Looking at the temperature today, at least in this part of Arizona, summer has already arrived. It’s early in June, and it’s just now reaching summer temperatures. Usually, we get it earlier in May, but we had a lovely long spring. That means that probably summer is going to be a real humdinger.
Early June always reminds me of the end of school. When I was growing up, our school year lasted from just after Labor Day to mid-June. A lot of places still observe those dates, but here, we start in mid-August and end in the middle of May at the latest.
Graduation is a significant step. In our school, we didn’t have kindergarten, elementary school, or middle school graduations. We simply ended up one year and the next year went into the next class. Graduation was a big deal because that meant high school was over, and it was time to get on to the next phase of life. I imagine it still is for those who have reached the end point of their first twelve years of education and who are now ready to either extend their educational experience or go out into the world and make lives for themselves.
College graduations are interesting. While the gowns and hats may be the same color, all of a sudden, there are splashes of different colors on the hoods, each denoting a separate area of extended learning. Some will be teachers; some will be business executives. There will be nurses, doctors, lawyers, or professors.
No matter what specialization a person studied, many of them will not end up working in that particular field. It’s weird, but it happens. The important thing is that the learning has taken place. Employers know that this person has the will and the drive to pursue knowledge and to make that knowledge work for them.
This week, my Education for Ministry (EfM) group online is having their graduation. Some of the class members have completed their four years of education by extension from a program sponsored by the University of the South School of theology. Our group will be losing four valuable members, part of our online community and, surprisingly, people who have become like family to us. We’ve all shared our thoughts, problems, needs, and hopes as well as what we have learned, what amazed us, disturbed us about what we read, confused us, or delighted us about our text and our supplemental readings. The great thing about online is that we meet people from all over, only a few of us have ever met others in the group face-to-face. Our viewpoints are different, beliefs may be a little different, our practices are probably different, but we all joined together to explore the many ways there are to learn to think theologically and to use what we have learned about the Bible, church history, and theology, in our ministries both in and out of the church. We’ve had great discussions, and some odd ones, but in each one of them, at least one person has had an Aha! moment that opened a window in their mind to something they hadn’t considered before. It’s a joyous thing, and even more so when more than one has such a moment.
Graduation is a bittersweet time because many of us will not cross paths again, although many keep in touch with other group members and we enjoy hearing what our former classmates are doing. Still, graduation is a happy event for us, with prayers, shares about the things that our graduates want their classmates to know what they’ve learned from it, how they felt about the group, and what they will take with them as they go about their ministries. Perhaps they will even go into the discernment of new ministries. Will miss them, but we rejoice that we have shared the time with them.
The disciples had a graduation of sorts when Jesus ascended into heaven, capped by Pentecost. They couldn’t go back to Jesus and say, “Could you repeat that lesson again, please?” They were pretty much on their own, but they had their own memories and learning, and they continued to learn as they went out into the world to spread the gospel. Graduation for them was the same as it is for a high school or college graduate today, a doorway into a different world, a world where one uses their ability to think instead of memorizing answers from a book for an exam.
For myself, I had a graduation of sorts this past week. For seven years, I’ve been taking a drug which has a list of side effects about as long as your arm and containing just about every possible thing from aches and pains to possible death. After seven years and three months, I don’t have to take it anymore, and I only have to see my doctor once a year. That feels like a graduation. The door’s open, and I can think a little further ahead now. I’m still aware that another bout of the disease might be around the corner, but somehow my step is a little bit lighter and my mind is a little more settled so that I can look at each day without thinking to myself, “Is this the day I’m going to get news about that?.
I think God, Jesus, and the Spirit for helping me get through to this graduation. I feel I can now put my tassel on the other side of my mortarboard and walk out the door into a new day with a little more confidence because I feel I have passed my left my final exams, but without precluding further education down the road.
May God bless all the graduates of all the schools and all of the programs and even all of the ones who have been struggling with illnesses and diseases which have, if not having been cured, have been healed, and step out boldly to make the best life that they can.
Happy graduation to all. There are an awful lot of people who are wearing visible, and sometimes invisible, mortarboards for both educational institutions and for real life. May all of us continue to learn and to grow, for the benefit of ourselves, our families, and our world.
Image: Graduation. Author: Kalsom cheman. Found at Wikimedia Commons
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is also estate manager and administrative assistant for Dominic, Phoebe, and Gandhi.