Each year at commencement, the graduating class and faculty choose three students—one from each degree program—to offer words of blessing, calling, and conviction. Here, we’re sharing the full video and transcript of the speech given by Megan Doner, Master of Divinity about the journey that led each graduate to the school, and the journey yet to come in a world that looks much different than when they first began their studies. You can also watch the speeches from Mercedes Robinson, Master of Theology and Culture, and Danielle Castijello, Master of Counseling Psychology.
We are gathered here in our caps and gowns to signal that we have accomplished, what we first arrived at 2501 Elliott Avenue to do. However, I would urge you to remember that there was so much more in your heart than a degree when you began.
I wonder what it was that motivated you to enroll or to even begin seeking a graduate program. Maybe even what the program sought in you. For most of us, I would guess that you saw something in the world you are not okay with. For me, that was the injustice of sexual violence that women and children face all too often.
But I would wager that there was something, or many things, that you knew at the deepest level of your being were not the way that they were supposed to be. There was a passion inside of you that had hope for a different way, a better way, And however it was that you encountered The Seattle School, you saw sparks of that hope alive and moving.
You saw people who have gone before doing work that was shifting those same tides, and so you chose to be a part of the movement. At the beginning of every school year there’s a Fall Vespers service and in this service the story of The Seattle School is told including how it was started by folks who were just foolish enough to believe that they could have an impact and create change. Paul Steinke would end the speech by welcoming us beautiful fools into the fold of hope and change seekers that had come before us, and I would venture to guess that your journey at The Seattle School probably wasn’t exactly what you had imagined when you first began, as life never is.
I know that I got far more than just an education in theology and biblical studies, but these last few months I found it difficult to ground myself, to find the directions forward or to even hold hope, and perhaps you have as well.
The world looks much different than it did when we started not just because we read Esther Meek, Martin Buber or the Septuagint in Greek, but also because we are in the midst of a global pandemic and an active civil rights movement. In the last nine days alone, we have been mourning the loss of a champion for women and LGBTQ folks rights as well as the denial of justice for Breonna Taylor. And while all these specific events are new, the underlying issues and systems are not, from racism, xenophobia, sexism, unequal access to healthcare, and homophobia, white supremacy, and the list could go on and on and on, and it would be foolish to think that we could reverse every evil, but it is possible to have an impact.
It’s necessary to enact change within our areas of influence. It can be easy to forget the work that we have done here or why we did it, especially in times such as these. For myself, I got my voice back. I got access to pieces of myself I hadn’t known or had lost along the way. I learned many new aspects and histories of Christianity that gave me a renewed connection to our creator and now I will go forth to make space for others to do that same work.
I don’t know what each of your unique paths look like but my friends, as we depart for separate vocations and paths, I pray that the God of the impossible would meet you in surprising ways when you feel more foolish than hopeful. May you always have strong community around you and in times of difficulty may you be able to feel the palpable presence of God so you know you are never alone in your work. In the times when you feel like you cannot go any further, may rest and peace find you, and when you emerge may your capacity be enlarged enough to keep going another day. And finally, may you have spacious breath that fills your lungs with ample oxygen to keep those embers of foolish hope that brought you here in the first place alive. May they burn enough to continue lighting your path and guiding your work in this beautifully broken world, because the world needs you.