by Ashley Hopkins
Saturday, May 19, over 3,000 people--the graduating class, their families and friends, and members of the faculty and staff--celebrated Gordon's 115th Commencement in the Bennett Athletic and Recreation Center. There were 383 baccalaureate degrees presented in the liberal arts and sciences along with 20 graduate degrees in education and music education.
Dr. Lauren F. Winner, acclaimed author of Girl Meets God, Mudhouse Sabbath and most recently Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, addressed the graduating seniors, speaking of her own graduation from college and the list of goals she had set for herself at that point--goals that, in her estimation, she "more or less achieved"; several advanced degrees, three books and numerous articles published. "Yet, when I reflect over the last 10 years of my life, I realize those things that people see when they look at my resume aren't, in fact, the truly important things I've done since graduating. The important things are far more intimate: I have taught the pre-K Sunday School class at my church; I have tried, and often failed, to be a good wife and sister; I helped my mother die--not what I expected to spend my 26th year of life doing, but much more important than anything on my resume."
Winner then offered a bit of hard-earned wisdom from her post-college years: "Remember that Jesus came to give us life more bountiful, not life more accomplished or more productive. Resist the world's attempts to measure the worth of your days by your productivity; measure yourself instead by the fullness and richness of your life, by the extent to which you live into the true bounty that Jesus promises us."
She reminded the senior class that "terrifically important challenges await you on the other side of this commencement ceremony. Some of those challenges, like stewarding creation and quite literally saving the planet, are so awesome that just thinking about them makes our hearts race. And some of them are smaller and more intimate but also hugely significant: the challenge of living attentively in a world that tells us to multitask; the challenge of living lives of holy intention in a world that values haste."
Winner told the graduates, "The things that matter in life require us to find some space from the world that defines us by what we produce, and then by what we spend. It takes time to do this. It takes time, leisure and space to settle into adulthood; it takes time, leisure and space to follow Christ into and in the world. You are leaving a community that has asked you to gaze deeply at the things that matter, a community organized around teaching people how to think clearly, gaze deeply and see well--and you are entering a world that will ask you to do everything quickly, to glimpse instead of gaze."
Winner defined life after graduation as "a long unfolding season in which you are given the opportunity to do that which you have been equipped to do: to figure out what to pay attention to, and pay attention to it. For the attentive, faithful, bountiful lives you have led thus far, I am thankful. And for the attentive, faithful, bountiful lives that commence as you leave this place, I am grateful. This scary, broken, redeemed, blessed, holy, painful, magical world needs you."
Commencement Exercises on Saturday were part of a full weekend of activities beginning with Senior Breakfast Friday morning at the Danversport Yacht Club. Organized by the senior class officers, it was attended by roughly 400 Gordon seniors, faculty and staff who shared one last breakfast together and heard the words of selected faculty, administrators and classmates.
The class invited economics professor Dr. John Mason to speak at the breakfast. Mason, who is retiring after 39 years at Gordon, began on a light note by introducing himself as "a Christian brother who happens to be an economist. Now economists might be described as charter members of the World Association of Party Poopers (WAPP). It is our self-assigned task to assess the cost of whatever it is you may want to do, and then, more often than you would like, to caution that the ends you seek are not feasible, and to encourage you to chart a less utopian course. To which you may well respond, 'Who invited this guy to the party?' But before showing me the door, recall that I am a Christian economist, and Christians should always be dreaming of new and better ways of bringing God's full shalom to every corner of our world."
Mason critiqued Christopher Hitchens' recent book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, arguing that "to advocate for and to assist those in society who are weak, vulnerable, and poor--as I contend the Bible instructs us to do--will inevitably require sacrifice in a world constrained by scarcity. I challenge Christopher Hitchens and his fellow travelers to provide, in the absence of God, a more compelling and enduring motivation to sacrifice than that given to us in Jesus Christ--the God who became man and taught us to sacrifice for others, and then in humble obedience offered His own life as an example for us and as an atonement for the sins of the whole world." Mason's concluding charge to the seniors: "May you continue to help this world do the good things to which it aspires, but without God lacks the understanding and will to make happen." Read Dr. Mason's full remarks
The Baccalaureate ceremony took place Friday evening in the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel. The College Choir performed several inspiring works. Dr. Gordon Hugenberger, senior minister of Park Street Church in Boston and former Gordon College trustee, began his talk with a critique of the saying "Preach the gospel at all times; use words when necessary." He exhorted the graduates not just to practice what they preach, but to preach what they practice--a hallmark of evangelicalism, which holds preaching in high regard. Hugenberger praised the "architects" of the evangelical tradition, notably Harold John Ockenga, pastor at Park Street Church for 32 years and the fifth Gordon College president. Hugenberger related Billy Graham's praise of Ockenga; no one, Graham said, outside of his own family, had influenced him more. Ockenga, along with Graham and others, including Carl F. H. Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, "distanced themselves from a fundamentalism that, as it had evolved, had acquired certain lethal characteristics for them spiritually." They upheld the centrality and exclusivity of the gospel of Christ and maintained a high view of Scripture but refused to engage in divisions over secondary matters of faith such as methods of baptism, the role of women in church leadership or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This legacy is very much apparent in the ethos of the College today--a legacy, Hugenberger said, of which Gordon students can justly be proud.