Berkeley, Calif. – The theme was not from a traditional Anglican text, but it hit home nonetheless. Quoting an old Gospel song, ‘My soul looks back and wonders how I got over,' the Rev. Ardith Spierling Hayes, commencement preacher, delighted and inspired graduates, friends, and family members at this year's commencement at Church Divinity School of the Pacific (CDSP). Beloved by students and faculty alike, the Rev. Hayes serves as Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at CDSP. Commencement was held on Friday, May 19, with a graduating class of 44 seminary students.
An excerpt from Hayes' homily:
"My soul looks back and wonders how I got over…" The newspaper columnist, Leonard Pitts, writing in the West County Times described surprising his wife on her 50th birthday… Looking back on their lives growing up African-American, struggling with racism and poverty, made this simple, magnificent moment, for him, one of "getting over". Getting over to a confirmation of his capacity to care well and generously for those who had stood by him through the years. Getting over to an integrity of identity that he always knew was there, inside.
So he wrote: "There is a sense of summation, a sense that here is a moment in which to pause and appreciate what you came through and what you came to… Moments like these, redolent of things you hoped and pain you suffered, and the realization that if you hang in there, just keep struggling and stringing breaths together, anything can happen. Anything at all. The old Gospel song puts its best. ‘My soul looks back and wonders how I got over.'" (West County Times, April 17, 2006)
Today brings such a moment to many of us here, and not just the graduates. So many of you have walked the long road with us, sharing the ups and downs, making sacrifices, and loving us through it all.
"We were especially pleased to have Ardith preach at our commencement this year," said John Kater, CDSP's Acting Dean. "She is beloved by her students, admired by her peers, and an inspiration to us all."
For thirty years, Hayes has served in seminaries throughout the United States. She has taught at McCormick Theological Seminary, in Chicago; Union Theological Seminary, in New York City; and at CDSP. She also served as Dean of Students at the Pacific School of Religion, in Berkeley. Hayes' teaching and pastoral ministry continues to focus on the intersection of theory and practice. She was the 25th woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church, and remains a leader, advocate, and mentor for women in ministry.
Honorary Degree Recipients
For her commitment to theological education, her dedication to bridging the academy and the church, CDSP chose to honor Ardith Spierling Hayes as one whose life and witness to Jesus Christ has touched and changed many lives. And in recognition of her life of study, teaching, service and generosity, Church Divinity School of the Pacific conferred upon Hayes the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Additionally, honorary Doctor of Divinity degrees were conferred upon the Rev. Roger Alling, former president, Episcopal Preaching Foundation, Inc., from Camp Hill, PA; the Rev. John Barton Sarjeant '65, former Rector, St. John's Episcopal Church, Ross, CA; and the Rev. Thomas H. Schultz, O.H.C. (Order of the Holy Cross), Prior, Incarnation Priory, Berkeley, CA. Dr. A. Gary Shilling, Chairman, Episcopal Preaching Foundation, Inc., from Springfield, NJ, received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.
Under the Rev. Roger Alling's leadership, the Episcopal Preaching Foundation has made a significant impact on preaching in the Episcopal Church. CDSP recognized Alling for his passion for Christian evangelism, his leadership in the cause of justice, and his service to Episcopal students for nearly two decades.
The Rev. John Barton Sargeant's first passion in the church was working with youth -- helping them grow into a Christian stature that would last. He delighted in teaching young people the value of service, and the importance of maturity, responsibility, and caring.
The wider church also benefited from Bart's passion for parish ministry, and his inspirational leadership as he guided ten people into the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church during his tenure at St. John's Episcopal Church, Ross, California.
Over the years of his ministry as priest and monk, the Rev. Thomas Schultz has fostered and encouraged multiple generations of people in the life of the spirit. And since 1990, when he came to Incarnation Priory in Berkeley, he has been an important influence in the life of the CDSP community. As a spiritual guide and director, he constantly holds up — and encourages others to hold up — the light of Christian hope. His hopeful wisdom offers a grace-filled antidote to the prevalence of uncertainty and anxiety today.
Dr. A. Gary Shilling has received widespread recognition as an economist, stock market forecaster, and author. However, it is Dr. Shilling's service as a lay leader in both the parish and the larger church that CDSP celebrated. A life-long Episcopalian, he has never ceased serving the Church that formed him: St. Paul's Episcopal Church, in Fremont, Ohio.
In 1987, to raise the level of preaching in the Church, Shilling founded the Episcopal Preaching Foundation. Working together with the Rev. Roger Alling, Shilling established the tuition-free Preaching Excellence Program (PEP) Conference. To date, hundreds of PEP participants have attended the annual conference and benefited from noted lecturers including William Sloan Coffin, Sandra Day O'Connor, Walter Bruggemann, and Barbara Brown Taylor.
Easton Hall Conference Center
CDSP is currently focused on a major Capital Campaign, Preserving Tradition – Building the Future. To date, more than $16.5 million has been raised toward the campaign goal of $20 million. The initial phase of the campaign has focused on strengthening the seminary's endowment, and the urgently needed renovation of Easton Hall, which officially opens its doors this June as the new Easton Hall Conference Center and home of the Center for Anglican Learning and Leadership (CALL), with guest facilities for visiting scholars.
Church Divinity School of the Pacific's mission is to provide the highest quality Christian theological education in an environment of scholarship, reflection and worship, rooted in the Anglican tradition. CDSP is a founding member of the Graduate Theological Union, an ecumenical and interfaith consortium based in Berkeley, Calif. For more information, see http://www.cdsp.edu.