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Fall 2022 Convocation Remarks from Dean emilie m. townes

Posted by on Sunday, August 28, 2022 in Dean Townes, News.

Dean Emilie M. Townes’ Fall Convocation remarks, as delivered on August 26, 2022

each opening convocation, we have begun by remembering those who have died since we were last together in May and to celebrate the new births during this time as well

today, we remember

those killed in mass shootings in

highland park, il (july)
uvalde, tx (may)
tulsa, ok (june)
buffalo, ny (may)
butler township, oh (august)
and more

professor dr. terrance dean
reverend dr. autura eason-williams

please call the name of others who have died or been born since May of this year

blessed be


the saying comes in many forms:

be with someone who makes you look forward to tomorrow

everybody deserves someone who makes them look forward to tomorrow

everybody deserves someone who makes them look forward to tomorrow. Be that someone for someone

be someone who makes someone else look forward to tomorrow

being with you always makes me look forward to tomorrow

how to look forward to tomorrow

it’s nice to have someone who makes you look forward to tomorrow

just the thought of being with you tomorrow is enough to get me through today

look forward

looking forward

as we look back, we look forward to tomorrow

and eventually, it morphs into sayings about hope


the desire, the admonition, the encouraging word to look beyond today is not a surprising thing from era to era and society to society

particularly when we are living in a maze of ugliness

that seems to greet us at most turns in our living

and would have us call it quits with hope

and slip into a mind-numbing cynicism that might even become a withering nihilism that settles into despair that breeds ruthless armadas of hatred

i hope that you are here today and will remain here for the time it will take to complete your program because you think that there is a better way to be with each other and the creation that surrounds us

that you are willing to take the leap into learning and to open yourselves up to new ideas, new perspectives, new histories, new words…just overall new stuff

for part of what we do in theological education is make a commitment—faculty, staff, and students—to be open to the journey of bringing together head and heart, body and spirit, intellect and intuition, reason and experience as natural dance partners and not warring states of being

we, my friends, are trying to bring humanity back as we enter our classrooms, talk in the common room, gather in the atrium, sit in worship, travel here and back, hang in al’s pub, and more

because there is more in this world that calls out the good, if only we have the skills, will, strength and vision to do so

rather than only point to the bad and tell the big lie that the bad is the status quo

and the good news is that we do not do this alone

God is in the midst of us and will not be moved

as you and i seek to move beyond a sterilized, codified, and cul-de-sac faith

to one that challenges the head, heart, body, and soul

that encourages us to lean into mystery

to learn from intellectual rigor

to bring the two together so that we can share what we are learning with others rather than hording it in the narrow harbors of our souls and intellect

looking forward means that together, we craft a community of learning

made up with peoples of all racial ethnic groups

both cisgenders, trans, fluid, nonbinary, intersex

varied lifestyles and abilities

different political and theological agenda

from all levels of the class structure

documented and undocumented

all ages

and on and on into the richness of our living and laboring

looking forward means that we become a community of learning that strives to be active witnesses to a more humane and better way to live into a world that needs a strong word, willing hands, invigorating spirituality, and moving bodies that will act and not just pontificate

because we refuse to believe that maudlin loathing is divine commandment

and we live our lives as a ripening into wholeness

and not a current event

or spiritual two-step

or round house of academic arbitrariness

or momentary bout of holified indigestion

i encourage all of us to be theologically fabulous and get God up doing a standing ovation in creation

by refusing to accept what is, as the best there can be

by shaping our worlds as models for justice and hope and love and deep spirit

and we hold ourselves accountable to remembering that we owe one another respect and to treat others with dignity

for if we deny justice, hope, love, and spirit; we are, in effect, telling those who go without them that they are worthless

and none of us. . .none of us…has that right

although some of us have the power and privilege to do so

as we begin this new year, we are being called to be the ones that seek wisdom, welcome change (or at least endure it), grow in grace, spread care, celebrate—really celebrate life—and not be the ones who are the poster children for a melancholy status quo


so, welcome to this new year and the great gift of possibilities, of looking forward, that you will find here and beyond

let’s open our hearts and minds to the wideness of God’s mercy

and tackle the hard issues and injustices of our day with fierce determination

a rock steady sense of hope

a laser pointer of love

and an ornery unwillingness to live in indifference whose only companion is a conscience that is soundless

let’s make some noise and get busy with it


blessed be

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