Letter read by President Ferlo at 2016 Commencement at Trinity Lutheran Seminary
May 21, 2016
To the President, Board of Directors, Faculty, Staff, and Graduates of Trinity Lutheran Seminary:
Grace to you and peace from the Lord Jesus Christ!
On this, the final day of the 186th academic year of Trinity Lutheran Seminary, and the 192nd academic year of Bexley Hall, now part of the Bexley Seabury Seminary Federation, we, the president, board, faculty, staff and students of Bexley Seabury give thanks to God for our 17 years of shared worship and ministry with you. Our time on this campus now comes to a close.
In 1999, when Professor Emeritus Bill Petersen and the late Professor Walter Bouman first began conversations leading to our seminary partnership, our national church bodies were still struggling to find common ground in common mission, mindful of our Lord’s priestly prayer that all may be one, as he and the Father are one. Our two seminaries prayerfully led the way for our two denominations, resulting in 17 years of dynamic ecumenical partnership—one of the first fruits of the Episcopal/Lutheran Call to Common Mission. The graduates who cross this stage this afternoon are living examples of the ecumenically trained leaders that the Call to Common Mission continues to envision.
That word “common” has been an important one for us Episcopalians in our time at Trinity, and not just because we have occasionally managed to persuade our Lutheran friends to speak the 16th-century English of the Book of Common Prayer. Prayer in common, study in common, meals in common, friendships in common, mission in common: it has been our privilege to share in the community—the commonality—of this place for these 17 years. Our ministry has been shaped—and our own identity as Episcopalians has been reshaped—by what we have experienced here among you. We are especially grateful to the Trinity faculty—generous colleagues, powerful teachers, faithful ministers of word and sacrament. It has been a privilege to teach and to learn in such distinguished and dedicated company. For better or worse (no, surely for better), we will always regard ourselves in years to come as dyed-in-the-wool Lutherpalians, a rare gift indeed.
Like all such occasions, this commencement marks both an ending and a new beginning. For our graduates, it is the end of their time here and the beginning of their ministries, a beginning that is for all of them, Lutherans and Episcopalians alike, a deepening and continuation of ministries long since begun—begun, in fact, at their baptisms. This occasion also marks an end and a new beginning for both our institutions, as Trinity embarks on its courageous appeal “for the sake of the world,” and Bexley Seabury makes its new home in Chicago, in a deepened association with Chicago Theological Seminary. For both of our institutions, in spite of the changes and chances of theological education in these tumultuous times, our commitment to the gospel and our respect for each other remain strong and firm. We give thanks to God through our Lord Jesus Christ for the abundant gifts we have received in our years of partnership with Trinity Lutheran Seminary. And in this season of Pentecost, may the Holy Spirit continue the work here begun with such generosity and grace.
Yours in Christ,
Catherine W. Bagot, Director
The Rev. Mary Carson, Director
The Rev. Roger A. Ferlo, PhD, President
The Rev. Jason Fout, PhD, Acting Academic Dean
The Rev. Bruce Smith, Director
Deborah Stokes, Director