Living Village ground ‘healing’ highlights Convocation 2023

“There are few moments in the life of an institution that are historic,” YDS Dean Greg Sterling declared before hundreds of people gathered on the edge of the construction site on the Divinity School campus, as YDS officially broke ground on its landmark Living Village student residence hall.

“This,” the dean said, “is one of those moments.”

Attended by YDS alums alongside dignitaries and officeholders from the university, city, state, and federal government, the October 11 groundbreaking—or ground “healing,” as Sterling put it—highlighted a rousing iteration of Convocation and Reunions. 

More than 300 YDS graduates, friends, and students attended Convocation, which over the three days also featured awards, panels, lectures, worship, and moments for catching up with old friends and classmates.

‘Putting up paradise’: More groundbreaking coverage at YaleNews

The Living Village—designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge—is expected to open in August 2025, providing housing for about 50 divinity students in what will be the largest living-building residence at any university.

Living Village panel discussion: Watch the video 

Moments before hardhat-wearing dignitaries dug their shovels in the dirt,  Sterling told guests that the moment called to mind the lyrics of a classic song. “I want to reverse the lyrics of Joni Mitchell’s song, ‘They (paved) paradise to put up a parking lot,’” he said. “It is time to tear up a parking lot to put up paradise!”

Alumni/ae Awards

Five alums from the worlds of church, academia, medicine, and public service were celebrated at the YDS Alumni Awards celebration held at the Greenberg Center (adjacent to the Quad) on Oct. 12. 

The honorees were:

  • Distinction in Theological Education: Carolyn J. Sharp ‘94 M.A.R., ‘00 Ph.D., Professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School and Episcopal priest
  • Distinction in Congregational Ministry: Jeffrey Haggray ‘88 M.Div., Executive Director of the American Baptist Churches Home Mission Society and Vice Chair of the Advisory Council of Andover Newton Seminary at YDS
  • William Sloane Coffin Award for Peace & Justice: Marylouise Oates ’73 M.Div., journalist, activist, and member of the Advisory Council of the Downtown Women’s Center of Los Angeles
  • Lux et Veritas: Richard F. Mollica ‘79 M.A.R., global pioneer in the health care and healing of traumatized populations 
  • Dean’s Outstanding Service Award: Wesley Poling ‘71 M.Div., longtime leader in higher education fundraising, past member of the YDS alumni board, and Class Agent for his Class of 1971. 

Alumni/ae Awards 2023: Watch the video

In accepting his congregational ministry award, Jeffrey Haggray thanked YDS for the divinity education that prepared him for his work leading congregations in New Jersey, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.—and now as Executive Director of American Baptist Home Mission Societies. 

“Yale Divinity School,” he said, “prepared me for congregational ministry, prepared me for leadership in the church, and provided the theological, ethical, and historical foundation that I needed to enter and engage the world with a sense of confidence.” 

Yale Black Seminarians anniversary event

In 1968, Yale Black Seminarians began “mobiliz(ing) the presence of Black students at Yale Divinity School through advocacy, faith, and the pursuit of justice,” to quote a 2019 exhibition on the group’s history. On the final day of Convocation 2023, current students and Black seminarians of the past packed the Old Refectory to celebrate the 55th anniversary of YBS with a brunch and panel.

“We recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants,” the current YBS President, the Rev. Andre Gilford ’24 M.Div., told the crowd. “We are continuously running the race, adding to the marathon, of the liberation of Black people in this space and in the world.” 

YBS anniversary brunch and panel: View photo gallery

The Rev. Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes ’18 M.Div., Founding Co-Pastor of the Double Love Experience Church in New York, moderated the panel, titled “The Evolving Black Church: Innovative Practices for the Future.” The panelists were:

‘The Evolving Black Church’: Watch the video 




Beecher Lectures and other featured talks

One of the world’s longest-running and most important lecture series on preaching, the Beecher Lectures this year were delivered by Alexander Deeg, Professor of Practical Theology at the University of Leipzig. Deeg’s three-part series was titled “Preaching Towards G–d: A Homiletic for Metamodern Times.”

Beecher Lectures 2023: Watch the videos

Giving Berkeley Divinity School’s Pitt Lecture was the Rt. Rev’d Dr. Vicentia Kgabe, Bishop of the Diocese of Lesotho. Kgabe’s lecture was titled “Convocation On, and Conferral In.” Watch the video.

Convocation opening and first Beecher Lecture: View photo gallery

The featured speaker for the plenary session of Andover Newton at YDS was the seminary’s dean, Sarah Drummond, who reported on the state of the seminary and wider trends in theological education. Watch the video.

The Institute of Sacred Music hosts its Kavanagh Lecture during YDS Convocation each year. The lecturer for 2023 was Juliette Day, Lecturer in Church History in the Theology Department of Helsinki University. Day spoke on “Hearing our Prayers: Audition and its Rituals in Christian Worship.” Watch the video.

October 16, 2023