With a sermon that graduating seminarians called rousing and phenomenal, Bishop Kendrick preached a message of hope, authenticity, and mercy to the School of Theology Class of 2016 at Sewanee in May. Also there to receive an honorary Doctor of Ministry, Bishop Kendrick said he was honored to be adopted into the Sewanee family. He joked that he had wanted his own Sewanee angel since driving with a friend, nearly twenty-five years ago, who tapped the roof of his car for his angel as they left the gates of the domain. The bishop acknowledged that graduates face indifference, complexity, and the challenges of generational diversity in their future churches as they proclaim the gospel. Calling the church a, “sacred mystery and a scared mess,” the bishop encouraged graduates to hold up a hurting world to God and hold up a healing God to the world.
Kendrick didn’t shy away from the truth that lies in walking a difficult path; he told graduates that the journey is sometimes hard and it often hurts. It is the type of hurt encountered when a priest loves the people that they serve. Anytime that anyone stretches out arms in love—as Jesus did—it is going to hurt. Yet the graduates, who listened intently to his sermon in All Saints Chapel, have Christian hope in the midst of that hurt and difficulty. Recalling the writing and teaching of a favorite author and social justice worker Bryan Stevenson, Bishop Kendrick reminded the graduates that hope in God’s vision empowers every Christian to lean into the hurtful places of ministry, knowing that Christian hope enables them to speak truth when others are silent and to stand for justice and mercy when others remain seated.
Seminary dean Bishop Neal Alexander spoke of Bishop Kendrick’s ministry prior to the awarding of the honorary Doctorate of Ministry. Having been Kendrick’s bishop in the Diocese of Atlanta, Alexander noted Kendrick’s vision and commitment when coming to St. Paul’s that was a, “small, struggling parish with a list of problems a mile long.” At St. Paul’s in Newnan, Bishop Kendrick enabled healing and recommitment. The parish is now large and prospering, serving as a model for parishes across the church.
The bishop’s sermon and the graduation ceremony can be viewed at the following link:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/86472037 You can navigate directly to his sermon at 32:26.
MollyPayne-Hardin is a seminarian at Sewanee from the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast – Christ Church, Pensacola.