This reflection is taken from the Graduation Speech by Jonathan VB at the Eastern College Australia’s Graduation Night in 2016.
I was drawn to Eastern College because it appeared to encourage independent learning and creative thinking, as well as an education that encouraged you to ground your learning in practice. As someone who had at the time served for some 22 years in professional ministry already, I was drawn to the shape of the study, the way I could shape the direction of my study towards what I wanted to research and the encouragement I got to ask hard questions and ground that in practice.
I remember fondly one of my supervisors after conversing about where my thinking was heading. He had a look of excitement and wonder in his eyes and said, “I think you have found a non-traditional answer.” Eastern has certainly delivered in being a place that stretches you and encourages you to think beyond what is traditionally understood and accepted.
Eastern College has shaped us all in ways that I think we will never fully come to appreciate. We leave different people than we were when we came.
As I was thinking about this occasion today, this moment we are all in I couldn’t escape the thought that we are the privileged few in this world that get to enjoy the opportunity to study. Across the many continents of this globe there are more faces than we can take in of people that will never have the opportunity to study and read at the level we have, people that will never be able to dress up in a Batman suit and a funny hat and receive the award that we are today. People in isolation, people in slavery, people in remote indigenous communities, people in refugee camps, people in slums, people with crippling illness, and people who come to our country to seek this opportunity yet get sent off and locked away in places like Manus Island, Nauru.
As I reflected on what it means to stand here as a privileged minority university graduating postgraduate student, I think we need to take seriously the words of Jesus to his followers in Luke 12:48 when he says, “To whom much has been given much will be expected” or as Eugene Peterson puts it “Great gift mean great responsibilities”.
To myself and my fellow graduates, we have a responsibility to take the gift that we have been given and to whether it be in the fields of arts, aid and development, counselling, psychology, education, ministry and theology or whatever we need to take the Good news of the Kingdom of God in Jesus, to be true tellers, to rage against injustice, to bring healing, transformation into our respective locations. May we not be found sitting in our rooms staring at our certificates on our walls feeling good – may we be found in the trenches in places of darkness and evil in this world bringing light, hope, justice, truth, healing and transformation.
And for that, and in closing, on behalf of the graduating students body today, I extend our thanks to the faculty and staff, for putting into practice your learning, and that in which God has gifted you with and seeking to rise to the responsibility of bringing truth, justice, healing and transformation through the education and nurture of people such as us – may we make you proud and may God bless us all.