Spring Commencement 2012: Growing Wisdom

Andover Newton Theological School awarded degrees to 70 students in this year’s spring commencement. Forty-five women and 25 men from the United States and abroad constituted this year’s graduating class, with 42 earning the Master of Divinity; 19, the Master of Arts; 8 receiving the Doctor of Ministry; and 1 Master of Sacred Theology. Represented in the class were the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, American Baptists, and several denominations. Events started Friday night (May 18) with a Baccalaureate service at the Eliot Church of Newton. The graduating class chose as its speaker Rev. Dr. Mary Luti, who is retiring from her role as visiting professor and director of Wilson Chapel.

Saturday morning (May 19) began with a brunch sponsored by the Andover Newton Alumni/ae Association. Commencement exercises were held in the afternoon at First Baptist Church in Newton. The school’s faculty chose graduating senior Jennifer Macy as student speaker. A native of Beverly, MA, Macy is a member of the United Church of Christ and a Fund for Theological Education scholar who founded the multi-cultural youth group at Christ Church United in Lowell. In her research for the Fund, she spent a year studying how well a selected group of urban churches serve at-risk teenagers, with an eye toward training leaders to more effectively keep these youths from falling through the cracks of society. The guest speaker at commencement was the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister of Local Church Ministries for the United Church of Christ and a member of the UCC’s five-person Collegium of Officers. Guess is the first openly gay person to serve as a national officer of the United Church of Christ and co-founded his home state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, the Kentucky Fairness Alliance.

Guess opened his address with a humble story of guest-preaching at a congregation on Mother’s Day when he had stuck to the lectionary and prepared an Ascension Sunday-themed sermon instead. “It was not a good day,” Guess observed, “which brings me, in a circuitous way, I know, to the text for this afternoon. ‘Not all you were wise,’ says Paul. ‘Who among you is wise?’ ” Andover Newton’s commencement was held the day before Ascension Sunday. Looking back at his own early days in seminary, with wide-eyed students “let loose” with the tools of their faith, he observed, “For Christians, we’ve been wrestling with what it means to be ‘let loose’ ever since that first Ascension Day, when the Resurrected Christ, at least physically, left us behind on a hill in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and asked us to press on by ourselves … with that never-ending call to follow now becoming a call to leadership.” Paul said that not all were wise, Guess repeated through the ceremony ... but he also added that the implication of Paul’s words were that some WERE wise, and he urged the students to “Never apologize, or feel inadequate to the task (the calling) you have pursued. Consider your wisdom instead, and be about tending to the most important work in the world, the work of love.” Members of the graduating class planted “Class of 2012” balloons in various locations around campus, only the last of the marks they left as students and the first of their actions as alumni/ae who will help guide the school in the future.