Christmas feels like the perfect time for a seminary commencement ceremony. What could be more fitting than to send out a new band of Gospel preachers just as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and declare the great announcement of the incarnation?
Commencements also remind us that we have done this all before. Quite regularly, faculty, friends, and graduates assemble to celebrate the completion of academic programs and the fulfillment of educational ambitions. This seems especially meaningful when the programs of study and degrees are those earned by Christian ministers, ready for deployment into the world.
I want to take you back to July 15, 1838, and a very different commencement ceremony, but a ceremony also intended to launch new ministers into the world and into the pulpit. The school was the Harvard Divinity School, the graduating class numbered seven, and only six were present. The commencement speaker was Ralph Waldo Emerson, America’s most famous intellect of that era.
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