For years, one of the highlights and traditions of Commencement weekend for the College has been the Baccalaureate ceremony, an interfaith worship service. The ceremony itself aims to represent the multi-faith student body of Wooster, while also incorporating Christian worship traditions and emphasizing the interfaith service of the student body.
The ceremony is put together by a host of people, including Reverend Linda Morgan Clement, the Chaplain and Director of Interfaith Campus Ministries. Clement also invited a group of eight to 12 seniors who are active as leaders and people of faith on campus to join her on the planning committee for the ceremony.† “Eight to 12 people is perfect because it’s big enough to represent the spiritual diversity of the student body, while creating a cohesive group,” said Morgan-Clement.
The planning committee has been actively working since this past October to create the student portion of the service. Emily Howard ’10, a commitee member recalled, “We brainstormed ideas and themes very early in the year and tried to figure out what we wanted to represent.” The group was given the task of creating an overall image that represented a common theme that signified their Wooster experience, spiritual life and interfaith service all together. This theme would then be displayed throughout the service through different visuals, including poems, music and dance, all choreographed and created by students.
Another responsibility of the planning committee was to work on one of the beginning elements of the ceremony, a call to prayer. For this, five students, some of which are on the committe, will describe their different religious traditions using their own languages, one of the more specific ways in which students craft the service into a spiritual experience for all. “Because of the student leaders’ role in planning, the ceremony is very unique to the college of Wooster students’ experience. It won’t feel like any other worship experience because it will be reflect the unique spiritual experience of the class of 2010. The planning team worked together to shape a single perspective out of our diversity,” Morgan-Clement said.
Alongside the student portion of the ceremony, Thomas Long, the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, will deliver the Baccalaureate address. Morgan-Clement and Long, both Presbyterian ministers, first met when they preached together at a workshop and three years ago, Morgan-Clement spoke to Long about providing the Baccalaureate address. Long, whose wife is a Wooster alum, graciously accepted the opportunity and will present his speech, “A Matter of Depth” in McGaw on May 9 at 10 a.m. Morgan-Clement is very eager for Long to preach to the campus and community, especially because he is a famous and well-known preacher. Baylor University named him one of the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. Morgan-Clement said, “He brings new thought and he will push us to think about the rest of our lives. He will take on the potential challenges and hopefully, people will remember pieces of his speech 20 years from now.” Morgan-Clement also feels Long will reach out to non-spiritual people as well, seeing as he will be addressing not only students, but their families and community members. “I don’t expect the message from Dr. Long to be a clichÈ spiritual sendoff for seniors,” Morgan-Clement added.
Overall, members of the planning committee are very† optimistic about the upcoming Baccalaureate ceremony. Howard particularly encourages seniors to attend, so they are able to see other seniors talk about not only how they see themselves but connect with the representation of what Wooster means to them. “I feel the theme applies to other stages in life as well ó parents, grandparents and friends will all be able to connect,” Howard said. Morgan-Clement also offered valuable advice, saying, “Come with an open mind and open heart. Expect to find a piece of yourself in the student service and expect to hear some wisdom that can help post-graduation life be more fulfilling.”