Kevin Miller T'03,'08 presents the matriculation book.
Kevin Miller T’03,’08 presents the matriculation book.

Celebrates sesquicentennial in matriculation ceremony.

September 2017 – In a 150-year-old tradition, new Drew Theological School students signed their names into a book during an annual matriculation ceremony at Craig Chapel

The school’s book traces back to its opening in 1867. Some 103 students arrived this semester from as near as New Jersey, New York and Connecticut and as far as Burma, South Korea and Liberia.

The ceremony also featured music, greetings by Drew Provost Debra Liebowitz and Dean Javier Viera and an address by Dr. Laurel Kearns, associate professor of the sociology of religion and environmental studies.

Rigorous thought and action

In his greeting, Viera noted the significance of the event that “traces its roots to the founding day of our university, when we were known simply as Drew Theological Seminary.”

“For 150 years, the scholars and students in this place have tried valiantly to shape the future of the church, the academy and the world through rigorous, independent and imaginative thought and action,” Viera added. “As our core values remind us, ours is a legacy of scholarly rigor and creativity, spiritual depth and openness, broad diversity and multiplicity, intellectual curiosity and restlessness and an enduring, unwavering commitment to justice.”

The dean also welcomed returning professors who were on sabbatical last semester and introduced the school’s newest professor, Dr. Daniel Shin, the E. Stanley Jones chair in evangelism and assistant professor of theology and world Christianity.

New ways to breathe

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Laurel Kearns

Kearns, co-founder of The Green Seminary Initiative and co-editor, along with Catherine Keller, of EcoSpirit: Religions and Philosophies for the Earth, spoke about “Conspiring Together: Breathing for Justice.”

The associate professor described Drew as a place “where all of our identities and social contexts—of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality, nation, geography, religious traditions or species—intersect and are vital to understanding our roles as religious and academic leaders in a period where human activities have altered the biophysical well being of the entire planet.”

Kearns added, “Welcome to The Forest, not necessarily the same as Drew since some of the trees are older than our 150 years. Welcome to the beautiful biophysical setting of our communion together, a place to pause, find respite, be open to inspiration and perhaps learn to breathe in new ways.

Kearns also drew connections between air—created through “con-spiring” or the respiratory exchange of trees and animals—and the justice implications of air pollution and climate change. She encouraged students to become “con-spirators” or leaders who work across boundaries to address such crucial issues.

For justice and radical love

Before students signed the book, Associate Dean Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre described it as a “perfect metaphor for school,” adding, “We read books, we write books, we love books. As you come here to sign the book, think about other metaphors such as the forest. Think about the trees. Plant your name in the pulpy seedbed and grow as so many have before you. Join the testimony and witness of those coming before you and call forth the call of ages, for justice and radical love.”

Here’s a closer look at the ceremony.