In the depths of the pandemic, the Commencement of 2020 was all online, so Commencement weekend for the Class of 2021 was a sign of returning normalcy: on Monday, May 24, YDS Commencement exercises were held live and on the Quad. Limited to total attendance of 200 for the purposes of social distancing, those gathered were mostly the graduates and a portion of the faculty and staff. No family or additional friends were allowed. And it was the only event of the day, with the traditional all-school exercises downtown being canceled.
But on a beautiful spring day, begowned students were able to process, accompanied by faculty in all their regalia, speeches were delivered, and names and distinctions proclaimed. And then everyone was invited to leave and go celebrate elsewhere.
On the preceding Saturday, Berkeley Commencement Evensong was conducted online with a carefully choreographed and edited virtual service similar to the one held the previous spring, except that it was “live” on Zoom and each degree and certificate recipient had their 15 seconds of fame to greet their classmates and guests. The homily was delivered as something of a valedictory by Professor Gabrielle Thomas, who will be heading South this summer to take up a tenure-track position at Candler Theology School at Emory. After the Evensong, many of the Berkeley graduates, along with guests, stopped by the Berkeley Center to wish each other well.
As one staff member noted, “We have almost perfected the online Evensong; I hope we never have to get any better at it.”