A Time For Prayer And Action At Commencement

Commencement season is here. It is in this moment of history both a celebratory time and a time for concern as we ponder what the future might bring in a world fractured by conflict and facing grave challenges from climate change. This is a time for prayer and reflection as we send graduates into the world.

For graduates, it is, of course, a time to celebrate great achievements made at often-extraordinary costs. Family members may struggle a bit as they adjust with younger graduates entering adulthood even as they celebrate too. Faculty and staff often feel both pride in a graduating class and a sense of loss in seeing students they have come to care for transition from college into new adventures.

I see all this and more as University Chaplain at Pacific University as we prepare for Commencement this month.

Prayer is a form of conversation with the Divine. We can lift up our hopes and dreams, sorrows and concerns, thanksgivings and misgivings, and be heard. But prayer is more than a one-way conversation. We may be heard, but we are also called to be "repairers of the breach." Our prayers sometimes must be turned into action.

Let us pray for a world of hope and opportunity.
Let us work toward policies that dramatically reduce poverty and inequality.

Let us pray for a future where children thrive across the globe.
Let us push past the Paris Accords for even stronger action to combat human-caused climate change.

Let us pray for peaceful communities.
Let us work for laws that reduce gun violence by banning assault weapons and strengthening background checks.

Let us pray for an end to oppression.
Let us work to restructure student debt so education is never oppressive but always liberating.

Let us pray for unity and justice.
Let us oppose discrimination against women, the LGBTQ community, people of all faiths, and immigrants.

Let us pray for those who build bridges across lines of race, religion, and nationality.
Let us oppose those who would build walls that divide us.

Yes, the next generation will inherit a more challenging world. But in recent years - by expanding access to affordable health care, by extending marriage equality to gays and lesbians, by never giving in to those who would put profit for gun dealers and pollution creators over the needs of children - we have shown that hope is not lost.

Those who never surrender to trying circumstances maintain hope. My hope in the future is informed by the growing activism of young people in the United States and across the world unwillingly to rest on the victories of the past, which have moved us closer to being the "Beloved Community", but instead are insistent on challenging structural injustices and inequalities which still exist.

Let us pray for the success of those graduating this spring.
Let us work with them in solidarity to offer radical love to our neighbor as God provides radical love to us.