On Thursday, 5 December we celebrated our 2019 graduating students at our annual Valedictory Service.
Note from the Principal
In Jeremiah 29 the prophet advises, “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
Here, Jeremiah announces that the concern of God is for the common good of the city, in that case, Babylon. On an initial read, the text is concerned with the basic elements of planning for the future. Earlier in the chapter, in verses five and six, Jeremiah instructs the Hebrews to “build houses”, “settle down”, “grow to produce”, “marry” and “have children”. Each of these is examples of putting down roots and committing to dwell in a particular place.
These examples from Jeremiah introduce us to one level of meaning of the common good. This is concerned with getting on with one’s life, making plans and living as a neighbour. Placement in any locality introduces us to the daily rhythms and particularities of the neighbourhood. This is the level where people’s needs can be made known and prayer, assistance and solidarity rendered. Jeremiah’s language invokes hope, that there is a future. For the Israelites, transported to Babylon this was breathtakingly profound. As Alan Roxburgh observes, “The community of God’s people is invited into the work of seeking the well-being of the city’s neighbourhoods.”
Concern for the common good requires that we attend to the needs and welfare of the city precisely because we are aware of the needs, through actively living with and listening with our neighbours. It is not about shrinking back into religious ghettos or making claims of persecution out of self-interest. Jeremiah reminds us that following God must include concern for the common good. Jesus invoked this tradition when he summarised the Greatest Commandments in Matthew 22:34-40. Western church life is often centred around a dualistic notion of mission – through evangelism or through justice. Ontologically, the application of either justice or evangelisation from the church can be applied for the church – either for its growth or sense of contribution to society. Either way, when expressed from the church both tend to be insider activity. Roxburgh goes on to note that the language of the common good,
“Seems different from many contemporary understandings of being the church. In this sense, it is a way of life that stretches us to move outside and beyond our current practices and habits about being the church. Such stretching is always difficult, anxiety-producing and risky because we find ourselves invited into unfamiliar places where we may not feel safe or comfortable.”
Our annual Valedictory Service is always a wonderful time of completion and celebration for students, friends, family and staff. A huge amount of study and growth has been achieved. We extend sincere congratulations from our staff, faculty and Board, We pray for you as you move forward in the service of Christ and his concern for the welfare of our cities and towns.
Dr Andrew Menzies
Churches of Christ Community Engagement Prize recipient:
Jeff Andrews, Graduate Diploma in Theology
Jeff Andrews heads up Rite Mentoring, a not for profit charity focused on mentoring young people. Their mission is to support Australian teenagers navigate adolescence, with a particular concern for those most vulnerable.