Natalie Burfitt reflects on a lusciously green celebration of academic achievement and pioneer calling at this year’s graduation service.
The scriptural witness is framed by trees. In Genesis, nothing green grows until streams appear and then there’s a garden, a home for humans. In Revelation, the tree of life straddles the river of the water of life, bearing fruit and healing leaves.
This picture of God’s green goodness was the glorious setting for this year’s pioneer graduation service. An impressive gathering of house plants and gifts of potted cuttings brought an organic energy to the conference room that was equally matched by the people who came to support and celebrate with those marking the completion of courses. It was noted that students and staff had arrived at this point through the challenges of the pandemic – green shoots growing up through this arid time.
It was especially moving when the Rt Rev Lusa Nsenga-Ngoy, Bishop of Willesden, anointed Melita Gordon, Joanna Howie and David Hooke with olive oil, the produce of the fruit of trees.
Marking their head, hands and (very gracefully) their feet, Bishop Lusa explained that this reflected how our whole being is taken up in God’s service. Their commissioning as lay pioneers was a poignant moment, a reminder of the power of the gathered congregation, physically present to one another, to surround others with prayer and affirmation.
There was so much life in the applause and cheers, in the passing on of certificates and gifts, in the words of thanks and recognition, in the sharing of stories over cake and prosecco. It was a celebration not just of academic learning but of God’s growing of all living things, making a way in the wilderness for new things to spring forth.