From the Road: Meadville Lombard Commencement

First Unitarian Church of Chicago

I love graduations. They are wonderful celebrations that also put us in mind of some of our core values—hope, high aspirations, honoring human accomplishment, mutual support. Besides, at graduations people are so happy that it is contagious. Like weddings, graduations also turn out to be reunions of family and friends.

I had the privilege of speaking at the Meadville Lombard Theological School graduation Sunday. This commencement was particularly meaningful for me because I was awarded an honorary doctorate. I find myself surprised by how much it means to me. Receiving an honorary degree is a little like getting to attend your own memorial service.

It was so good to get a chance to visit with members of the Meadville faculty, staff, and board of trustees. They have been through an exciting and trying time in the last several years as the school has changed its curriculum to become more multicultural, has changed to a model that emphasizes more distance learning and, to top it off, has sold its old building and moved to a modern facility.

This was one of Meadville’s largest classes ever—27 graduates. I understand that my alma mater, Starr King School for the Ministry, also had a class about the same size. This is good news for all of us.

The past decade has been very difficult for seminaries. A number have closed. Many more are expected to close. Our own seminaries have struggled financially. And while the struggles are not over, it is a wonderful sign to see their enrollments increasing. It is also good to see that more of our ministers will come from our “identity schools.” It bodes well for Unitarian Universalism.

I hate to think that we would ever get to the point of having no seminaries that were UU seminaries. This is not to take anything away from many fine seminaries across the country that educate the majority of our ministers. Still, our seminaries have a vital role to play in maintaining and preserving UU culture as well as leading change.

The faculty and the boards of our seminaries care passionately about Unitarian Universalism. We are so blessed to have them preparing our leaders.

Permanent link to this article: