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Commencement Address

by Rev. Dr. David DeRemer retired Director of Enrollment and current Director of Supervised Ministry

Dave DeRemer.jpgTwo hunters went on an adventure to hunt moose. They would be dropped off by seaplane on a remote lake by a hunting cabin in the pristine Alaskan wilderness to begin their adventure. And the plane would return a week later to pick them up. And as pilot unload all their hunting gear he said, "now remember only one moose. I don’t have room for more. Only one moose."

A week later the pilot returned and there on the dock waving to the pilot are two hunters with two rifles, two piles of equipment and two moose. After some arguing and pleading and a little extra money, the pilot crammed all of the stuff, including the two moose, into the plane. They took off across the lake, the plane’s engine straining. The plane lifted out of the water and began to climb and clipped the top of a pine tree and tumbled in the forest, propeller parts and moose antlers flying all over the place.  Luckily everyone survived. And as the shock wore off, the one hunter called out "where are we.”  The other said, “I’d guess a couple of miles further than we got last year."

So here you are, a couple of miles further along than you were last year. But in your case, the next part of the journey will be very different.

President Grisby, Dean Crouch, Trustees, Faculty, Staff, members of the class of 2019, family and friends, it is a great honor and joy to share words with you today as I join the ranks of those leaving this place, stepping back from my full-time position as Director of Enrollment. And while I will continue in a small, part-time capacity, I, like all of you graduates look forward to being elsewhere.   But before we go, I want to leave you with a thought and plea.

At our final chapel service last week you were invited to think about and publicly share the one thing that was most meaningful about your time here at Moravian Seminary. Eight of the 22 responses, more than 1/3, used either the word "diversity" or "community." You have been learning and living in an institution that intentionally strives to be a community, a place of hospitality, an inclusive place.

In a bible study published by the United Church of Christ, Walter Brueggemann wrote: "The issue of inclusion . . . is urgent because we U.S. Christians live in a society that is profoundly exclusionary in ways that debilitate.  . . . On issues of race, ethnicity, and class, there works among us a vision of a safe society that consists only in people "like us," a phrase that most often refers to the ruling class of white Euro-Americans."1

That is the world into which you are going to work as pastor and counselors, and chaplains. You are stepping from a community that is more inclusive into a society that is more exclusive.  And here lies, at least in part, your mission.

In your time at Moravian, you both learned and experienced inclusion.  In your bible coursework, you learned to hear other interpretive perspective. In your cultural competency course, you learned to be sensitive to cultural and familial values. In sharing your lebenslaf, you heard stories--life paths--that were very different from yours. You learned to hold as precious the joy and pains of another’s life, seeing and hearing it through the other. That is an intercultural experience. That is part of what shaped you in this place.

And I beg you to carry that perspective from this place in a society that too often is suspicious of "the other." Bruggemann notes: "In Isaiah 56, the prophetic poem reflects an argument about inclusion and exclusion. The prophet witnesses to inclusion by insisting that foreigners and eunuchs — "others" in an ordered Jewish community — are to be welcomed precisely because the community gathered around God is "for all peoples."2

Go from this place as one who will constantly strive to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion. As the author of the letter to the Ephesians urges "be imitators of God."

In the last chapter of Deuteronomy, we read: "Moses went up  . . . to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jerico and the Lord showed him the whole Land.” That is, the expanse of Canaan, the promised land. “The Lord said to him,’ This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descents.” Then God said to Moses: “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there. Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died . . ."

I think that the end of Deuteronomy and the end of Moses is an interesting analogy for the endpoint at which you all find yourself today. And while I don’t want to stretch this analogy too far, all of the staff and faculty of this place have seen the promised land to which you are all journeying. But we can’t go with you. We have helped you develop your knowledge, skill and being.  But we will not cross the river Jordan with you.  We will stay here and you will go.

And as you go, I wish you the same blessing that I spoke in my sermon at the opening convocation in January of 2015 when I joined the staff. I bid you Godspeed on your journey. And if at any time, you need a scholarly insight, a practical problem-solving thought or just someone to yell at or cry with, we’ll be here.

In the words of that famous America humorist Tom Bodett, "We’ll keep the light on for you." Godspeed.

1 Brueggemann, Walter. “Bible Study: Message of inclusion not just 'disputed' — it's 'urgent'” 5/2/2019
2 Brueggemann.