|SFTS Applauds New Graduates - Class of 2013|
On Saturday, May 25, San Francisco Theological Seminary awarded 59 degrees and certificates and commissioned its class of 2013 to do ministry in the larger world.
“Your theological education, my friends, has to go somewhere, has to mean something more than an M.A., an M.Div., a D.Min., or a Ph.D. on your resumé,” SFTS President James McDonald said in his commencement sermon. “Now it’s time to pivot and take what you’ve learned here to its logical conclusion. Now it’s time to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Now it’s time to be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”
The weekend of commencement activities at SFTS began on Friday, May 24, with a community lunch, during which members of the class of 2013 received awards and recognition for academics, preaching ability, and seminary community involvement. In recognition of their academic achievements, Laura Nelson received the Alumni Fellowship and Julie Barnes received the Seminary Fellowship. In recognition of their preaching ability, Katherine Buck was awarded the Martin Dwelle Kneeland Preaching Prize and Faith McClellan received the David Esler Award in Homiletics. Charles Wei and Laura Nelson were recognized for their deep involvement in the SFTS community.
Commenting on her recognition for preaching, McClellan said, “I was humbled and honored to get this award in homiletics. Through my training at SFTS, I am able to approach Scripture using different biblical languages, and through my coursework in preaching, spirituality, and theology, I can be open to the Holy Spirit leading me when I preach my sermons.”Graduation Weekend Photos
At the community lunch, Wei was also recognized for his creation of a 33-foot ceramic mural that displays biblical scenes using colorful broken pottery. The mural, which took three years to design and create, is now on permanent display in Holy Grounds, the SFTS student common area next to Alexander Hall.
The SFTS baccalaureate service took place in Stewart Chapel the day before commencement. Designed by the class of 2013, the service included Scripture read in various languages including Korean, Greek, Hebrew, and Amharic.
SFTS enrollment director Elizabeth McCord directed her sermon to the class of 2013: “You who are graduating have demonstrated mutual care, respect, and devotion to one another through your years at San Francisco Theological Seminary. You have become one another’s kin, one another’s people; you share and serve the same God.
“Like Ruth and Naomi,” McCord continued, “something fundamental about who you are as people and as faith leaders is now intertwined. And while you may not physically go where another goes or lodge where another lodges, you can remain together in prayer and in friendship.”
The Rev. Eugene Eung-Chun Park, professor of New Testament at SFTS, gave a charge to the graduating students as they prepared to go out into the world. The Rev. James Moiso, interim pastor-in-residence for the 2010–2011 academic year, offered the closing benediction.
The following day’s commencement program, at Bouick Field on the SFTS campus, opened with the sounds of bagpipes and an official procession of the graduating class, faculty, administrators, and guest speakers. SFTS graduated 16 students in the Master of Divinity program, 8 students in the Master of Arts in Theological Studies program, 19 students in the Doctor of Ministry program, 12 students in the Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction program, 5 students in the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) Master of Arts program, 3 students in the Diploma in Spiritual Formation Studies program, and 1 student in the GTU Ph.D. program.
SFTS also recognized the Rev. Byron L. Bland as recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Alumni Award. Bland, who received an M.A. in social ethics from SFTS in 1973 and an M.Div. from the seminary in 1974, works as an international conflict resolution expert through the Stanford Center on International Conflict and Negotiation (SCICN). He is currently involved in peacemaking efforts in Northern Ireland and Israel-Palestine. Bland co-founded the Ecumenical Hunger Program of Palo Alto, California, one of the oldest and largest faith- and community-based anti-hunger organizations in the country. He also helped establish the first peace studies program at Stanford University in 1982.
Since Bland was working in Ireland at the time of commencement, he enlisted the Rev. Jack Hodges (M.Div. 1965), president of the SFTS Alumni Council, to read his acceptance speech.
While they are sad to be leaving the seminary community they have called home, graduates of SFTS say they are excited to use what they have learned to become spiritual leaders in the nation and the world.
“I am heartbroken to be leaving SFTS, which has been my community and my home for the past four years,” said Charles Wei, who earned an M.Div. degree. “But I’m excited to take all that I have learned to engage in ministry through nontraditional avenues.”
"Commencement is not just about celebrating the end of our story as classmates at SFTS,” said M.Div. graduate Terra Pennington. “It’s about rejoicing with one another on new beginnings, knowing that we leave the seminary as friends who will radically change the future of the church and the world together."