It’s graduation season, and there are signs of celebration all around!
There are balloons and flowers, candy bouquets and class parties, yard signs and yearbooks, and caps and gowns as far as the eye can see. Social media platforms are exploding with pictures of little ones now all grown up and moving from one level of schooling to the next – or finally – graduating with their terminal degrees after MANY years of hard work.
As the parent of a 5th grader now moving on to middle school, I entered this season with excitement and pride in my son’s growth as a student. I was a little wistful about how quickly he’s growing up, but mostly I looked forward to celebrating with him and watching him celebrate with all his friends. “Honestly,” I told myself, “He’s only leaving the 5th grade. It’s not like he’s leaving home yet. It’d be silly to get all emotional at this stage.”
Yet, as soon as the music started, the waterworks began.
As I saw him walk into the room with his 5th grade class, I flashed back to my 5-year-old son on his first day of kindergarten when his backpack was almost as big as he was. I thought of all the great teachers he’s had and how hard they worked (especially during the pandemic) to keep their kids learning and growing, not just as students but as humans. I thought of all the friendships he’s made, and that we’ve made as a family.
The tears welled up as that sweet little ceremony carried me back to re-experience all these joyful pieces of the past while simultaneously opening the gate to the less-known future in a way that brought hope.
Rituals are powerful like that. They are enacted in a particular time and place (like an elementary school cafeteria at the end of the school year, 2023), yet they have the power to carry us back in time and experience and, at the same time, build a bridge for us into the future. They have the power to remind us of the bonds we have with others, and our dependence on God and one another for our collective well-being.
These kids are leaving elementary school with so many skills they didn’t have six years ago. Sam, in particular, is leaving one great school and going to another one that will nurture, challenge, and support him. He is grounded in the love of our family and of his church family; and he has God’s holy, hovering nearness at every step. Yes, middle school will bring scary new challenges, but what have we to fear – really?!
This Sunday St. John’s will hold a Baccalaureate service during our 9:30 AM liturgy for those in our parish graduating from high school this year, as well as from college and with other degrees of higher education.
This year we’ll celebrate Vivian Shillingsburg and Dallen Beirline (high school), Robert & Tanae Lewis (undergraduate college) who will all be with us in person, as well as Briar McLellan (high school), Troy Thomas Sr. (doctoral program), and William Mcgregor Hewlett (undergraduate college) who are unable to be present.
We will celebrate them each by name. We will remember several of them as little ones, and marvel at how they’ve grown into beautiful, gifted, generous souls. We’ll remember the bonds we share in Christ who brings us together as a family. And we’ll surround them with prayer as they cross the bridge into the future, each one in a different direction, with a different set of gifts to bring the world; all of them blessed by God’s holy, hovering nearness.
This comes with Love,