Pictured: Rev. Kate Kelderman from Gettysburg, PA and Rev. Becca Stevens from Nashville, TN.
Thank you so much to the alumni association for this honor. I am humbled by it. Both of my parents are buried on this mountain and to accept this award in such close proximity to them feels very special to me. The foundation for the work I have done for the past couple decades was laid long before I came to the mountain. It was the early death of my father and other childhood experiences that set the stage for having a desire to serve women with criminal backgrounds in addiction and prostitution, who on average were first abused between the ages of 7 and 11, most of whom knew the backside of justice, the underside of bridges and the short side of economics long before they knew the inside of prisons. While that foundation was built, it was here on this mountain that I learned the necessary skills and theology to put those experiences into a context and a ministry. It was here that professors like Dr. Spacerelli not only taught me Spanish but offered books like “the hovering giant” that questioned the balance of power in this part of the world. Math professors like Dr. Croom, Dr. Puckett, and Dr. Alverez not only gave me a structure to solve problems, but taught me that mathematics was a universal language that could be translated into developing language about God. Professors like Dr. Smith, Dr. Potter, and many others gave us the freedom to question religion and the environments we were surrounded by. The administration under Dr. Ayers offered us opportunities to develop our leadership and give us a platform to learn to speak our truth. Since my graduation have been meandering mostly on side roads for the past two and a half decades. During this sojourn I have learned that love is the most powerful force for social change, that we can love the whole world a person at a time, and that the most radical form of love is to love without judgment. The lessons have left me with little energy for the politics of religion, and need buckling grateful that I get to be part of communities that remember that serving one another is not a side issue, but central to the gospel and to living out our faith. I still have so much more to learn and this community reminds me that we are life-long students. I am grateful to so many people, classmates and colleagues and friends and my husband Marcus and our sons Levi and Caney and Moses that keep the communities I serve going. My prayer is that we all keep taking the lessons of this community back into the world and speak our truth in love with conviction always. Thank you so much.