Saturday, May 28, 2016

Graduation from Nashotah - At Last!

It took six years in total for me to finally make it across the finish line, and twenty years from the time I took my first graduate course.  However, as of April 29 the thesis was successfully defended, and as of this past Thursday, May 26, I was officially awarded the Master of Sacred Theology degree.  I have chronicled my journey over the years through this blog, and it's nice to finally write about the completion of this process.  My first post in 2010 describes the beginning, and subsequent posts along the way fill out the journey (If anyone reading this is truly interested in the remaining posts, simply type "Nashotah" in the search box in the upper left corner). It's hard to believe that I initially registered for the thesis hours in the summer of 2012, nearly four years ago!! At my defense I had actually not been on campus since January 2014 when I spent an entire weekend researching the thesis in the library. It's been a long, interesting journey, to say the least.

Overall I am very pleased with the graduate program at Nashotah.  True, they went through more than a few transitions during my tenure, including multiple changes in deans, registrars, readers, and heads of the graduate department.  Then there were the two proposals I wrote in order to get to a manageable topic on which to write.  That was no less than forty pages of writing alone.  At times the process was maddeningly frustrating.  I don't think I ever seriously entertained the possibility of quitting.  Too much was invested, both time and effort.  Still, remaining optimistic did pose a challenge over the years.

All said, however, I gained much from the rigors of graduate work.  I added to my knowledge, and I learned valuable lessons in the academic process of research.  It was interesting to begin the research process believing that I would be supporting the original thesis idea, only to get to the end and discover that I could not.  However, that, too, is part of graduate studies.  I learned to be a more mature scholar who could critique and analyze information.  Too often writers - and even credentialed scholars - put forward ideas without adequate support and documentation.  At this level of study you have to find the courage to believe you can examine their ideas and offer reasonable criticism.  Based on the defense of my thesis it appears that I did just that.

It was also interesting to do graduate work in a theological context different than my own.  Many Lutheran scholars have done this as well, some receiving their graduate degrees from such places as Marquette University, Notre Dame University (both Roman Catholic), Princeton, Harvard, and various institutions representing the Baptists, Evangelicals, and others. Working with Episcopalians, especially of the Anglo-Catholic variety, was a fascinating experience.  They have a very high view of the liturgy, which for me was a true plus.  Nashotah also felt like a connection with the Church of England and its storied and historic past.

At the graduation at Noble Victory Memorial Chapel (at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy), the conferring of degrees was done in Latin.
I knew this ahead of time, but to be honest it was a bit intimidating.  Something as simple as instructions to sit and stand were challenging to discern.  However, it all had a very historic feel to it, and coupled with the beauty of the older, stone chapel, I again felt transported back to another time and place. As you can see in the picture, my diploma was also entirely in Latin.  I am particularly pleased with one Latin phrase: cum laude ("with honor").  I had hoped to end my formal academic work on a high note.

The graduation service was in the context of what high church Anglicans call a "Solemn Mass."  It was presided over by the bishop from the Springfield, Illinois dioceses, the Rt. Rev. Daniel H. Martins, who is also the chairman of the Board of Directors at Nashotah.  Earned degrees were awarded by the Very Rev. Steven A. Peay, dean of Nashotah.  When your named was called you would go forward toward the altar and keel before the dean.  After the invocation you would remove your tippet (an ecclesiastical scarf that is the sign of ordained status; usually worn as part of "choir dress" at non-Eucharistic services), then the hood was placed over your head.  In the picture above you see that I am wearing a different kind of academic hood than you might be accustomed to seeing.  It is in a "Warham Guild" style of hood, which is a kind of revival of the pre-Reformation form.  The red satin collar and lining is for theology, and the maroon exterior of the cape, I believe, is the color of Nashotah (which is also reflected in their doctoral robes).  I had a choice between this and a more "Oxford" style, but I wanted something different and uniquely Nashotah.  In looking at the internet I do not really other institutions using this style, with the notable exception, perhaps of the Spanish universities.
In the picture you will notice the bishop in the gold chasuble and miter, flanked by Nashotah's dean on one side and the commencement preacher on the other.  I am in the first full row above them. A little later in the afternoon we took a second picture on Nashotah's campus in front of the "cloister," right by the room where I defended my thesis.
I am in the second row right behind the dean who is in the center, front row. Dr. Garwood Anderson, one of the readers of my thesis and also my primary professor for Biblical studies, is to his left.  Well, here is a summary of the journey:

  • February 2010 - I decided to apply for the STM program at Nashotah.
  • May 2010 - I am accepted into the program and register for my first classes.
  • Summer 2010 - I took my first two classes: The New Perspective on Paul: A Critical Engagement with Recent Trends in Pauline Scholarship with Dr. Garwood Anderson, and Liturgical Change in the Church of England, 1928-2008: Controversy, Conflict, and Comprehension with Canon Jeremy Haselock of the Norwich Cathedral.
  • January 2011 - I took one class with Anderson on the Book of Romans.
  • Summer 2011 - I took two more classes:  The History of the English Hymnal with Dr. David Herman, and The History and Function of the Liturgical Year with the Rev. Dr. Philip Pfatteicher.
  • Fall 2011 - The paper I wrote for Anderson in my 2010 summer intensive is published in the Reformation issue of LOGIA. 
  • Summer 2012 - I enrolled for my thesis hours. 
  • April 2013 - The final proposal for the thesis is ready to submit to the committee.  (I wrote two proposals. One ended up being too broad.)
  • January 2014 - I spent an entire weekend researching in the library at Nashotah. 
  • August 2015 - The first complete draft of the thesis is completed and ready for proofreading and review. 
  • December 2015 - A reviewed copy is sent to the readers.  I am hoping this one can be ready for the defense. 
  • January - April 2016 - Additional review and further editing.  
  • April 2016 - The thesis is defended. 
  • May 2016 - Graduation!!!!!

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