I’m coming up on my second most favorite time of year. For some folks, they just love Christmas. They can’t get enough of the decorations, food, family and spirit of celebrating God incarnate. I do like Christmas…a lot. Just ask my wife about my OCD practice of matching my wrapping paper to the tree decorations. Getting a gift that is wrapped outside of my chosen color scheme means that gift stays in a closet until it is time to open it. No place under the tree for an inappropriately dressed gift!
Some folks live for summer! Namely students and faculty, though we administrators, pastors, counselors and non-classroom professionals just think of summer as a season where the office is a little hotter than it was in the spring. For those who love summer best it means pool time, vacations, sunshine and back yard BBQs. You may be thinking of your own “favorite time of year” as you read my rant. That time which, when it’s over, brings a brief sigh of relief because you have given all your energy to it, but that you soon begin to dream of again - how it might be a little different or a little better when it next arrives.
I’m already looking forward to my #1 favorite day of the year. This year, it falls on June 2, 2012. Graduation Day and Commencement at Ashland Theological Seminary is my day. When I first came on staff at ATS as an Enrollment Counselor, I recall speaking with my boss about how my job of getting students in the door wasn’t always particularly fulfilling. I often got to know a prospect just enough to get them enrolled when my work took me to a new crew of men and women exploring the possibility of a call to seminary. He looked at me and said, “Just wait until your first graduation where you see someone you recruited cross the stage.” And he was right! Every June, as each name is read, my mind is transported to first encounters on a college campus or a meeting in my office when a future student wrestled with the question “How am I going to do this?” Following God’s call is always an adventure worth taking and graduation is a testimony to His faithfulness (and sometimes His sense of humor).
Now you’re probably wondering what my second most favorite time of year is and why that is the point of this blog... As I write this, I am three days away from our first Orientation Day for incoming students. It’s the day when my office, Enrollment Management, puts faces with names of people with whom we’ve emailed and talked for many months. It’s the day we see new friends who have toured campus with us on past visits- all the time sharing their excitement and/or fear about this next adventure. Lastly, it’s the day my team of counselors introduces these men and women who are new to Ashland to the team of folks at ATS who will continue walking this journey with them: faculty, advisors, staff members and prayer warriors.
I recently participated in a round of interviews for a new hire here at the Seminary. During our conversation with the candidate, she asked President Shultz what he liked best about working here. His thoughtful response has stuck with me as a mantra of why I also love the work and ministry at Ashland. He said (and I’m paraphrasing) that as a pastor and counselor he could have an impact on the lives of the folks with whom he came in contact, but at the Seminary, he knew he was having an impact on people who are each called in their own way to have an impact on hundreds and even thousands of others. This exponential impact is why Ashland strives every year to be better at fulfilling our mission than we were the year before. The call to integrate theological education with Christ-centered transformation to equip men and women for ministry in the church and the world is too important to not approach it with humility, diligence, prayer and celebration.
So my season of welcoming a new class of learners to Ashland will end in early October when I will begin to put my eyes upon next June 2: the day when once more smiles and tears will testify to the beauty of fulfilling our mission one life at a time so that the lives of thousands may know the wonder of a transformed life.