I will make them and the region around my hill a blessing; and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. The trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase. – Ezekiel 34:26-27

Dating back to medieval European custom, the Baccalaureate ceremony is a religious service to celebrate and honor the achievements of a graduating Senior class. As an Episcopal school, we acknowledge the blending of intellectual pursuit and the spiritual journey, believing God to be in the midst of all we undertake. As such, we will gather this Sunday with thankful hearts, claiming the many blessings that have led us to this festive occasion.

We will encourage those who gather to participate, as led, assured that we believe God and truth is expressed and to be found in a myriad of ways.

In short, we will Bless our Senior class, sending them into the world to shine light on justice and truth. We will boldly claim that God goes with them.

As I have been praying this week in preparation for Baccalaureate, I thought of a remarkable correlation – The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage.
In this Sacrament, the church functions as both the legal and divine entity in the ritual, as clergy are authorized by the Diocese and State to perform all duties necessary for marriage.

The church, however, has not always functioned in both capacities. It used to be custom for a couple of the faith to first gather at the courthouse for the legal proclamation of marriage, to be performed by a judge.

Then, the newlyweds and wedding party would process across the courtyard and into the church, where the priest would offer a Blessing on the couple. Out of convenience and efficiency, the church evolved to take on both duties. This has not always best served people of the faith, as the church is unduly beholden to the laws of the state. As such, the church should perform its function – to Bless – while the state remains the keeper of the legal aspects.

This peculiar connection with Baccalaureate came to mind as I pondered the primary reason for gathering. We are not conferring diplomas on Sunday. We are not formally recognizing academic achievement. We are not wearing caps or gowns. Instead, we are gathering to claim God’s Blessing on another significant transition in life. Our graduating Seniors are not newlyweds, but they are certainly heading into a new season. This service is a ritual of prayer and hope in the crossing of this threshold.

Commencement will mark the tremendous merit of a diploma from Berkeley Preparatory School. Sunday will mark God’s love and favor along the way.
I will end this post with a preview of the final prayer being offered to our Seniors on Sunday.

As you head into the next chapter of life, may your valleys be made high, mountains made low, uneven ground made level, and rough places a plain. Bring good news to the oppressed, heal the brokenhearted, liberate the captives, and claim yourself as beloved.

May your eyes be open, each day, to see light in this world. Go with God, sharing the light of your love with others. Amen.

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Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.