The following reflection was presented by graduating Master of Divinity student, Hannah Bartlett, during Acadia Divinity College’s online Commissioning Service held May 8th, 2020.
Acadia Divinity College Faculty, Staff, Special Guests, family, and friends, I’m very thankful to be here today to speak on behalf of the class of 2020. I have been tasked today with offering reflections, though I know that the journey to where we are today has been remarkably different for each of us.
I do not think I’ve met anyone at Acadia Divinity College whose story of how they came to be at seminary could be described as “conventional.” We’re a wonderfully diverse and complex group – and this is a strength that we have had as we’ve journeyed together. I will do my best today to offer reflections that you will be able to resonate with – at least on some level!
I believe it is true that many of us share the experience of arriving at ADC as the result of a course correction: an event or events…a calling of some kind …that we could no longer ignore. A calling that has changed the direction of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I had not always planned on coming to Acadia Divinity College. God took me on a course correction.
From knowing some of you I’m aware that many among us did not plan to have a call to ministry, or to commit to training, studying the Word, being equipped, doing further research – and yet here we have found ourselves: God’s call leading us to this time and place, to the first course, the first chapel service, the first hour of mentored ministry clocked or the first page of many, many pages of a thesis written.
If you’re like me, you maybe did not expect to be here – but you share in a gratitude that God has lead you here… a deep gratitude for that unexpected call … that moment that brought us to ADC to people, places, ideas and spaces we would have not otherwise encountered. And we are better for it.
We also share the experience of knowing what it means to be creative, intentional, and adaptable. We have studied alongside working, ministering, being spouses, parents, friends, and volunteers.
Some of us have studied from great distances, and the amount of time the journey has taken is different for each of us.
We have lived the tension and have discovered the rhythms of life and study, how to learn online, how to prepare a sermon while memorizing a list of Hebrew or Greek vocabulary, how to work and pursue vocation at the same time we are working out our own theological positions.
We also share, through all of the surprises, unexpected challenges, and energy it takes to be adaptable, the experience of God’s goodness and mercy, which have continued to follow us through it all. We have witnessed God’s grace in the wisdom and knowledge of professors who have welcomed us – in all our unconventional glory – into a deeper relationship with Christ and his people.
We have seen the goodness of God in the incredible staff at ADC, and how they are so crucial in working to create and celebrate our community, near and far.
We have seen the goodness of God in the songs we sing together, the good words we soak in in chapel, and the soup we ate on Wednesdays that tasted even better because we were eating it together.
We have felt God’s mercy in moments where learning and life seem to collide and it didn’t feel like everything would get done. But here we are. It all got done!
Finally, we share the experience of being shaped into people who know the value and sacrifice of what it means to be in community. We are here because we have amazing families, friends, classmates, mentors, coworkers, pastors, faculty and staff championing us, cheering us on, sacrificing for us, and pushing us forward towards Christlikeness. We express our thanks today for the community of people who have all been a part of arriving at this moment in such unprecedented times.
“Because of the amazing community, we have been shaped into the kind of servant leaders who are equipped for ministry for such a time as this.”
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And these are unprecedented times. But Acadia Divinity College has helped us to be the kind of unprecedented servants of God who are able to lead into these times: we have been shaped into the kinds of people who answer the call of God – even when it comes at an unexpected time in an unexpected place.
We have been shaped into people who are creative, who are adaptable, and who can tackle the unexpected challenges of life and ministry head on.
We have been shaped into the kinds of people who ride out storms through clinging tightly to the grace of the one who commands the wind and the waves. We can face unbelievable times and circumstances because we worship the God of unbelievable grace and mercy.
We’re here at this moment, because he called us to Acadia Divinity College. On behalf of our class, I want to offer sincere thanks for the community that makes up Acadia Divinity College: those who minister there, who work there, who support its mission, and who support us. Because of the amazing community, we have been shaped into the kind of servant leaders who are equipped for ministry for such a time as this: it’s a time that is unconventional, but so are we. And we owe this to the community that has shaped us. Thank you.