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Thursday, November 16, 2006


Valedictory Speech

Here is the speech I made at my Valedictory dinner at Whitley college this evening.
It was a great evening and a fitting end to four years of theological college.
Now I can't wait until I get to wear the robe and receive my degree.

As I reflected back on the 4 years I have spent at Whitley college I tried to think of what I could say to sum up the experience of studying here. I wanted to acknowledge and thank all those who have assisted me in my learning and development over that time, lecturers, tutors, staff and other students.
I tried to find a way to make it witty or funny, tried to weave it into a comparison with my favourite sport or how my learning related to the G20 and make poverty history forums, but nothing seemed to work.

Each time I came back to the question, ‘what can I say?’ And then it hit me.
The question. That most powerful of tools in theological study.

I remember in my first year theological class choosing to respond to a newspaper opinion piece that asked the question ‘was Jesus gay?’ A question that has the power to strike fear into the hearts of many a Christian. That question, perhaps more than any other taught me the importance of looking at the other side of the argument.

My own major area of study, biblical studies throws up its own interesting questions. ‘What was the context?’ ‘What is the author trying to say?’ ‘What does it mean?’ ‘What analysis am i supposed to be using in this exegesis?’ These questions have helped me to marvel at the beauty of the word of God.

I have learnt that a failure to question is a failure to engage. A failure to engage is a failure to learn and to grow. It would have been relatively easy to sit back and absorb information. It would be relatively easy for me to graduate with a Bachelor of Theology able to recite creeds and explain doctrines.

But that would have been to miss the point. The task of theological study is to engage with the questions. The task of Christian discipleship is to engage with the questions and perhaps the greatest question. That great question that Jesus asked Peter, that the Gospel writers asked the disciples of the early church and that we too must grapple with today. “Who do you say that I am?”

Of course in theological study there are other questions.
Arriving at college on the morning of the exam and asking “Why did I choose to study Greek?”
Arriving in the library the week that last essay is due and asking “Why did I leave it so late?”

Studying at Whitley has taught me the power of the question and the importance of hearing other people’s questions. The questions from my African, Latin American, Asian, European and Australian friends. Questions that come from world views and life situations that I had never dreamed of. Questions I never would have contemplated, but for someone else asking them.

“Who do you say that I am?” For me, to answer that question is to open the door on so many more questions. These questions are the ones that my time at Whitley has allowed me to explore with so many other people. Thank you to the wiser heads, those who ask the hard questions and encourage us to engage with them. Thank you to those who have journeyed alongside me in the walk that is theological studies. Thank you to those who work in the library and in the office, without you our college would not function.
Thank you to my wife, for her support and encouragement along the way.

So thank you once again for helping me to discover that the question is the most powerful theological tool of all.

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WOW! I'm a proud mum.

I can answer the question, 'Why did I leave it so late?'
1. you always did!!!!!!
2. you have a mind that is always on the go, from the time you asked me at 2 years old ( in the middle of the night)
How do you think? (Be quiet and go to sleep was my answer)to today where you are involved in so many things and always on the lookout for a worthy cause to get involved in.
Congratulations! I can't wait to see you in that cap and gown either.
your mum is justifiably proud. You sure have grown into a wonderful man of God and I am thankful to have been a fellow student. Your speech was awesome and challenging, thanks. That amazing mind of yours will definately be used by its creator to continue making a lasting difference in the world. So too will that humility and compassion.May hope guide you always.
With deep respect,
Sandy Crowden
great speech dude

and gratz on finishing it

let God lead you to bigger and greater things
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