Union Seminary hosts commencement in a cloud

RICHMOND, VA (May 17, 2020) — Amid the COVID-19 pandemic which suddenly shifted traditional classroom instruction to the virtual cloud, Union Presbyterian Seminary conferred 45 degrees and certificates to 43 students in its Richmond campus community who successfully completed their Master of Arts in Christian Education, Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Doctor of Philosophy, and Seoul Exchange Fellowship programs.

The graduation ceremonies, held May 16 for the Richmond campus and April 18 for the Charlotte campus, marked the first time in the school’s 208-year history that its commencement exercises were conducted online, with graduates participating and hooding themselves live via Zoom video conferencing before an unseen audience of family and friends who watched via Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. An ensemble of seminary musicians, led by Music Director Doug Brown, opened the Richmond ceremony with a Zoom-themed version of “Pomp and Circumstance” and the seminary choir followed with “A Repeating Alleluia.”

Congratulatory remarks were delivered by Presiding Chair of the Board of Trustees Edward L. Roberson III; President and Professor of New Testament Brian K. Blount; CN Jenkins Memorial Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Jerry Lytle Cannon, brother of the late Professor of Christian Ethics Katie Geneva Cannon; and author Diana Butler Bass, who noted that while the ceremony was virtual, the graduates’ achievements were “quite real and that’s certainly how the next few months are going to feel.”

Newly called Shandon Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor and Head of Staff Rev. Jenny M. McDevitt (M.Div.’09), formerly senior pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, delivered the commencement address from the pulpit of her new church in Columbia, South Carolina.

She told the Class of 2020 that as they go into an “incredibly strange” world to become masters and doctors of more than just education, divinity, theology, and philosophy — be it their church’s technology director or their child’s homeschool teacher — to remember the first and most important thing they will always be is a child of God who is loved by the Creator of the world and everything in it. “And nothing, absolutely nothing — degree status, the nature of a pandemic, whether or not the church opens its doors again — nothing can ever change that.”

McDevitt prayed for them to hear Jesus when he calls them by name and listen when he introduces them to the very best version of themselves, and repeat Jesus sharing the Good News of their belovedness with everyone they meet.

“That is the work of those who follow Christ,” she said. “And for you, it is work; it is holy and wonderful work that commences in a whole new way right now.”



Mike Frontiero
Director of Communications
Union Presbyterian Seminary