Alexandria, VA – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) celebrated its 191st Commencement today, awarding 72 students with degrees of Master in Divinity, Master of Arts, Doctor of Ministry, the Licentiate in Theology, Master in Theological Studies, and Certification of Work Completed. VTS graduates represent more than 42 dioceses and five countries.
The commencement address was given by the Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, Butman Professor of Religion at Piedmont College, and author The New York Times bestseller “An Altar in the World.”
"I do truly believe this is an exciting time to be in ministry, especially in Parish Ministry," said Taylor. "There has never been a better time for exploration, innovation, collaboration, reinvention. There has never been a better time to remember why why we are here, because self-preservation has never been a big enough mission for the church."
The recipient of the 2014 Virginia Seminary Ford Chair, a gift of Susan Ford to a member of the graduating class who has exhibited a strong commitment to the community life and mission of the Seminary, was Mr. Micah Dorian Del Priore from the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.
The recipients of the Harris Award, given each year to candidate for Holy Orders who has demonstrated academic excellence and leadership ability, was Ms. Eileen Elizabeth O'Brien, from the Diocese of Texas.
The St. George’s College Prize awarded to a student who has demonstrated leadership and a commitment to the larger Church and the global Anglican Communion was given to Ms. Adrienne Renita Hymes from the Diocese of Los Angeles, and the Dudley Speech Prize, awarded to a graduating student who, in the opinion of the faculty, has demonstrated excellence in the public reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and the Liturgy, was given to Ms. Frances Key Dobbin Thayer from the Diocese of Easton.
This year, the Seminary conferred Doctors of Humane Letters, honoris causa, to Brent Francis Blackwelder, B.A., M.A., Ph.D., founder of the Environmental Policy Center and the Environmental Policy Institute; F. Robertson Hershey, B.A., M.Ed., headmaster, Episcopal High School; and J. Reilly Lewis, B.Mus., M.S., D.M.A., founding conductor of the Washington Bach Consort and music director of the Cathedral Choral Society.
The Seminary also conferred Doctor in Divinity, honoris causa to Margaret A. Farley, R.S.M., A.B., M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., the Gilbert L. Stark Professor Emerita of Christian Ethics at Yale University Divinity School; and Harry Houghton Pritchett, Jr., B.A., M.Div., eighth dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NY.
The Class of 2014 commissioned Ms. Kerstin McDaniel of Asheville, NC to create a banner for the new Immanuel Chapel. The banner features imagery of a phoenix rising from the flames. The banner will first be used in the 2014 graduation procession and will then be displayed in the new Immanuel Chapel. Additionally, the graduating class had a plaque made for the Lettie Pate Evans Interim Chapel acknowledging the space as its campus worship home for the duration of their VTS career.
“This is the class that has seen how grace can come from fire; they have watched the capital campaign succeed and the designs of a beautiful new chapel emerge,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “I celebrate the fact that 10 percent of the amount raised for the class gift goes to the Annual Fund. This makes every new alum a donor of record for this year's Annual Fund - a tradition we pray will be for a lifetime for each member of the Class of 2014.”
For the eighth year in a row, the service was streamed live over the internet through the VTS website. Click where to watch now.