People here observe this with a mixture of relief, panic (“I have two papers to write tonight!”), regret (“Where did this semester go?), anticipation — especially for those students who are looking forward to accepting, or receiving, calls. We noted that yesterday’s Gender and Ministry committee meeting closed the year, with finality: that group of people will not assemble again for that purpose, as student representatives move on to other assignments or away from the Seminary entirely, as faculty representatives shift to other committees, as our Student Coordinator Debra Trevino moves on to work with a congregation. Such final scenes will be played out over and over again across the campus, as first one and then another class meets for the last time.
The rhythm of the academic year may not uniquely focus attention on the passage of time — consider the cycles of the agrarian year, and the related but different cycles of the liturgical calendar. But the academic rhythm adds to that pattern the uniqueness of classes: groups of individuals who assemble, negotiate mutual expectations and arrangements, pursue a common course for a time, in the process making one another’s deeper or more superficial acquaintance, gaining insight and appreciation. Classmates come to stand inevitably in one another’s debt, as all will become for each, for ever afterwards, part of that past which serves as ground for every present to come.
None of us springs fully formed, like Athena, from the Godhead. Not even Jesus, who as our partner in the human condition for profound and even now not fully fathomed reasons, like us became a specific, concrete someone, identical to no one else, through specific, concrete, and finite interaction with concrete individual others. Classmates learn more than the content of specific subject matters. We learn, unavoidably, from one another, something about living with others as ourselves. We could say, and not say too much, that the selves we become owe something to our classmates. And the selves our classmates become owe something to us.
Of course, our participation in classes doesn’t end with school, nor did it begin there. Sessions have classes; congregations make up complex classes; perhaps even our neighbors are our classmates, though that might be stretching the point. So as we reflect on classes, in the light of classes here reaching their stopping points and parting of ways, we hope we do so as generous classmates, made wiser and happier by the members of our various classes, who have themselves become wiser and happier thanks to us.