Preaching at his installation as Dean and President of Berkeley Divinity School, Dean Andrew McGowan mused on how the school’s motto “into the regions beyond” leads us to keep a global vision of our mission, to honor an expansive pursuit of knowledge, and to affirm that in the end all of us—every divinity school, every church, every human being—are “God’s big idea.”
The installation ceremony took place during Evensong in Marquand Chapel on October 21 during Convocation Week in the presence of an overflow congregation of trustees, alumni, faculty, students and a multitude of friends old and new. Dean McGowan has been at the school working since August, but the event provided an opportunity for all members of the Berkeley family to gather and celebrate his formal induction into office.
In his sermon Dean McGowan told the story of how the philosopher and Bishop George Berkeley went “into the regions beyond” geographically by traveling to Rhode Island in 1728 hoping vainly to start a new college in Bermuda. It was not until the next century that Bishop John Williams of Connecticut actually founded the school and borrowed Berkeley’s name for his project in theological education. The pioneering vision of these two men inspires us to have a “global vision” and “to loving service of a diverse and fragile world.”
Reflecting on the state of theological education today, Dean McGowan offered that “our calling is not to fall back from the ideal Berkeley and Williams pursued but to go beyond it, to provide even better education not just for ministers and teachers but for theological educations themselves.”
Dean McGowan then spoke of a third “beyond” borne of Berkeley’s idealism, “his philosophical insistence that everything we know has to be thought into being.” In today’s materialistic world we forget that objects and things exist not because we perceive or think of them to exist but “because they are perceived and willed to exist, by the mind of God.” Therefore, he explained, in addressing “the question of what being and truth itself lie beyond our immediate knowledge, we must affirm that all our exploration, all our passion for justice and truth is itself a form of ‘divinity’.”
Dean McGowan closed by exhorting us to “be a community characterized by diversity and curiosity, inspired by justice and wisdom, and to go beyond what we already know, and thus find the One whose thought we are, and whose love we share.” The full text of his sermon is available here.
Earlier in the service David R. Wilson, Chair of the Berkeley Board of Trustees, and Gregory E. Sterling, Dean of Yale Divinity School, officially installed Dean McGowan, and offered him an exhortation: “Do not forget the trust of those who have chosen you. Care alike for all members of the Divinity School community. Mentor them as they grow in the knowledge and love the Lord. Nourish them and strengthen them to glorify God in this life and the life to come. Represent this community in the councils of the Church and lead it with vision into the future.”
Emily Bakemeier, Deputy Provost of Yale University, brought greetings and welcome from the greater Yale community. Student trustees Andrew Moore ’15 and Jessie Gutgsell ’16 presented Bishop Samuel Seabury’s chalice, and the Rev. Canon Patricia Mitchell ’02, President of the Graduate Society, presented the Berkeley Seal, which was placed around the neck of the new dean.
During the service the school conferred honorary degrees on three distinguished members of the church: The Rt. Rev. Victor Atta-Baffoe, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast in Ghana; Ann Dewey, a philanthropist, volunteer “extraordinaire” and long-time supporter of the Episcopal Church and Berkeley Divinity School; and The Rt. Rev. R. William Franklin, Bishop of Western New York. The full story is available here.