Dear members of the 2020 graduating class,
August 22, 2020
The NBTS faculty wrote this letter of support to the graduating class of 2020. In truth, this letter speaks to all of us on our own journeys during this trying time.
We, the faculty of New Brunswick Theological Seminary, extend to each of you our heartfelt congratulations on this significant achievement, and we look forward to embracing you as you move forward in the work of ministry.
The final term of your journey toward your degree was marked by intense disruption including widespread loss of life to a global pandemic, ongoing reminders of the brutality of anti-black racism, and righteously angry protests against the violence of anti-black racism. It is an understatement to say that this has been a difficult semester.
In times like this the reign of God can seem far away, even impossible. This seeming impossibility is a grim reminder to us of the “but not yet” part of the common “already but not yet” description of the coming reign of God. In the face of a global pandemic and overwhelming loss of life, especially of those we love and hold dear, we were brutally reminded, “but not yet.” In response to the horrific images of brutal anti-black racism on our screens and in our communities, we cry out, “but not yet.” When the threats of violence by the state, looming fascism, and authoritarian consolidation of power seem ready to crush us, we are glimpsing the “but not yet.”
However, even in the trauma, urgency, and intensity of these brutal reminders of “but not yet,” we have seen glimpses of the “already,” that give us hope in the possibility of the coming reign of God. We have felt the “already” as we witnessed medical workers and other essential workers laboring at potentially great cost to themselves to care for the ill and serve their wider communities. We have digitally seen the “already” as we watched our ministers, who hastily reoriented themselves to a digital world, pour themselves into digitally caring for their congregations. We have heard the “already” in the insistent shouts of protestors that “Black lives matter!” We have smelled the “already” in the riotous smoke and flames that burned down manifestations of an economy meant to exclude entire groups of people. We have glimpsed the “already” in the pivotal moments of learning with you this term. And in the midst of all these glimpses, we also confess that the divine peace of reconciliation and the cosmic victory over injustice was “already” proclaimed in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Luke 4:18-21; 1 Cor. 15:54-57; Col. 1:15-20).
In this season of brutal reminders of “but not yet,” of the seemingly impossible, we celebrate you. Amidst the “but not yet” of this time, we see in you the “already,” the possibility of the coming reign of God.
You have worked hard for this moment. At times, you may have felt that “but not yet” also described the seeming impossibility of your long and arduous journey toward a theological degree. But here you are, “already” to graduate.
As you enter into this world of “but not yet,” we pray that the world will see the “already” in you. We pray that in this world of seeming impossibility that you will remind us and the world of the presence and possibility of the coming just and expansive reign of God.
With great expectations for you and your ministries,
The Faculty of New Brunswick Theological Seminary