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Sermons

The EPISCOPAL CHURCH of ST. JAMES the LESS

Good morning! Today is Trinity Sunday, the day on which we celebrate the central and most important doctrine of our Christian faith. Here at St. James it’s also Graduation Sunday, and I’m afraid to say that this year, graduation is going to have to eclipse the Trinity. I dearly hope the bishop isn’t watching this morning.

But it’s a longstanding tradition here at St. James to recognize our graduating class during the Sunday service. Normally the kids would be up here speaking to you, not me. That’s part of what makes this day so special for many of us, and I’m sorry we’re unable to do that this year. We do, however, have a video of them talking; I’ll direct you to that at the announcements later on.

Our 2020 graduates are Allison Hallowell, Wyatt Coleman, Danny Rodriguez, Kevin Walsh, and Kate McCarthy. This is the first class I’ve been with here through all four of their high school years, so it’s a special class for me. They were all confirmed here in 8th grade, and in Sunday school together before that. Today is typically a celebration of not only the graduates but also those in our parish who helped raise them–of course parents, Sunday school and confirmation teachers, sponsors. Thank you to all of you out there.

I’ve used all the moral authority I could summon as their priest to ask the graduates to be present this morning with us (online). I hope you’re all out there, because now I’d like to say a few words to each of you, individually.  St. James will always be here for you. But it is now the church of your childhood. I know it might seem for a while like there are better things to do on Sunday than go to church. But I ask each of you to consider finding a church when you get to college, a church of your own, where you’re not someone’s kid, but your own person, making your own contributions.

And to make that easier for you, I’ve done some research. :)

Kate McCarthy: you’re going to Mt. Holyoke. I spent 35 minutes talking on the phone Friday with your new rector, Mother Tanya Wallace. She’s a Mount Holyoke grad herself. The first thing I asked was how close her parish is to the campus–I’ll quote her here: “We’re practically on campus.” Mother Wallace said that if you come to church you’ll see a number of other college kids there. And even if you don’t, she wanted me to tell you that you can always come see her at any time. I’ll quote her again. She said, “I’m here, as someone who gets it and has walked that walk.”

But I replied to that, “No, she’ll go to church.”

Because her feast day was so recent, I have to mention that one of the saints in our Episcopal calendar was a graduate of Mt Holyoke, Frances Perkins. She was the first female Labor Secretary of the United States under FDR AND a devout Episcopalian. All the work she did on behalf of the working poor in this country–and it was a lot–was inspired by her education at your college, and by her faith in the church of your upbringing, the Episcopal Church. So Kate, we are so happy for you. Keep the faith!

Wyatt Coleman: you’re going to Boston University College of Engineering. This is easy, because there are Episcopal churches all over Boston. And they have an Episcopal chaplaincy (Wyatt) right there on campus–one that gets high marks from me because about ten years ago they hired the first transgender priest, who has since moved on to California, but his replacement is a woman who was the first female African American rector in the Diocese of Massachusetts. We have college chaplaincies to thank for pulling the rest of us into the current era, and this chaplaincy has a history of that, as these two clergy attest. Wyatt, I’ve called Mother Karen and she knows who you are. In case you stop by. And I hope you will.

Danny Rodriguez, you’re going to Tufts this fall. There is also an Episcopal Chaplain right there on campus, with services weekly in the Tufts chapel. 7 pm on Sunday nights. You can do that. The Chaplain is Father Bell. He and I are speaking tomorrow morning. He wanted me to tell you in the meantime, he’s thrilled you’ll be there this fall. And if you want a more traditional parish church experience because you’re missing us here at St. James, there are two churches within 1 mile of you: Grace Church Bedford, and St. James in Somerville. Congratulations to Danny.

Kevin Walsh is going to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Kevin, there is a campus ministry at your university as well. They meet at a nearby Episcopal church–a less than ten minute walk–on Tuesday nights at 7 pm (dinner included. Campus ministries are a great way to get a good meal). This group is spiritually progressive, and socially active. AND yes, I’ve called the rector at the church where they meet. She–Mother Greenwood–will be looking for you.

Finally, Allison Hallowell. You’re going to LeHigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. The founder of your college was an Episcopalian. Like with Kate, pretty much right in the backyard of your college sits (in this case) the Diocese of Bethlehem and the Cathedral of the Nativity. Cathedrals usually have very active social programs; Allison (like all our kids) has been a faithful participant in our Midnight Run program to the homeless. So, you might like to know that Nativity Cathedral has a thrift shop, a refugee resettlement program, a partnership with a local soup kitchen and emergency shelter–the list goes on.

In your case, because it’s a cathedral, I’m afraid I had to call the bishop to let him know you might be stopping by. I had a nice long chat with his assistant, who herself is close to your age and said she’d look for you. She also promised to leave your name on his desk where he can’t miss it.

We are so proud of all of you. I’m not telling you all this because you need church, though sometimes you will, for the comfort, and the community. But I’m telling you this because the church needs you. People still look to churches for moral leadership. That moral leadership and wisdom often comes from the younger generation, and that’s you. I’m grateful the Episcopal Church gets that. And I pray you’ll stay with us. Keep us on track, please. The church and the world need you more than ever. To close, in our Gospel lesson this morning, which just coincidentally falls on this day, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world. He instructs them to carry their faith with them, and not to squander this one life, this one chance, we have to make a difference. And we have a world right now in great need of what your faith has taught you. Be kind. Seek justice. Put others’ needs before your own. Repair the world. Act with urgency.

And while I’m at it, let me throw in some of the Apostle Paul’s words from our second reading today: Put things in order. Listen to my appeal. Agree with one another. Live in Peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. And last of all–brothers and sisters, farewell.

And I’ll say, Amen to that.

06/11/2020

Graduation Sunday