Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) celebrated its 198th Commencement on Thursday, May 13, awarding 46 students with degrees of Master in Divinity, Master of Arts, Diploma in Theology, Diploma in Anglican Studies, and Doctor of Ministry.
“This is a most special time of the year,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Once again, we have come together to celebrate achievements, memories, and friendships made. We are grateful. This is a very special class, that has been through a challenging season and now they go out into the world to share what they have learned. We are filled with joy and are blessed with a beautiful day. Thanks be to God.”
The commencement ceremony was celebrated in person on the Grove of VTS. Everyone in the community maintained safe, social distance, and had been tested for COVID-19 beforehand. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, the 27th presiding bishop and primate of The Episcopal Church, delivered the address in person.
“Class of ’21, you have kept the faith. You have kept the faith, on moments of mountain top and moments of valley and despair,” said Bishop Curry. “You have kept the faith through a global pandemic, and you have kept the faith in a racial reckoning that is rocking the realities of this country, and maybe our world. You have kept the faith in a time when the very foundations of American democracy are being shaken at the core, and tested, as it says in the Book of Daniel, and we will help to determine, whether or not, if we will be found wanting, or whether America will rise from the ashes of our discontent to become ‘E Pluribus Unum.’ From many diverse and different peoples, one nation; to become a beloved community, reflecting something of God’s dream for us all. You have kept the faith, and you have come through.”
Curry concluded, “God love you. God bless you. And on behalf of the entire Episcopal Church, Class of 2021, thank you for showing us the way to the light. Amen.”
During the ceremony, the Anglican Communion Prize, which recognizes a graduating student who has shown an outstanding commitment to discerning the mission of God through World Anglicanism, went to Daniel Jeyaruban Vijayathasan of the Diocese of Colombo in the Anglican Church of Ceylon.
The Thomas Underwood Dudley Award for Reading of Scripture and Liturgy is awarded to graduating students who, in the opinion of the faculty, have demonstrated excellence in the public reading and interpretation of the Scriptures and the Liturgy, was given to Kevin Newell of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Established in 2018 by Amelia “Amy” Dyer, Ph.D., the James Maxwell professor emerita of Christian Education and Pastoral Theology, in honor of her husband, the Rt. Rev. Mark Dyer, the Bishop Mark Dyer Prize for Theological Refection recognizes a graduating senior who has developed theological skills and insights to support preaching and service. This year, the prize was given to Hailey Jacobsen of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.
The Episcopal Preaching Foundation Award, sponsored by the Episcopal Preaching Foundation, is bestowed upon a graduating Masters-level student who, in the estimation of the Dean and Faculty, has demonstrated the most improvement in preaching. This year’s recipient is Joshua Paget of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.
The recipient of the 2021 Susan Ford Chair, a gift of Susan Ford, to a member of the graduating class who has exhibited a strong commitment to the community life and mission of the Seminary, is Celal Kamran of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Ronnie Dillon Green of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas and Kathryn Beaver of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland are the recipients of the Charles and Janet Harris Award. This award is given each year to candidates for Holy Orders who have demonstrated academic excellence and leadership ability.
“This has been a commencement quite unlike any other,” added Dean Markham, at the end of the service. “It is a moment of real joy to see human lives formed ready to do the work that our presiding bishop invited us into…. It is a joy to have Bishop Curry with us. He has been a good friend to this institution. And we are deeply grateful to his ministry, his witness, and we will continue to pray for him.”
The service was streamed live on Facebook and is archived on YouTube.