Spring is a celebratory time of year on a university campus. There are multiple opportunities to celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff, and it seems like not a week goes by without me having the opportunity to lead our community in some kind of public prayer. It’s actually my favorite time of year–I love all the “pomp and circumstance,” and the traditions that tie us to generations past. I was joking with someone the other day, and told them that I get so many requests to pray at events during this time of year that I sometimes forget which events I’m going to be praying at, so I just show up at events with a prayer ready, just in case!
This weekend is Honors Day on campus, and the whole day will be filled with ceremonies held by the various departments and honorary societies. The highlight of the day is the Honors Convocation, where we recognize new initiates into the academic honoraries, and recognize all of the awards that will be given out throughout the day. This is the first spring sighting of all the “campus plumage,” when the faculty shake out their robes and hoods, and we get to see everyone in their academic finery. I love all the colorful robes and hoods, and guessing where each faculty member studied, based on the colors of their regalia. (I’m an academic regalia nerd–I fully admit it!)
In a couple short weeks, we’ll celebrate commencement, and the students will join in the wearing of the odd mortarboard hats and the unisex (read: uniformly unflattering) robes. For me, the wearing of the caps, gowns, and hoods is always a reminder of the church roots of our academic enterprise, as the first academic robes were actually clergy robes. Commencement is such an emotional time for everyone–especially for the parents and family members who are there to cheer on their favorite graduates. It’s also a time of hope, and looking to the future, making plans and dreaming new dreams.
Finally, this year is also a special commencement season for me, as I will participate in the commencement exercises of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, having earned my Doctor of Ministry degree from that institution. I am excited to be a part of this ceremony, because it represents a personal achievement in my own life, and it recognizes the support and encouragement I’ve received from my family and friends over the last four and a half years. This is my last commencement as a student (You hear that–my LAST ONE–No more degrees!), so it’s a little bittersweet, but it’s also a hopeful time for me, as I look forward to continuing the work I started in my doctoral project in starting a new ministry of group spiritual direction on our campus.
If you are celebrating someone’s special academic achievement this spring, or perhaps your own, may you be blessed as you pause for a moment and take it all in. These are special moments, and they should be savored. Don’t forget to breathe, don’t step on your robe, and look around you to take it all in!