Monday, February 28, 2011
Wabash Traditions: The Baccalaureate Sermon
Concerning Wabash Traditions, one of the less well-known traditions which I find particularly interesting is the Baccalaureate Sermon the morning of commencement. Similar to most centers of higher education in America, Wabash College was founded by a religious interest group, the Wabash Presbyterian Church (the same church which still stands on the corner of Wabash and 231, fyi). The vast majority of the Ivy League schools were also founded by religious interest groups (Harvard, Yale, etc) and over the course of time, like Wabash, gradually became more and more secularly oriented until practically all religious ties had been severed. Indeed, in recent times centers of higher education, such as the Ivy Leagues, have often been accused of being extremely "Leftist" in their political tendencies. Therefore, of all the Wabash traditions which make our school unique, it is the Baccalaureate Sermon which captures my interest. On the morning of commencement all the graduating seniors are expected and I believe required to attend a religiously influenced ceremony in which prayers are spoken and a speaker gives a sermon to the graduating class. Last year, the Reverend Terry Harter, class of 1969 and the pastor at First United Methodist Church in Illinois, gave a sermon to the graduating class in which he made explicit references to the manner and morality by which the graduates should conduct their post-Wabash lives. As a member of the Glee Club, I have been present at every Baccalaureate since 2008 and have sang songs such as "Be Thou my Vision" and "Hark I Hear", both songs making direct references to Judeo-Christian Faiths. So, my question is: Is this right? Is this sermon a part of Wabash's identity? Or is it simply a vestigial religious connection which should be replaced with something more secular?