Are you sick of posts about graduation? I hope not because I am going to add one more. Except this time it is from the perspective of an alumni. (Check out Jason Lief's post and Jeff Munroe's post for some other graduation thoughts.)
On Sunday afternoon I boarded my plane in NYC to head "home" to Michigan to celebrate the graduation of my spouse Jim Kast-Keat. Besides the pride I feel for Jim I am also incredibly proud to have graduated from Western Theological Seminary. So today I dedicate my post as a blessing from this alumni to her alma mater. Alma mater in Latin means "nourishing mother" and the theological and pastoral nourishment I received from the professors and staff at Western was indeed nourishing and transformative.
My best friend and I made the commitment the first week of seminary that we were there for transformation. We were not there to appease people by the "correct" theological answers or to regurgitate for an exam only to forget what we retained the following year. No, I went to seminary seeking theological and personal transformation. When I walked across the stage in May 2011 I know I accomplished my goal.
Faculty and staff at Western Theological Seminary, I bless you. You pour out your lives. Be it Tom Boogaart's Prophets class where I felt like I was going up to the mountain top and met God every class or Carol Bechtel's class where I learned to be anchored in the Psalms or Tim Brown who was the first person to tell me I need to preach or Leann Van Dyk who is an incredible Dean and one heck of a smart woman or David Stubbs who was so moved by the theological writings that he read them like poetry or Jim Brownson who is deeply committed to the Gospel of Jesus or the accomplishment I felt when I passed Robert VanVoorst's Greek class or the way I better understood the person I am in Jaco Hamman's class or the insightful questions Ron Rienstra asked me which helped me decide to be ordained in the RCA or Paul Smith's leadership on my intercultural immersion trip to Oman or the brilliance of Todd Billings or the way I am now realizing how much I love church history because of Chris Kaiser and Dennis Voskuil's teaching in my life. You all (and all the other staff and faculty) poured out your life for me and my colleagues and I couldn't be more grateful. You loved me, you challenged me, you pastored me, you empowered me, and I learned how to be the pastor I am today because of the time I spent at WTS.
I consider my role as alumni to be a bridgemaker. I am from the Midwest and currently have an East Coast vibe. I know the worlds of Michigan and New York. I love and appreciate them both. My theology has changed and opened up and so has my compassion for a variety of view points. I am adamant that some things need to progress forward but I also know we are all on a pilgrimage and change is a process. I keep in contact with current students who need a different perspective than West Michigan alone has to offer and offer some solidarity for students who bravely utilize their theological and pastoral imagination. (This summer I am so jazzed to welcome a current WTS to West End Collegiate Churches intern with us. I will do everything I can to support her in her ministerial journey and then send her back to WTS to finish up her training. I love being part of the East and Midwest unity.)
Choosing to go to seminary at Western Theological Seminary is one of the best decisions I have made and I bless Living God for the way I was formed.
So Western Theological Seminary,
May God bless you and keep you,
May God's face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May God lift up God's countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.