66 graduate from Hood Theological Seminary; largest class in 104 years
Hood Theological Seminary graduated the largest class in its 104-year history Saturday.
Sixty-six students received graduate degrees, certificates or diplomas.
President Albert Aymer and Acting Academic Dean Christopher Hutson presided over the commencement ceremony.
Greensboro attorney Janet Ward Black was the commencement speaker and was awarded a doctor of humane letters honorary degree. She spoke on the topic, “A City on the Hill.”
Addressing the graduates of Hood as they leave to enter or return to the Christian ministry, she said, “Church for many has become like a restaurant, where if you don’t like what’s being served, you don’t come back ó you go to another place to eat.
“Church should be a cooking school. It is a place where pastors, teachers are to train their members ó to equip the saints for the work of the kingdom of God. The preacher’s role is to teach those of us in the pews to cook for ourselves, and to become active participants in the bringing of God’s Kingdom to earth.”
She added that if the only time people are “eating” is on Sunday morning, they’re going to be hungry the rest of the week.
“Your congregation’s spiritual health and nutrition can’t be based on what you preachers say on Sunday,” Ward Black said, “but what the members of the body do the rest of the week ó seek God themselves, study, pray and act.”
She said church is God’s idea. “It is His chosen mechanism to bring his kingdom to earth. Church was not man’s idea. For you graduates, the burden is not on you to make your church succeed.
“You don’t have to sidle up to the biggest givers and tolerate the biggest troublemakers and bow and scrape to us pew sitters. You need to know your call ó and to get under what God says to do, and to do it.
“Let’s not seek unity around worship, style or preference, but around purpose and assignment. Let us collectively elevate the church to where, like the city on the hill, we can see and be seen and that all the nations will stream to it.”
Fifteen people received doctor of ministry degrees, 43 master of divinity degrees, two master of theological studies degrees, one a certificate of deacon studies and five diplomas in Christian ministry.
The closing convocation ceremony took place Friday under tents on the hill behind the seminary, with 25 seminarians being presented special awards and scholarships. Dr. Alice Graham, professor of pastoral care and counseling, delivered the homily.
On Saturday morning, graduates participated in their final sacrament of Holy Communion before graduation.
During commencement activities, two honorary degrees were awarded. James David Armstrong, an elder in the African American Episcopal Zion Church and editor of the AME Zion Quarterly Review, received an honorary doctor of divinity degree. He earned a bachelor of arts degree from Livingstone College in 1955 and a master of divinity degree from Hood Theological Seminary in 1959.
Janet Ward Black is president of the North Carolina Bar Association. She is native of Kannapolis and practiced law in Salisbury before moving her practice to Greensboro in 1992.
She was a member of Hood Seminary’s first Board of Trustees and recently was named Trustee Emeritus.