Dear Hyde Park Family,
We are in full swing of graduation ceremonies across the country and our community, which carries with it a new slate of commencement addresses that capture our attention.
There is typically no set formula for what makes a good commencement speech, and the themes are as varied as the speakers themselves.
But this year, as I watched and read some notable commencement addresses around the country, I started to notice a common and compelling theme that many speakers seemed to emphasize: a call to empathy.
Here are a few examples:
“I want to talk to you about the possibility – the requirement, even, of climbing out of your own minds. It is about listening, in a way that asks you to do something nearly fantastical: to abandon your own private self … to acquire the language, identity, and skin of another person. What is it like to be him or her? What is their suffering and joy like?” – Author Siddhartha Mukherjee, to the University of Southern California 
“By breaking free of our own tribes, even if only for a moment, and seeing things through the lens of people unlike ourselves, we can begin to close the gaps, whether they be socio-economic, racial, gender, political or otherwise.” – Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, to Wharton School of Business 
“But as you leave here today, I do ask that you write the next great chapter of world history in a way that reflects your courage and your empathy … It will be all of you who have the courage to face the painful truths, and the empathy to embrace others because of our differences and our common identity and humanity. It will be you and your generation that has the strength to bring people together to build bridges not walls, and forge a way forward.” – Darren Walker, Ford Foundation, to Hamilton College 
THE SPIRIT OF PENTECOST
It seems more than mere coincidence that these speeches all come in the wake of Pentecost Sunday.
We not only celebrate the commencement of the church, but the Spirit’s ongoing work in tearing down division and empowering us to speak through the language and perspective of people different from us. It’s what inspired my sermon on empathy last Sunday, available here, as well as my own commencement address to our wonderful little graduates of our Small Blessings preschool program last night:
And here is the greatest thing you have achieved:
The best gift from this place you’ve ever received
Is the knowledge that God really, truly loves you,
And you can be someone who loves others, too.
In the way that you’re kind, empathetic, and giving,
In the way that you share, and seek peace in your living.
In the way that you treat other kids with respect,
In the way that you love those that others reject.
POINT OF VIEW
That call to empathy is at the heart of a program we are offering next month called “Point of View,” or POV. It is an opportunity to help our denomination break down walls in its current divide over LGBTQ inclusion.
The bishop of this annual conference, Ken Carter, has asked every congregation to have healthy and honest conversations among its members about the various opinions we have on this topic.
The Conference designed POV for people with different opinions about LGBTQ inclusion to come together, not to convince each other to agree with us, not to have us all come to the same conclusion, and certainly not to put anything up for a vote. But to do the harder work of listening to each other’s perspectives and pains, in a conversation that fosters empathy, understanding, and healthy dialogue.
Please mark your calendars and plan on attending, by yourselves or with your small group, at all three, 90-minute sessions, on Wednesday nights from 6:30-8 p.m. at The Portico campus on June 13, 20 and 27.
Since seating will be limited (and is already filling up quickly), sign up online now to secure a spot.
You can be part of fostering new understanding, deeper connection, and non-binary thinking in this congregation, in the full spirit of being warm-hearted (open to a diversity of people) and open-minded (open to a diversity of perspectives).
And you can watch the Spirit of Pentecost do it again.
Grace and peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist