Convocation 2019

Friends,

We acknowledge we are on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis. This verbal acknowledgement is one concrete action that symbolises our commitment to the work of reconciliation. As well, we extend our gratitude to the people of Zion Lutheran Church for the kindness of graciously hosting the Saskatoon Theological Union’s Convocation this evening.

On behalf of the St. Andrew’s Community, I am honoured to bring greetings and well wishes to those who are graduating this evening from the Lutheran Theological Seminary, The College of Emmanuel & St. Chad and St. Andrew’s.

I am grateful to recognise the members of St. Andrew’s Board who are with us, the friends of the College who are in attendance, and most certainly the faculty and staff who are joining us in the highlight of this week’s work which concludes the May meetings of our Finance and Academic Committees and our Board of Regents.

This has been a year of firsts for me and for the students whom we gather to celebrate of lasts. Firsts and lasts, alpha and omega, these are never book ends, but reflect the circularity of life. They remind us of where we have been and constantly offer us opportunities to reflect on where we might be going.

In this year of firsts, of which standing before you after 10 months as St. Andrew’s Principal is just one more, I am aware these moments will soon come to an end.

One of my most recent firsts that connects with this moment in which we are gathered occurred last weekend. Last Saturday, I had the honour to join the STU’s partner, Horizon College and Seminary, during their convocation ceremony.

Not unlike this moment, there was clearly pride in the accomplishment for which we have gathered to recognise. A recognition that these degrees and diplomas, certificates and achievements, do not mark an end to the pursuit of learning, but serve as benchmarks, milestones, touchstones of the life-long-learning commitment that is the path of discipleship.

Convocation 2019

This path is not always easy and there is no doubt that for each of the graduates in our midst, there have been, are and will be sacrifices to live out this radical Call to be those who speak justice, live kindness and breath compassion. In a world in which shadows gather, kin, Sisters and Brothers, these are indeed leaders for whom the world longs.

I was recently reminded, during another first, what this work of leadership and justice, listening and action, caring and being can look like. On Wednesday evening, the St. Andrew’s community gathered with friends and Indigenous partners to install a treaty plaque. This ritual, this ceremony, this liturgical public act is just one more step in the College’s endeavour to live into right relations and nurture the journey toward reconciliation and reparation.

During this time, members of the College presented denominational and St. Andrew’s milestones of this journey. In turn, an Indigenous partner offered a reflection and response. In these conversational dyads, there was celebration of work done and challenge of that which remains. There was truth spoken and vulnerability offered. This was a holy, liminal, time.

In this space, we began with the United Church of Canada’s first apology to Indigenous peoples in 1986 and were offered the lived experience of an Elder’s presence on that day by the sacred fire. Prior to the closing reflection offered by the presiding Elder, the Rev. Dr. Bernice Saulteaux, we concluded with a statement and reflection born from the recent collaborative academic endeavour between St. Andrew’s Faculty and Indigenous academics and activists in response to Article 60 of the Truth and Reconciliation’s Recommendations, which reads as follows:

We call upon leaders of the church parties to the Settlement Agreement and all other faiths, in collaboration with Indigenous spiritual leaders, Survivors, schools of theology, seminaries, and other religious training centres, to develop and teach curriculum for all student clergy, and all clergy and staff who work in Aboriginal communities, on the need to respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right, the history and legacy of residential schools and the roles of the church parties in that system, the history and legacy of religious conflict in Aboriginal families and communities, and the responsibility that churches have to mitigate such conflicts and prevent spiritual violence.

As my time before you comes to an end, as I reflect on these firsts, here is what I am most struck by. As graduates, there have been, are and will always be firsts. You will not know right away, perhaps later or possibly never what each first might sow.

Being the sowers of seeds, of sharing the Good News when it might seem there are no ears to hear or eyes to see, invites you to take heart. Be emboldened that this work, this Call, is not owned by me, by you, or by us. As those who endeavour to live into a servant leadership that walks with the marginalised, advocates for the oppressed and tenderly holds the broken, know that your continual firsts will model the Easter story: on the other side of hurts named, tears shared, challenges recognised there is hope, there is resurrection.

Congratulations to each of you the STU graduates of 2019. May your ministries continue to reveal to you the Blessing that you each are in order for you to help other so shine.

May it be so.

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