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Graduate Address

by Leonard Lightner ’18 Master of Arts in Theological Studies.

Leonard Lightner.jpgFirst, I would like to Honor God and let you all know I am deeply honored and humbled that the class of 2018 and faculty had enough confident in me to afford me this opportunity, when any one of these talented 2018 class members could be standing here. I am especially surprised when a few of my classmates met me for the first time in our Human and Faith development class and our Womanist and Feminist class. I thought made some enemies in those classes. Poor Jess, Human and Faith Development was her first class at the seminary. Jess, thank God I did not scare you away. But, that is one of the great things about the Seminary that many of my classmates agree on is that this seminary builds "community" like no other, the amount of people willing to sit at the table and have a conversation. Where we can agree or disagree but agree to disagree. Where our lenses of the world and community become clearer, and in some cases may not be as clear. And yet, these conversations are the catalyst for change. I know some do not always agree change is good, but, you cannot attend this Seminary and not be “changed,” and with that change comes growth. Now, I can speak for myself (I don’t know about you guys) some growth is not good, sense attending the seminary my waste, neck and gut have grown. I blame this on the Seminary every time I came into the seminary there was food in the kitchen and in the classrooms, then writing papers late at night and snaking while writing, “not a good combination.”  Seriously though, personally and professionally the Seminary has helped each of us in our growth process. If I may use a phrase from you Eli “we have become more centered, and well rounded.” No pun intended.

I want to share a little story with you. 2008 my wife and I just move into a new home, and in 2009 we received in the mail a flyer from Moravian Seminary about an upcoming information session. We pinned it on the refrigerator where all reminders, calendars, coupons and kids art work go. When the time arrived we realized it at the last minute and we were not going to go, because life gets in the way. At the last minute, I told my wife let’s go check it out. So we showed up not really knowing what to expect. (Sorry Honey) Now, if any of you know my wife she is like that snickers commercial “not feeling like yourself,” if she does not eat she get hangry. Thank Goodness that you Moravian’s know how to reach people through food. It is a good thing you all had food when we arrived. Nonetheless, at that time my wife (Noelia, a fellow classmate) had a total of 6 college credits and I was three semesters away from my BA. We left the information session quiet, and Noelia was thinking this is not a possibility, I was not desponded, but I did not ever think that we would be sharing this day together.

I share this story for two reasons. One to the Moravian/Faculty/Marketing your flyers and your outreach does change lives. I say this not just to the seminary, or the 2018 class but each and every person hearing my voice, you don’t realize what one post card, one letter, one phone call, and one word of encouragement how it can change the course of a persons life. And how the change in that person’s life can have an impact many other lives. That one post card reached the two of us, and the two of us have now reached others. Your two has been multiplied 10 folds and imagine the impact with this class that sits before you. I have had the privilege of listening to the members of this class and having conversation with them in class as well as fellowship outside of class. MTS, friends and family you should proud that this class will be instrumental in Gods plan to change thousands of lives. Moravian Seminary, I implore you to keep reaching out.

Secondly, I share this story because perseverance is a must in this journey of life. I say this to say there is persistence in this class and as one of my classmates said, “it has been a wonderful stroll it was never meant to be a sprint.” (Thank you Margaret) Over the years we have seen the Prayer concerns sent out to the community, some perhaps even from us. Even if we did not request that Dr. Riddick sends out prayer request to the community, we have all had our struggles with life or life altering events during our time at the seminary. We have lost loved ones, and even lost a fellow peer who was scheduled graduate with us, perhaps we had a prodigal kid come home or leave, divorces, reconciliations, additions to the family, and sickness. But, we made it through and sitting here heads held high cherishing this moment and giving thanks to God and all those that have helped us along the way. Not only have we persevered, but also our family members and friends had to as well. We were so focused on tasked at hand we perhaps may not have given them all the attention they needed or deserved. Right now we thank you family and friends for your endurance in this journey.

Board of trustees, Faculty and those of you out there that are sitting on the fence about what God is calling you to do, or you may even have the desire to go back to school, or even start school.  Let me leave you with some quotes from individuals from the 2018 class.  

I appreciate the support and guidance from my advisors, professors, and fellow students. I have been challenged, enriched, and deeply touched by this experience at the seminary.” Micha

The Seminary is not a cookie-cutter program. I have also been very moved by the compassion that the faculty has towards students and their specific needs. If it hadn’t been for that, I would have dropped out.” Vanessa

This experience made me realize that my education continues despite graduation.” Margaret

My experience has been more than just gaining an education but a journey of finding healing, myself, my identity as a clinician, my passion, my people, and finding God in ways that I would never have imagined.” Jessie

In my Child and Adolescent class my inner-child was awakened the moment I got to where my toy mustache given to us in class.” Noelia

What captures my experience at Moravian would be "community". The amount of people that are willing to sit at the table and talk with you is heartwarming.” Eli

And to my fellow peers of class 2018 as you move on in your journey. In your community, whatever that looks like, the situations you will face in terms of justice and welfare, you have been equipped to recognize them, and now bear the responsibility for improving the situation. However, remember you cannot bear this burden alone stay in touch with one another and share in the benefits and burden. Remember, it is how you fight your battles, most importantly remember, “The battle is not yours alone.”     

For my Hebrew Professor: Elohim yevarex otax. For my Greek Professor: o Theós na se evlogeí, Que Dios te benidiga. May God Bless you all. Thank you.