When he spoke recently at the “Launching of a New Year” service in All Saints’ Chapel, Gray Hodsdon, T’20, had a unifying message for members of the University community—undergraduates, seminarians, faculty, staff, and others: “We are all Sewanee.”
As the president of the St. Luke’s Community student body, Hodsdon was invited to speak during the annual service along with undergraduate student leaders and the vice-chancellor.
Born and raised the son of an Episcopal priest, Hodsdon grew up in the Diocese of North Carolina. As a student at Florida State University, he found that campus ministry offered him opportunities to explore his faith, grow as a leader, and discern his call to the priesthood. It also demonstrated the vital importance of college ministry in forming Christians, first and foremost, but also lay and clergy leaders in The Episcopal Church. While still a student, Hodsdon co-chaired the launch of the Invite Welcome Connect ministry in Tallahassee.
Hodsdon’s sponsoring parish, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tallahassee, also played a significant role in his formation and discernment, and he gives credit to the great clergy who supported him through the process.
His responsibilities as student body president include presiding over St. Luke’s executive committees; appointing committees for the various initiatives of the seminary, representing the seminary in the University and Sewanee communities, and bringing concerns and interests of the student body to the administration and faculty.
“One of the great joys for me as president is serving my fellow seminarians as well as the school that has done, and continues to do, so much in my formation and education to the priesthood,” Hodsdon says. “Sometimes that means listening to and responding to challenges and issues that other students bring forward. In that way, my role is to empower and support. Whether we’re talking about difficult situations or exciting new ideas, they all are starting points for positive change and service to the community. That is what it always comes back to for me.”
Hodsdon’s address during the “Launching of a New Year” service reflected these values—his love for Sewanee, and opportunities for positive change. Read his remarks in their entirety here:
“Vice-chancellor, administration, faculty, staff, and fellow students—good afternoon to you and to everyone assembled here today. And to the new freshmen—congratulations—because you are now a part of the fabric of Sewanee. And for everyone here, you are the 2019–2020 identity of Sewanee, and it is a great pleasure to play a part in welcoming you to this holy mountain as we launch a new school year.
It is also my pleasure to speak to you on behalf of the St. Luke’s Community as student body president. If you are wondering, “What is the St. Luke’s Community?” I hope my words will offer some clarity.
For those of you who are new to the Domain, maybe you never thought of Sewanee as anything more than a four-year undergraduate university, and it is, but it is so much more. Sewanee is a community that encompasses undergraduates, administrators, staff, professors, and many others. But it also includes the School of Theology, which is the University’s residential seminary of The Episcopal Church.
Like the undergraduates among us, we leave our homes—sometimes our jobs or previous schools—and come here to be educated and formed so that when we leave, we are better prepared to go wherever God is calling us. And while much of our seminary education and formation happens down the road on Tennessee Avenue, like you, we reside on this Mountain. Like you, we are students of this University. And like you, we are a part of this Sewanee community.
While you may not realize it, seminarians are among you all the time—studying on the third floor of duPont, exercising at the Fowler Center, shopping in the bookstore, sipping coffee at Stirling’s, dining in McClurg, hiking the Perimeter Trail, and even simply walking about this beautiful campus.
And, like you, we are not all alike. We are students of many different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds, and we come from all over the country and the world to be here.
And so, in all these ways and more, seminarians and undergraduates are here together as fellow students. And one of the goals of the seminary is to make this not just a fact, but a lived reality. Currently there are many opportunities for connection in place and we hope more will develop this year and beyond.
One of the major collaborative efforts of the University, bringing together faculty, undergraduates, and seminarians, is the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation. This project has taken on the most important yet challenging work of examining our history as an institution— to unveil some of the dark truths about our University’s roots. This work of reconciliation and truth-telling is important in revealing not only what Sewanee has been, but also who we are now and who we want to be. I want to thank seminarians Murdock Jones and Malcolm McLaurin as well as seminary professors Dr. Benjamin King and Bishop James Tengatenga for their important contributions and commitment to this effort, along with the efforts of those at the College. And a special thank you to Hannah Pommersheim, T’19, who is continuing to work with the project. I am also delighted to share that she and fellow graduate Kellan Day, T’19, have developed a workshop to help churches with Confederate symbols understand their past and discern a way forward, which will be held at the seminary this November.
And, in addition to the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation, one of the most significant intersections of seminarians and undergraduates is at the heart of the campus in All Saints’ Chapel, with various ministries and offerings, such as the Invite Welcome Connect ministry, the Catechumenate process, and services such as these.
These are only some of the ways in which seminarians are fostering connections across the University. And though we as the seminary have our own separate place in the life of the University, I hope many of you will get to know us, just as we hope to get to know you. Because whether undergraduate, seminarian, faculty member, administrator, or otherwise, we are all Sewanee.