by Shelley Cunningham, '98, M.Div.
Pomp and circumstance gave way to hearty cheer as 159 students received degrees at the 140th Commencement, May 24 at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. Eighty-five students earned the
Master of Divinity degrees necessary for ordination. Master of Arts degrees were handed out to 49 students, and eight received Doctor of Ministry degrees in biblical preaching.
Speaker Terence Fretheim, Elva B. Lovell Professor of Old Testament, framed the day around Psalm 56. Though a psalm of lament might seem an unconventional choice for such an occasion, Fretheim said, "A dose of realism seems appropriate for a time such as this. We are living in a time of much lament, both within the church and without. Our people are, in the words of Jesus, 'harassed and helpless.' How will we minister in a time such as this? What words and actions will meet the needs of the people we are called to serve? How might you, who are called to lead these communities, be best able to hear this word for yourselves?"
Despite Fretheim's acknowledgment of the realities many graduates will face, he did offer a hopeful word: "Few, if any, of God's gifts to you are of greater value than imagination--for-life and for ministry. Your imagination should be carefully nourished [so you can] speak in fresh ways about the faith you hold dear."
He reminded the assembly of God's promise to all believers: "Do not be afraid; neither be dismayed; for I will never leave you or forsake you," he cited. "Come what may, God will take you forward. Wherever your journey may take you, you can be certain that the God you know in Jesus holds you in his scar-filled hands and will never, ever let you go."
Master of Divinity candidate Andrew Olaf Nelson offered the response on behalf of the graduating class, citing a poem by Marge Piercy titled "To Be of Use," which describes the "work of the world, common as mud ... but worth doing well done."
"It is real work for which we have been trained; real work to which we are going," Nelson said. "There is real work waiting for us--in congregations, communities, schools, agencies--wherever people need a good word, which is everywhere."
During the ceremony, Janet Ramsey was awarded the Pastor George Weinman Chair of Pastoral Theology and Ministry. Ramsey joined the faculty as associate professor of congregational care leadership in 2002.
The Christus Lux Mundi Award was presented to Lloyd Svendsbye, former president of Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, who oversaw the merger of Luther Theological Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran
Theological seminaries during the 1970s and '80s. In addition to 14 years leading the seminary, Svendsbye's life of service to the church includes time as a parish pastor, an administrator for the Lutheran World Federation Assembly, a professor at Concordia College, editor-in-chief for Augsburg
Publishing House, vice president of St. Olaf College and president of Augustana College.
Christus Lux Mundi (which means "Christ the light of the world") is the most distinguished award presented by Luther Seminary. Svendsbye is the 10th recipient of the award. Svendsbye was gracious in acceptance. "I am awed and overjoyed in wonderment," he said.
In addition, several graduates were recognized for academic excellence. They included:
The G.M. and Minnie Bruce Award in New Testament, presented to Michael Jay Chan and Jordan John Scott; The A.E. Hanson Prize in Homiletics, given to Sarah DeYoung Brouwer and Andrew Olaf Nelson; The John Milton Prize in Old Testament, awarded to Michael Jay Chan, Anna Elizabeth Marsh and Jordan John Scott; The Graduate Preaching Fellowship, given to Jennifer Falkman Grangaard; and The Children, Youth and family Prize, awarded to Paul Michael Clark.
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