Ending or Beginning

Graduation season is upon us. The Cathedral hosts several high school ceremonies beginning this week. I recently attended the reunion and commencement activities for my undergraduate school, Westminster Choir College. At graduation, we celebrate the completion of a degree –an ending– yet, the ceremonies are called commencements –a beginning. Which are they?

Finishing a task, especially a long multiple-year program of courses is a cause for celebration. Lots of time, effort, and (perhaps) money were invested in acquiring certain skills and knowledge to enable us to complete the degree. These skills and memories we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. As an ending, graduations offer the opportunity to look back and see how far we have come.

A key component to most graduations is at least one commencement speaker. The speaker’s task is to motivate and orient the graduating class to the future. Great commencement speeches become viral videos and serve not just the students present, but all of us. There is a future in front of each one of us. Are we ready to meet it?

Graduations are doorways. We leave one room behind and step into a new one. They are both endings and beginnings. Very soon, we will be making our own transition to new hymnals. We will say farewell to the ones who have served us well for so many years. We will begin a new journey with new books.

Most schools offer tours and orientation for new students. I expect to do the same for the new hymnal. Future columns will identify and help you use the different sections of the hymnal. There will be opportunities throughout the next year to “tour” the hymnal. These will be chances for us to sing both familiar and new music. Our Lessons and Carols program in December is one model that we can use to tour other seasons contained in the hymnal.

Graduations are never just endings. They are beginnings as well. Just as all the students are going through transitions, we will have our own this summer as we prepare for our new hymnals. We say thank you and farewell to Worship and Gather as we carry the experience and singing skills we have acquired with them into our next hymnal, Ritual Song.