Convocation and Reunions 2012: Please join us in October

Editor’s note: all photos are from either Convocation and Reunions 2010 or 2011

This year attendees at Convocation and Reunions will have the special opportunity to meet and greet a new dean as Gregory E. Sterling is installed during formal ceremonies, delivers his first state of the school address, and hosts his first reception for YDS alumni leaders.

HugsMeanwhile, Convocation and Reunions 2012 will include a 60th year reunion, following on last year’s reintroduction of a 55th year reunion gathering after a two-year absence.   Joining the Class of 1952 (60th) and Class of 1957 (55th) will be the Class of 1962  (50th), and Class of 1987 (25th).  Cluster reunions, each combining several classes, include the Classes of 1976, 1977, and 1978 (35th), the Classes of 1996, 1997, 1998 (15th), and Classes of 2008-2012 (Recent Graduates).

Convocation highlights will include talks by current YDS faculty.  And alumni will not only be treated to the scholarly firepower of the three-part Beecher Lectures, but will also be able to enjoy some artistic offerings, including a screening of the animated film “The Secret of Kells,” as well as a live Gospel of Mark storytelling performance by Bert Marshall ‘97 M.Div., who has committed the entire gospel to memory.

Dean Townes“This year is especially exciting and historic for YDS,” said Director of Alumni Relations Gail Briggs, “because it will be a time for us to honor important traditions and, at the same time, enjoy a glimpse of our future.  We’ll celebrate the arrival of Dean Sterling and showcase several members of our outstanding faculty. Our campus will be alive with alumni, current students, faculty and YDS friends, enjoying reunion celebrations, worship services in Marquand, provocative lectures and discussions, live performance and an acclaimed film, tours of the Quad, warm meals and conversations—all reminders of the special place that YDS is. “

While Sterling officially took office on Aug. 1, his ceremonial installation will take pace on Tuesday, Oct. 23, in Marquand Chapel, followed by a reception in the Old Refectory.  Like his predecessor, Harold Attridge, Sterling is a New Testament scholar and, like Attridge, comes to YDS from Notre Dame, where he served for more than two decades, most recently as dean of the Graduate School and professor of theology.

Chapel Alumni award honoree John Chane, retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, well-known for his work in interfaith relations and human rights, will preach at Convocation and Reunions, as will Vernice (Hopie) Randall ‘11 M.Div., recipient of the 2011 Henry Hallam Tweedy Prize for exceptional promise for pastoral leadership, considered YDS’s highest honor to a graduating student.

This year’s Beecher Lectures, which traditionally provide the intellectual underpinnings of Convocation, will be delivered by Anna Carter Florence ‘84 B.A., the Peter Marshall Associate Professor of Preaching at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.  Florence’s three-part series will be on the topic “The Word in the Repertory Church.”

Other principal lectures will include the Institute of Sacred Music’s Kavanagh Lecture and Berkeley Divinity School’s Cheney Lecture.  The Kavanagh Lecture will be delivered by John D. Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and professor of worship, theology, and congregational and ministry studies at Calvin College, who will speak on “The Biblical Psalms in Christian Worship:  Overlapping Scripts in the Unfolding Drama of Liturgical Performance.”    Smiles at dinnerThe Cheney Lecture will not be a lecture as such but, rather, an ecumenical Eucharist featuring the Theodicy Jazz Collective performing the American debut of the “Canterbury Jazz Mass” by Andy Barnett ‘12 M.Div., with commentary by Thomas Troeger, the J. Edward and Ruth Cox Lanz Professor of Christian Communication.

Convocation highlights include a number of panel presentations, some designed for individual reunion gatherings and others open to all attendees.  Among the latter is the panel “Religion in the Public Square,” organized by the 1976, 1977, 1978 cluster group and moderated by Chris Glaser ‘77 M.Div.

Other Convocation-wide panel discussions are also planned, among them a panel featuring alumni award honorees, including Bill Barnes ‘59 B.D., Distinction in Congregational Ministry; John Chane ‘72 M.Div., Lux et Veritas; Marcia Y. Riggs ‘83 M.Div., Distinction in Theological Education; and Toshihiro Takami ‘60 B.D., William Sloane Coffin ‘56 Award for Peace and Justice.  A panel on values and vocation and another featuring current students are among the other panels confirmed to date.

Close talkersIncluded in the reunion class presentations is a Class of 1952 discussion on “The Faith by Which I Live Today.”   Twenty-five members of the class made contributions to a document of the same name that will serve as a starting point for the discussion, which will be moderated by Paul Hammer ‘52 B.D., president of the class.

Continuing a practice instituted in 2011, Convocation will feature talks by several members of the YDS faculty. Kathryn Tanner, the Frederick Marquand Professor of Systematic Theology, will speak on the topic “Why Christians Should Support the Occupy Movement.”  Professor of Hebrew Scriptures Carolyn Sharp will explore “Prophetic Witness And Public Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities.”  And Lamin Sanneh, the D. Willis James Professor of Missions and World Christianity,” will address the subject “The Last Great Frontier in a Post-9/11 World:  Lessons of World Christianity.”

Class photosBert Marshall ‘97 M.Div. will deliver his popular Gospel of Mark Live performance of the second gospel.  Marshall, a member of the YDS Alumni Board, committed the entire gospel to memory while on a three-month sabbatical in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 2003 from the First Congregational Church UCC in Lee, MA, where he served as pastor from 1997 to 2006.  Marshall is now New England Regional Director for Church World Service, the international disaster relief and economic development agency. A life-long singer/songwriter, he still writes songs and creates music for worship and other venues.

Screening of “The Secret of Kells,” nominated in 2010 for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, will provide an opportunity for the entire YDS community to gather informally and socialize as refreshments are served following the screening.

Online registration for Convocation and Reunions 2012 officially opened on Aug. 1.  For detailed information, visit the Convocation web site at

August 2, 2012
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