These are Wess Daniels’ remarks from the inauguration of Jane Fernandes, August 26, 2015 at Guilford College.
By way of invocation today, I want to call our attention to the Quaker tradition which is the roots upon which this community rests and is nourished.
As most of you know, in 1837, a group of pioneering Quakers founded a Friends boarding school that later became this college we know and love. Through love, struggle, and a healthy dose of resilience, the Spirit that gave rise to the “New Garden Friends Boarding School” remains alive and vibrant as Guilford College today. And it is that first name, “New Garden” that captures my imagination this afternoon.
New Garden is a metaphor drawn from biblical imagery that stands for hope, renewal and re-creation. New Garden is about new life springing forth out of what is already there. The first bricks laid in forest of this “New Garden” were placed here out of a labor of love and a sign of hope for future generations of young people who would help transform our world.
Today we will hear stories of some of these people, and many of you are living examples of this tradition being lived out. For those of you who know her, you know that same hope, love and resilience characterizes Jane’s life.
William Stafford writes in his poem “The Way it is (1998):”
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do – can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
These roots of our Quaker tradition, the reminder of the new garden, and the love lived out are all a part of this thread we hold onto. And so long as we hold onto it, not matter what happens, we will not get lost. This is the landscape of hope we have been given. This is the binding that holds the pages of our story together. This is the soil that nourishes and carries us forward as new life “Springs forth in Completeness.”
And Jane, this is the thread that you are now given and, with our help, will carry into a bright and hopeful future born out of that Eternal Spirit that rests here in the New Garden.
Friends, will you offer up your own gratitudes, hopes and prayers for this new beginning in a brief moment of silence with me?