Graduation day is always a bittersweet one for the Sewanee community — joy for the students who have achieved their academic goals coupled with a twinge of sadness that they will be leaving the Mountain. Today was no exception as thirty students and three distinguished guests received degrees and certificates from the University of the South’s School of Theology.
The bells rang out as students and faculty processed into All Saint’s Chapel. The service included hymns selected to showcase the work of Dr. David J. Hurd, the recipient of an honorary degree, a doctor of music, on this day. The Rt. Rev. J. Neil Alexander, dean of The School of Theology, noted that as “an internationally known concert organist and composer, David Hurd can make a claim that few others can: Thanks to the breadth and quantity of his work, it is no exaggeration to say that on every Sunday of the year, Christians somewhere are singing his praises.”
The Most Rev. David Chillingworth received a doctor of divinity and also delivered the sermon. He acknowledged to the graduates that today they will set out to meet what God has in store for them, but he cautioned them that they will often be misunderstood in their ministry. Confessing that in his own 38 years of ministry he has often been misunderstood, neverthless he has remained committed to his faith and to the life God has chosen for him. This is because he views being misunderstood as a gift — it keeps us humble, reminding us that this is about God.
The Rt. Rev. Mark Bourlakas was also the recipient of an honorary doctor of divinity degree. Alexander stated during the reading of his citation that, “Bourlakas’ ministry has been characterized by a strong outward focus, calling the church to mission that makes a difference in the world, and by fostering a welcoming church that is particularly inviting to those new to the church’s fellowship.”
Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South John McCardell and Alexander called the students to come forward and receive their diplomas and academic hoods. McCardell then addressed the class and summarized by saying, “And so, as you take your leave, take with you the knowledge that you will always be in our thoughts and prayers. Take with you as well our faith in you and our love for you. And finally, take these comforting words from St. Paul: ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”’