons, our own President Copenhaver, wrote this in a sermon entitled “Where is Home?”—a sermon I found quite by accident, or by coincidence, just last week when searching the Web for something else:
“I’ve concluded that what we sometimes take to be nostalgia, a longing for the past, may also have elements of a yearning for what we have yet to experience. It is our soul’s leaning toward that which is still just out of sight, like a plant leans toward the window even though it has never been in the sun.”
It’s a powerful image, especially if you believe, as I do, that institutions, like individuals, have a soul. Andover Newton certainly does.
Today, we are yearning for and leaning toward that which has yet to be experienced. We are embracing the future with a sense of optimism and faith, and with the pioneering spirit that has distinguished Andover Newton for over 200 years.
The values, history and legacy that define Andover Newton represent the foundation on which we – and we hope you – will continue to build.
We balance our excitement about what lies ahead with love for all the people, including all of you, who have made Andover Newton what it is today and who forged the path that led Andover Newton to this moment in history when we have been called once again to lead boldly.
You, members of the Andover Newton Class of 2018, will be called to lead boldly, and I believe the faculty, staff, and your mentors have prepared you well for the challenges that lie ahead.
You have been taught and surrounded by scholars and learned clergy at Andover Newton. As a layperson, I represent those to whom learned clergy minister, and with my simple message for you today I would like to affirm that our world needs you! People like me need you.
We need you for support in trying times. We need you to make us feel love when we feel unlovable. We need you to celebrate our triumphs with us while reminding us to give glory to God rather than indulge in self-congratulation. We need you to remind us to practice forgiveness and to prefer reconciliation over retribution.
We need you to help us make sense of things that make no sense and to keep the faith when we are losing it. We need you to remind and show us that each of us is a minister; each of us can minister. Help motivate us to move into ministry and use our God-given gifts to do God’s work in our communities.
We need you to nudge us out of our comfort zones and push us gently across boundaries that separate or divide God’s children from each other. We need you to call out injustices and to mobilize us in righteous protest against what is wrong or unjust.
Today, all of us need seminaries like Andover Newton to prepare people not only to lead the church but also to lead the conversation – about a broken world, about a pluralistic world, about our anxieties about living in this world in such troubled and troubling times.
Graduates, congratulations. All the possibilities and also all the problems of the world lie before you. It is a new world… A world that demands enlightened, creative, brave leadership from people of faith like you who are committed to embodying God’s unconditional love, embracing every dimension of diversity in our world, and enacting God’s will and God’s ways of justice for all God’s people.
Members of the Class of 2018, you’ve reached your destination, and yet your journey is just beginning.
Be proud of your accomplishments, even as you continue to walk humbly with our God. Congratulations and best wishes to each and every one of you.
The trustees rejoice with you and will continue to hold you in our prayers.