On Sunday, August 30, 2020, Seminary of the Southwest hosted the annual Matriculation event in honor of new students beginning their journey of leadership formation. This year’s event was held virtually, and premiered on Southwest’s YouTube channel.
Academic Dean, Dr. Scott Bader-Saye preached a sermon from Deuteronomy about “the importance of teaching, learning, telling stories, and passing things on.” He encourages us that telling and reading hard stories, especially during this difficult time, creates a community of solidarity and sustains us by hoping for a redemptive ending. He says the Seminary is a place where stories of pain and hope can be told in community.
“Matriculating new students is one of my favorite activities of the year, not only because I have the privilege of calling each new student by name, but because each student gets a chance to sign our matriculation book and commit themselves to the vision and formation of the seminary,” Bader-Saye said. “This year Cynthia and I went to the chapel after the service ended and welcomed some of the students as they came to campus to sign the book in a socially distanced way. Even with no one else in the chapel, it was moving to watch these students begin their time with us in this act of commitment.”
The Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, presided during the ceremony, and also presented this year’s Charles Cook Award. The Charles Cook Servant Leadership Award was created in 2009 by the faculty to honor their colleague and Seminary of the Southwest alum Charlie Cook on the occasion of his retirement from the Seminary. This year’s award was presented to the Cumberbatch family, in honor of their ongoing work within our community.
Virginia Cumberbatch is an activist and leader in the Austin community, and says “the church should be ground zero for the work of equity and justice.” Her mother, Jennifer Cumberbatch, is a pastor and graduate of Seminary of the Southwest. Her father, Ashton Cumberbatch, is also a pastor and community advocate. Along with Virginia’s two siblings, Graham and Elizabeth, they all share resilience, creativity, and a longing for the future health of the Austin community, and are well-deserving of the Charles Cook Servant Leadership Award.
“It was a unique pleasure to be able to watch the Matriculation by Zoom meeting, with Professor Emeritus Charlie Cook, in the office of Scott Bader-Saye, eloquent Matriculation preacher,” Kittredge said. “What a joyful and inspiring way to begin the year for our new students and for all of us who return, to honor the Cumberbatch family for their work of faith and justice in Austin.”