I just dusted off my blog, a good seven months after graduating from Perkins School of Theology and moving back to Toronto, too see that my last post was about Comps, which were essentially a year ago. Shame, shame!
David and I are on to a new adventure (about which more presently) and I look forward to blogging about it for your reading pleasure. However! I felt I couldn’t start into our new chapter without closing out on the old one.
So, in the words of the great Inigo Montoya, “Let me sum up.” Here is a blow-by-blow recap of my last few months in Dallas.
I had the immense joy of preparing the Seminary Singers in a commission of the Magnificat text from Luke chapter 2 composed by my Dad for mezzo-soprano soloist, choir, and steel pans. I also had the pleasure of conducting the world premiere of it, with my Dad in the “band,” during the 50th anniversary advent carol service at Perkins (hence the commission!) The entire day was wonderful, with the performers singing and playing with gusto, my whole family there getting in on the fun, and an appreciative congregation to receive it. I also got to sing a last-minute solo in a hymn with words by my good (and very talented) buddy, slash Dallas dad, John Thornburg. An amazing evening.
As my previous post states, Comps (Comprehensive Exams) were truly gruelling! With a LOT of studying (I spent the First Pres winter choir retreat with my nose in a study binder) and the help of friends and husband, I got through the process unscathed. David and I celebrated the end of the exam day with delivery of our favourite Dallas Chinese food. I passed all parts of the exam on the first try – phew! At that point, I was poised and primed to graduate.
On February 21 I “presented” my Practicum service in the Sudie George chapel of First Presbyterian Church of Dallas. The Youth Choir, whom I worked with as the intern at First Pres throughout my degree, did a beautiful job singing, playing, reading, and leading the service. My prof Dr. Hawn was on hand to observe and comment on the proceedings. In a juried meeting afterwards, my practicum committee (including parents of my choir members, a young member of the choir, Dr. Hawn and Ken Cooper) had supportive, affirming words for me regarding my call as a church musician. It was a powerful evening and I was very pleased with the worship. Dr. Hawn even took us out for burgers after - what a prof!
The service was called “A Lenten Service of Prayer in Reverence for the Earth,” and incorporated aspects of reflecting and penitence, as appropriate for the liturgical season of Lent, with a particular eye to human stewardship of the earth.
With both joy and sorrow we had our last class together as MSM peers toward the end of April. We, of course, made it a time for joyful songs of praise, including a string of musical Psalm settings we each presented to the class.
GRADUATION! We did it! After two years of hard work that seemed to simultaneously crawl and go by in a flash, my family (Mom, Dad, Susan, George, David) gathered with me and 2000 of my fellow graduates (that’s the whole cohort, Perkins itself is much smaller!) to celebrate.
I was privileged to be the Standard Bearer for Perkins along with a fellow student – both of us "tied" for the top GPA of the Perkins Graduating Class. The banner is technically called a “Gonfalon” (prompting us MSMs, as we stood in line to process, to try and recall the tune to GONFALON ROYAL) and the two of us led the Perkins class in to their seats on the floor of colossal Moody Coliseum, proudly carrying the banner. By some miracle, I looked right up and found my family in the stands (my eye actually caught sight of my Mom’s red dress first!) and we were able to look at each other as we enjoyed the events of the enormous graduation ceremony, which did not lack for pomp and circumstance. My parents told me after that the procession of the graduates to their seats alone took 45 minutes.
Next in the afternoon was a smaller, more personal graduation in the gorgeous sanctuary of Highland Park United Methodist Church, which is right next to Perkins Campus and David’s and my dorm (it is, like, the largest United Methodist church in Christendom and is nicknamed “the struggling church on the corner” by some!) We enjoyed a beautiful service of worship-cum-diploma granting ceremony, and with much delight went out singing “We Will Go Out with Joy,” cantored by none other than my friend Chelsea Stern. Chelsea and I were delighted to share the honour of the Master of Sacred Music award, which was given during the course of the ceremony. Luckily, we were sitting right next to each other in the choir (sopranos!) and shared a big hug before going down to collect this award, given to “the graduating M.S.M. student who has maintained a high honors level in music studies and performance and who has contributed to the community life of Perkins School of Theology.”
Afterwards, we had a wonderful reception and a chance to say some goodbyes (though we sadly didn’t catch everybody!) I was especially anxious to introduce my parents to my fascinating New Testament prof, Dr. Jamie Clark-Soles. I’m not sure if I’ve talked about her on this blog much (I was too busy studying for her exams!!) but she is super cool. We ended the day with a lovely dinner at Maggiano’s, a restaurant in North Park Mall, with our lovely friends John and Beth Thornburg, and Collyn Hawn.
At church the next morning, the choir of First Pres presented me with a PCUSA hymnal, in which every choir member (in all the choirs of the church, children, adults, youth, bells, even staff!) had marked their favourite hymn. Ken Cooper had very kind words regarding my time at the church – I am so pleased to have known the Coopers and the warm community at FPC Dallas.
After that, David and I crammed our life into a series of UPS boxes, said goodbye to Dallas, and wound up back home! What an amazing and enriching experience. I will always be grateful, deeply grateful, for our two years in Dallas.