1: an act, instance, or time of commencing
2a: the ceremonies or the day for conferring degrees or diplomas
2b: the period of activities at this time
Synonyms: alpha, baseline, birth, beginning, dawn, day one, genesis, get-go (also git-go), inception, incipience, incipiency, kickoff, launch, morning, nascence, nascency, onset, outset, start, threshold
Antonyms: close, conclusion, end, ending, omega
One of the incredible privileges of serving as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Minnesota is participating in Commencement at Shattuck – St. Mary’s and Breck.
Part of the blessing is that I have known many of the graduates for their entire Upper School experience. As such, when I shake their hands and hand them their diplomas, they are not just some random young people. Each one is someone whose journey I have had the opportunity to share: from the beginning to the end of high school. For me, that is what commencement is all about. It embodies not just the conclusion of high school, but the journey from beginning to end — to beginning again.
This is also where we now find ourselves in ECMN. With the Meeting of Elected Bodies this last weekend, we bring to a close the 2012-13 program year. It’s been a very productive year, which has seen a significant number of our faith communities engaging God’s mission. Witnessed by food drive organization, working for affordable housing, and partnering with others both locally and across the globe to end poverty, our faith communities are using their gifts for ministry to meet the world’s needs. One of our greatest successes this year is the $40,000 we raised for Mission Project 2013 – The Mama Ada Foundation.
We are meeting the world’s needs in our many and varied contexts as many of our faith communities become clearer about how they are uniquely gifted. The Missional Assessment Process (MAP) and our Commission on Mission have been particularly helpful in equipping communities to discern these gifts. Likewise, the growing individual discernment work and the growing cadre of Spiritual Directors, coupled with our School For Formation, has been very helpful in discerning-forming-sending: to engage God’s mission.
In addition to identity and context, the third element of a vital faith community is sustainability. To this end, both the Council and the Trustees (and their Joint Finance Committee and Investment Committee), working with your Pooled Investment Fund (PIF), have done incredible work to assist our faith communities with becoming more financially stable. As well, the Real Estate Committee has worked overtime with a number of our faith communities concerning the stewardship of their properties.
As this program year draws to a close, an abundance of hard work is already underway for the 2013-14 program year. More and more faith communities are in the pipeline to go through the Missional Assessment Process (MAP). Great plans for Mission Area Gatherings are coming together. Mission Project, in the spirit of being invitational, accessible and relational, is transforming into Mission Opportunity. The discernment and formation process has ever-increasing possibilities for all the baptized and those called to ordained ministry. With a solid proposed balanced operating budget, greater stewardship, and more and more faith communities joining with others in the PIF, our properties this next program year look not only promising, but very exciting.
Commencement: good beginnings, good endings, good beginnings. ECMN is filled with them!