|Class of 2012 prepared for new relationships, changed attitudes, fresh possibilities
As the Class of 2012 was honored during the San Francisco Theological Seminary Commencement Exercises on Saturday, May 19, new graduates celebrated their faith and hopes with nearly 400 family members, friends and the seminary community amid the towering redwoods on Bouick Field. Beginning their new journeys with the support of loved ones, the 69 members of SFTS’s newest graduating class stood together in celebration and in prayerful reflection in anticipation of their future calls and ministries.
Rev. Dr. James. L. McDonald, seminary president, delivered the charge to graduating students, marking his first SFTS Commencement Exercises since arriving in San Anselmo in July 2011. McDonald offered words of encouragement and wisdom regarding the thresholds the new graduates will pass through as they travel throughout the world, relying on their theological educations and seminary experiences to help shape a future in tune with God’s purposes in the world.
“We rejoice with you,” McDonald told the Class of 2012. “The time you have spent as a student at SFTS is at an end and you are crossing a threshold. A threshold marks a line between the present and the future, between the familiar and the unknown, between the place where you’ve been and the place where you’re going. When you step across a threshold, something new is about to unfold – a new relationship, a changed attitude, a fresh possibility, an adventure.”
The SFTS Southern California campus held its graduation celebration on May 12 at Pasadena Presbyterian Church. The ceremony was especially sentimental since it honored the last graduating class due to the closure of the SFTS Southern California campus in 2011.
Exciting possibilities and adventures certainly await the Class of 2012 from both campuses, which includes graduates from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Korea, Ghana, Cameroon, Malaysia, Vietnam, and across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. Twenty-six students earned Master of Divinity degrees, the first professional degree in theological studies. Nine students graduated with Master of Arts in Theological Studies degrees and four students earned Master of Arts degrees conferred by the Graduate Theological Union.
SFTS was also proud to award Doctor of Ministry degrees to 16 students. The Program in Christian Spirituality awarded 10 Diplomas in the Art of Spiritual Direction. Four students affiliated with SFTS earned Doctor of Philosophy degrees conferred by the GTU.
The annual award winners included Master of Divinity graduate Matthias Peterson-Brandt, who won the Alumni Fellowship. Deidra Goulding won the Seminary Fellowship.
Other award winners include Rev. Dorothy Ruby Pollard (Martin Dwelle Kneeland Preaching Prize) and Lucas Walker (David Esler Award in Homiletics).
"My time in seminary has challenged what I have accepted as fact and encouraged what I know as truth," said Pollard. "Seminary has been as rewarding as it was challenging, insightful, as it was perplexing and connecting as it was separating. I have learned to expect change, respect difference and rise to new challenges. The people I have meet, the friendships that I have made, and the knowledge that I have gained have greatly enriched me personally, and as an academic and I am confident that my matriculation through SFTS has prepared me for the paradoxical life of a clergyperson."
Several new graduates from the SFTS Southern California campus attended the celebration in San Anselmo, including Amy Klinkovsky, who delivered the opening prayer.
"SFTS-SC not only provided a rich academic experience and strong educational foundation for ministry, it also provided an environment of rich diversity with regard to ethnicity, theology, socio-economics, Christian denomination, gender, age, sexual orientation and politics," Klinkovsky said. "We challenged one another, encouraged one another, prayed for one another, studied with one another, taught one another, learned from one another, shared our faiths with one another; and above all, because of our differences, loved one another."
Members of the Class of 2012 gained insights into how their theological educations might be used thanks to speeches by Distinguished Alumni Rev. Dr. ChangBok Chung and Rev. Dr. Joseph Kang. Chung and Kang were honored for their faithful service to the Church of Jesus Christ and offered inspiring messages as they recalled their days in seminary, the ministries they pursued following graduation, and the roles professors, family and classmates still play in their lives today.
Chung and Kang earned Doctor of the Science of Theology degrees in 1978 and 1981, respectively. Most recently, Chung served as president of Hanil University and Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Jeonju, Korea. Kang taught theology in Malawi and Russia.