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Graduate Address

by Charlie McDonald ’21 Master of Divinity

Charlie McDonald ’21 Master of Arts in DivinityTo the faculty, staff, friends, family, and my fellow students who elected me as their speaker, thank you. It is truly an honor to have this opportunity to talk to you today. If you told 18-year-old Charlie in the fall of 2013 that he would be standing here in 2021, there is no way he would believe you. In fact, he would tell you without a shadow of a doubt that this would never happen. He’d say, no, I’m going to be a software developer in 2021. I’m not going back to Church; going to Seminary, and becoming a Pastor.....But here I am. 

And this is just my experience, but I point this out because I think it shows two important things I have learned during my time at Moravian: life doesn’t work out the way we expect it to, no matter how sure you are, AND the people in our lives help shape us into who we are. And I think these two things are pretty apparent, but I think they bear repeating as we look to graduate today.

We’re gathered here today, to celebrate a transition and the end of one part of a journey. This is something we have not been afforded the privilege of doing for quite some time, and I just want to state it out loud and appreciate it. I think more than anything, I want us to be able to look back on our time at MTS fondly. It might not have looked how we thought it would, it might not have been as easy as we thought it would be, but we persevered and here we are. We made it.

My friends as we enter back into the world, now as masters, we are experts. And in a lot of cases that means that we are seen as the resident authority in our respective fields in our specific contexts. It’s not often outside of a School that you will run into Ph.D.s, so most of the time people will look to us. And though our degrees are all different, I want to borrow something from the school’s advertisement and say that we are now entering into the world as masters of caring. This means that people will look to us for guidance, leadership, and compassion among so many other things. I think this is so important too because the time that we are leaving MTS to serve the world is a difficult one.

As far as I can see, we have reached a level of social awareness that looks like an inflection point. A point where we can lean one way and stay on one path, or lean the other way and pave a new one. The Pandemic gave us a lot of grief when it came to what we thought our education would look like, but it also made it clear for many that the world we live in doesn’t look exactly how we thought. In our nation, it seems we’ve reached a time where we need to decide what we want our communities to look like in the future. 

Do we want them to reflect a tradition of bigotry and oppression? Or reflect empathy and demand reparation? As masters of caring, I think that us becoming the leaders and the experts at this point in time affords a great deal of responsibility in making this decision and others like it. Because as I said, the people in our lives help shape us into who we are today. For us, it could have been a professor, a mentor, a supervisor, or a friend. And for the people we are going to lead and care for, it could be us. 

My friends, I don’t think of myself as the best speaker. But what I think I excel at and what I really love to do is provide care. For me, it is an honor to walk with people in the best times of their lives and the worst. It’s like walking on Holy Ground. And I think that we are all here today because of a similar reason. I genuinely believe that there is an aptitude for love, mercy, and grace in all people. I don’t think that everyone gets the chance to refine these attributes though. But I know that we did. I could see that so easily when we used to walk the halls with one another, and I still saw and heard it in our zoom classrooms. 

I recognize the task before us is no easy one, but I know that the faces I see before me are more than prepared and willing to rise up and face it. For that reason, I am leaving MTS, terrified, but excited and hopeful. I have never been a Pastor before, and I know I am going to make mistakes. There is only so much knowledge you can accumulate before you have to dive in and learn out in the field.

But regardless of all of the times I know I will stumble, I will keep getting back up, and I will keep moving forward. And that is because I know that I am not alone. I know that all of you will be out in your own places, striving for a better world alongside me. 

For that reason, I just want to say thank you one more time. Thank you to Moravian for teaching me to care by caring for me. Thank you to the faculty and staff for helping me realize and live into my life’s calling. Thank you to my wife and family for supporting me along this journey. And thank you to my fellow graduates for inspiring me and putting yourselves on the line to care with me. May the love in your hearts be shown in the work you do, and may it change the world for the better. Thank you.