Hood Graduates told: ‘Run in Such a Way as to Get the Prize’

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2014

Graduation Day at Hood Theological Seminary, held on Saturday, May 17, was an uplifting day filled with inspirational messages, cheers, tears, and exciting new opportunities.
Family members, friends and parishioners traveled from all over to celebrate this special day with Hood graduates. Large white tents, set up on Wallace Plaza in front of the new Aymer Center, provided a proud new pomp-and-circumstance venue and picture perfect setting for the commencement activities.
Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, resident Bishop of the United Methodist Church in the Ohio West Area, gave a powerful commencement address entitled “Running to Win” using as his text, 1 Corinthian 9:19-27.
Bishop Palmer cautioned graduates that they were at a crucial intersection in their ministries between danger and opportunity, saying, “Despite the fact that the church no longer enjoys the cultural prominence that it once did, there are still exciting opportunities for ministry in the world. There is danger in seeing your degree as a destination or an end unto itself. Your degree, while an important accomplishment, is a mile marker, not a destination. It is easy to get stuck at that mile marker and neglect the world which is desperately yearning for the gospel.”
While the Bishop affirmed that the graduates should celebrate this accomplishment, he cautioned about staying in that moment of celebration too long. He said that the goal of ministry should be to engage “in a partnership with God to the end that the world might know the crucified and risen Messiah.”
The theme “running to win” was drawn from Paul’s illustrations in 1 Corinthians 9. Bishop Palmer argued that Paul’s image of “running” was actually talking about exercising spiritual disciplines.
Palmer cautioned graduates to exercise the spiritual disciplines they’ve acquired in seminary.
In particular, he highlighted the need for graduates to continue to foster rich prayer lives and to engage in serious theological reading and reflection. He warned graduates, “Don’t settle for trite how-to manuals.”
He lauded Hood as “center for multi-racial education” that “models what God intends for the world.” He suggested that graduates should take the lessons learned from being involved in that experience into their churches and communities.
At the end of the address, he used the image of a crown of life. Again he affirmed that a degree is not an end to itself. He said, “It’s not a destination but a mile marker. Your faculty have held a crown over your head and invited you to spend the rest of your life growing tall enough to wear it.”
The honorary degree of doctor of humane letters was conferred upon Bishop Palmer by the chairman of the board of trustees, Bishop Richard K. Thompson, president-elect Vergel Lattimore and Dr. Trevor Eppehimer, academic dean.
The highlight of the graduation service was the conferring of three doctor of ministry degrees, thirty-two master of divinity degrees, three master of theological studies degrees, and three diplomas in Christian ministry.
A poignant moment in the graduation exercises came as Rev. Annie Jones, a critically ill student, was rolled in a wheel chair across the platform by her husband as they both received their master of divinity degrees from Hood. The presence of Rev. Jones brought students, faculty and guests to their feet in adoration and respect, as she was not expected to be able to be there to receive her degree. Her fellow graduate school students and professors knew she had worked with great courage and determination for several years while battling a serious respiratory illness to receive her M.Div. degree. One of her professors, Dr. Michael Turner, said, “Rev. Jones has been a strong student in spite of her challenging health issues and is a gifted minster. To have her here today was inspiring and an extremely emotional moment for us all.”
As the ceremony drew to a close, board chairman Thompson announced that Dr. Vergel Lattimore will be inaugurated as the seminary’s new president on Oct. 2. He praised Dr. Albert J. D. Aymer for his remarkable leadership and vision for Hood and for the firm foundation he has laid for president-elect Lattimore. Aymer then made brief remarks to the graduands saying “It is my hope that as you leave Hood, each of you and your ministries will embrace and love all races, genders, religions and of course, Jesus Christ.”
Hood Theological Seminary, located at 1810 Lutheran Synod Drive, is a graduate and professional school where intellectual discourse and ministerial preparation occur in tandem within the framework of a community of faith. Accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada, the seminary is sponsored by the AME Zion Church and approved by the University Senate of the United Methodist Church. Its student body currently comprises persons from many different denominations. As a theological seminary, it provides for the church an educational community in which Christian maturity and ministerial preparation take place together.