The sanctuary of Highland Park United Methodist Church was filled to capacity as family members and friends gathered to honor the graduating class on May 18 at Perkins’ Celebration of Degrees and Academic Achievements.
Eighty-six students were scheduled to receive their SMU diplomas from Perkins, including 12 December graduates, 68 May graduates and six summer graduates. Degrees were conferred earlier in the day at the University-wide Commencement Convocation at Moody Coliseum, and diplomas were distributed at the celebration service.
In a sermon titled “Clay Jars: Handle with Care!” retiring faculty member Paula Dobbs-Wiggins, encouraged members of the Class of 2019 to practice self-care as they embark on careers in ministry. Dobbs-Wiggins, a psychiatrist in private practice and Adjunct Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Care, cited the biblical metaphor of jars of clay from 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
“Ordinary clay jars were very functional and durable but were also quite fragile,” she said. “God created all kinds of clay jars. There are male jars and female jars. Red, yellow, black and white jars. There are gay jars and straight jars; rich jars and poor jars; documented and undocumented jars; insured and uninsured jars; religiously conservative, centrist or progressive jars; summa cum laude, magna cum laude, cum laude and ‘thank you laude’ jars.”
But all have something in common: “If we are not handled with care, we will break. Unfortunately, religious professionals are not exempt. To the contrary, you are entering a profession that is recognized as one of the most stressful. Today, there are far too many talented, well-educated religious professionals who make the decision to leave their vocation because of stress.”
From her work with clergy, Dobbs-Wiggins offered three antidotes for preventing burnout: belief, balance and boundaries.
“Take care of your clay so that the treasure God has placed inside of you can bring out your unique gifts and graces so that you might be a blessing to us,” she said. “We need you. These are turbulent times.”
Following the sermon, attendees sang “We Are One in Christ,” with music written for the occasion by Marcell Steuernagel, who joined Perkins last fall as director of the Master of Sacred Music degree program, and text by John Thornburg.
Dean Craig C. Hill invited the graduates to thank all the friends, spouses, parents, grandparents, children and grandchildren at the ceremony who had supported them during their time at Perkins.
Dean Hill also presented the following awards for outstanding academic achievement:
The Charles C. Selecman Award in New Testament Greek
The Charley T. and Jesse James Bible Awards (Ranked)
- Mara Morhouse
- Seungli You
- Victoria Sun
- Karen Sherlock
The W.B.J. Martin Award in Homiletics
Courtney Reid Bond
The W.B. DeJernett Award in Homiletics
The Paul W. Quillian Award in Homiletics
The Robert Weatherford Prize for Internship Preaching
The Bert Affleck Award
The Jerry W. Hobbs Award in Worship
The Fellowship Seminarian Award
The Jane Marshall Award for Outstanding Scholarship and Leadership in Christian Worship
The Hoyt Hickman Award for Outstanding Liturgical Scholarship and Practice
The Master of Sacred Music Award
The Roger Deschner Prize in Sacred Music
The Albert C. Outler Award in Theology
The Phillip Schaff Prize in Church History
The Karis Stahl Fadely Award
The B’nai B’rith Award in Social Ethics
Maria Soledad de la Cerda
The Harry Hosier Spirit Award
The Dr. and Mrs. Glenn Flinn Senior Award
Congratulations graduates, we are proud of you!
A video of the service can be found here: