Hoods: Charge Conferences & Commencements

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Hope is what I thought about when I saw this rainbow last week. I have to go back to Candler’s summer COS graduation in a few weeks and we have our Columbia District set-up meeting on August 9 to get ready for annual Charge Conferences. Commencement and set-up meetings have a lot in common. Both of these events, plus Charge Conferences, present a fresh start, to commence living in a new way. I hope it’s in honest ways. Too many people have skirted by in university classrooms by saying only what they think a professor wants to hear, and too many clergy simply go through the motions of Charge Conferences without telling the whole truth. This is unacceptable.
 
Think about this in the context of graduation’s hooded academicians. At any graduation there are a rainbow of different academic hoods. The various colors represent a person’s field of expertise via the outer velvet’s color, and the person’s alma mater is visually represented in the hood’s interior. My doctoral hood, for instance, has red velvet signifying theology and blue and gold inner trim denoting Emory’s school colors.
 
This practice goes back centuries. Hundreds of years ago people didn’t wear hats. They wore hoods, and they wore many different colored hoods. The color of a person’s hood signified their occupation. If you were a minister, you wore one color of hood. If you were a medical doctor, you wore another color of hood. You could tell, therefore, a person’s occupation by the color of hood worn.
 
The problem with that, of course, was that some people tried to pass themselves off as somebody they were not. So, they wore a false hood. This is where we get the word “falsehood.” Today we think of a falsehood as something that isn’t true. It is any kind of dishonesty. A person’s honesty is of utmost importance. Lying erodes everything. I want to promote intellectual honesty by requiring students to do their own work, or, when using information not new with them, to offer appropriate citation. If a clergyperson doesn’t do his or her own work, falsehood will undermine the whole of that person’s ministry. Without honesty, there isn’t much of a foundation for anything in a person’s life. Charge Conference forms and Academic Integrity statements help keep us honest!
 
People can say wedding vows, but without honesty they don’t mean much, do they? Children can say that they love their parents, but love without honesty has little or no respect. People can say that they have done their best to put in quality time and effort at work, but the proof of their shoddy work ethic is quickly apparent. Falsehoods are found out! From the beginning of Christianity, the church stood for honesty even if it meant martyrdom. Early Christians could not say they believed in Jesus as Lord and kneel to Caesar as god, too. Honesty often means either-or rather than both-and!
 
Honesty requires a choice, a putting off of falsehood. A heart patient visited his cardiologist for his two-week follow-up appointment. He informed the doctor that he was having trouble with one of his medications. “Which one?” asked the doctor. “The patch,” the man replied, “the nurse told me to put on a new one every six hours, and I’ve run out of places to put it!” The doctor was flabbergasted. He had the patient quickly undress. The man had over fifty patches on his body! The patient didn’t understand that each time he put on a new patch, he was supposed to remove the old one.
Our new life in Christ requires honesty! Life in Christ demands that we take off our falsehoods and allow Christ to dress us in new clothing. A life of honesty may be difficult, but it’s even more difficult to live a lie! Hope springs eternal like the sign of the rainbow.
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