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What can an Honorary doctorate signify?

I commend to you as graduates to be part of communities of service. Because only together can we, will we, make the changes required for the healing and wholeness of this world.

It was with shock and profound gratitude that I received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Victoria on June 14. In my address to the convocation, I spoke about what I believe this honour truly recognized. The following is a portion of that address:

Our twin sons were sitting at the Kitchen table with me and one of their sisters, and the topic of this degree came up. The one said to his brother who is a PhD candidate at another university, “Dad will have a doctorate before you.” I quickly replied, “unearned!” Our daughter, one of the quiet ones who may change the world, said, “just by a lifetime of service.” I looked at her and paused and thought, okay. If that is what this recognizes, I can maybe accept that – a lifetime of community service – not extraordinary or exceptional, but staying with it, keeping at it, committing to it, most everyday. That, I hope I have done, at least in part.

And I commend community service to you as graduates as a worthy and most gratifying purpose and goal for your whole lives. Let it be a measure of all you do, everyday. And let your service be especially for those who are hungry, isolated, unhoused, unsafe, unloved, attacked, driven from their land, without clean water, murdered and missing, buried and forgotten, put down, racialized, held back, and so also for this abused, depleted, hurting mother earth and her creatures and all living things. Stay with it, keep at it, commit to it everyday. And I don’t need to say how much this service is needed in a world of crises that we find ourselves in of our own making.

And last words about community. Anything for which I am being honoured today is the direct result of, and is rightly shared with, if not first credit given to, a variety of communities and the many exceptional people who are a part of them, who lead and serve these communities: of faith, like Lutheran Church of the Cross that I have been honoured to serve for almost 20 years that is full of community-service-minded and committed people for Social Justice, Truth and Reconciliation, Queer Inclusion, Refugee Sponsorship, Greening, caring, learning, worship; of UVic Multifaith, Wellness and Student Services and the Directors, Coordinators and Spiritual Care Providers of Buddhist, Baha’i , Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Christian Science, Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Salvation Army, United communities, past and present, that enthusiastically share this work for service and peacemaking; of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society and its capable and worthy scholars; of ecumenical and multifaith neighbours and colleagues and their willing partnership in ministry and service together; of the Shelbourne Community Kitchen and its amazing coordinator, and other great staff, Board members, volunteers, and participants, numbering over 1000 working for food security and community; of the Luther Court Community of Care and its residents and devoted staff committed to heathy and life-giving community together; of local Community Associations and committed citizens for the common good; of Synod and National Committees for worship and the Arts and other areas and the gifted, creative people who share this work; and more.

I commend to you as graduates to be part of communities of service. Because only together can we, will we, make the changes required for the healing and wholeness of this world. Be of community service, within communities of service, your whole lives. And I believe you will be humbled and grateful as am I. Let it be so, In all our relations.

Rev. Lyle McKenzie is Co-Pastor of Lutheran Church of the Cross, UVic Multifaith Co-Chaplain and part time Assistant to the Bishop for Worship in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE: