Throughout the spring and summer of 2021, like so many others in this country, the return to classes for students of all ages felt like an inflection point amid the pandemic that signaled some return to normalcy. As students and faculty gathered for the 2021 Fall Matriculation Evensong service at Seminary of the Southwest, even with the dangerous Delta variant diminishing what that return would look like, the feeling was palpable: this community was regathering, and there was no more poignant place to begin than the sacred space students and faculty were forced to abandon since March of 2020: Christ Chapel.
“What a thrill it was to hear the incoming students called forward to write their names in the Matriculation book, committing themselves to this formational work that is in the words of Dean Bader-Saye, about practices of attention, receptivity, and openness,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president.
As has been tradition for generations, incoming students signed their name in the Matriculation Book, joining a long list of incoming juniors beginning their path of formation to be priests, counselors, and spiritual leaders. With an incoming class of 44 students, the large, masked crowd indicated the vitality of Southwest, attracting such a large class in an atmosphere of uncertainly and trauma.
Another tradition at Matriculation is to mark beginnings of not just students, but faculty as well. It is at this service that most faculty get installed into their positions, and even in this portion of the service, the excitement and energy around this new group of faculty at Southwest stood out.
“This group of new faculty embodies the highest academic and experiential qualifications, and brings Southwest valued denominational, racial, and linguistic diversity,” said Kittredge. “I look forward to the work we will do together in the classroom, chapel, and curriculum development and how it will advance the goals of our strategic plan, especially our focus on building a beloved community. “
Read more about Southwest’s new faculty members:
The sermon, delivered by Dr. Scott Bader-Saye, academic dean, reflected on Matthew 23:2-4, which reads:
The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them.
Bader-Saye then shared with the incoming class:
“The problem is not what is taught – they are teaching the traditions of Moses. The problem is with the way it is taught – through the pedagogy of the heavy burden. This approach is based on proving yourself capable of carrying the weight and weeding out those can’t.
Jesus’ pedagogy of the easy yoke, to be sure, does not suggest that learning requires no effort. A yoke is a harness for pulling a cart or a plow. Taking a yoke suggests work is to be done – there will be pulling. But the yoke is easy, it fits well, it serves as a tool to lighten the burden. An education of the easy yoke gives students tools for learning that allow their pulling to be fruitful rather than a burden.
The faculty you will learn from in this place bring their wisdom, experience, skill, and knowledge into the classroom not to lay heavy burdens on you or to ask you to prove yourselves; but rather, to help you attend closely to where the revealing of wisdom can happen, to offer practices, ideas, research, theories, and texts that are worthy of your attention, and to help you develop the dispositions of openness, receptivity, and empathy necessary to notice when the curtain is being pulled back.
We are excited to welcome you, our new students, into this good work.”
To read more of Dr. Bader-Saye’s sermon, click here.
To watch the entire Matriculation Evensong, click here.