Skip to main content

JourneyNote: The Gift of Graduation

By John F. Ross

Posted June 13, 2023 in Religious Institutions
The Saint John's Bible is presented at Baylor University Graduation

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. (Acts 2:1)

We were all together in one place the first (and last) time.  There was a palpable spirit among us and many different languages were spoken — yet all understood.  Amazed and astonished, we came from around the U.S.:  New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Ohio.  Others were from places around the world: South Korea, Madagascar, India, Jamaica, and even Iowa!  Passers-by stared wondering if we were drunk…

This is not a modern transliteration of the Pentecost story in the book of Acts.  This was the scene at my graduation from the Doctor of Ministry degree program at the University of Chicago 20 years ago.

My graduation then, and every graduation this month of June, is not only a celebration of past accomplishments, but a glimpse of a future, here today.  And, they look a lot like Pentecost.

The gift of my graduation, and the graduation gift of Pentecost was a firsthand experience of diversity.  For the first followers of Jesus it was a glimpse of a future here-and-now and an experience of the wonderful smallness of our world.  It’s the same for us today.  The differences we once experienced only by crossing borders, are now visible in our neighbors, town meetings, grocery stores, worship places, and graduation ceremonies.

We are a pluralistic society in every imaginable way — and we have been for a long time.  Statistically, Christianity in America teeters at 50% of religious persons, which means pluralism is here to stay.  Sadly, not everyone embraces this reality with the zeal of those who gathered all together in one place on that first Pentecost.  Evidence of the struggle is in the headlines of our 24-hour news cycle.

In Chautauqua, New York, several summers ago, Barbara Brown Taylor spoke to one of the primary points of sadness in the struggles of plurality:

“The heartbreak is that while we are in mortal combat over the CONTENT of faith, we betray the FUNCTION of faith that was supposed to have something to do withturning our hearts to God and one another, in love.”

Whether between or within our religious communities, pluralism has arrived and is here to stay.  In fact, it’s been here since our very first birthday:  Pentecost.  The question that remains is what will we do with the gift of Pentecost…the reality of our differences…the glimpse of a future, here-and-now.

For the moment (and for the days of summer), I invite you to carefully and prayerfully discern your response to the differences among us, within our nation, and around the world. This fall we will be delivering multiple Heritage and Apostle Editions to Anglican communities around the world — an ecumenical celebration and a reflection of the diversity of Pentecost.  I hope you’ll follow along and add your voice…like that very first Pentecost!

Sharing the Word,

John Ross Signature

Rev. Dr. John F. Ross

Executive Director

Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director