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Christian Union: The Magazine
September 16, 2020

HCFA Undergrads Give Seniors a ‘Commencement’ 

by anne kerhoulas, staff writer

The chaos of the developing pandemic and learning that the spring semester would conclude remotely could not deter students with Christian Union at Harvard (HCFA) from celebrating and honoring their graduating seniors.

While the campus shifted toward scenes of frantic packing, hastily thrown parties, and seniors clinging to last moments of their college experience, HCFA underclassmen mobilized to create a commencement ceremony for the departing graduates. They devised cardboard caps and personalized pseudo diplomas, a commencement speech delivered by an impersonated Barack Obama, and a real charge for those leaving campus to seek the Lord. 


As Harvard’s campus closed prematurely this spring, HCFA underclassmen threw an impromptu graduation ceremony to honor the seniors.

Former HCFA co-president Allen Lai ’20 noted the impact of this event as he concluded his time on campus. “It meant a lot more than the Harvard graduation ceremony—it felt so much more personal and thoughtful.”

The days prior were a rollercoaster for students. “At first I was really angry because the communication from the university was pretty bad and it felt like they didn’t really care for us,” said Lai. “Everything happened really fast.”

When a current HCFA executive team member helped the former president process what was happening, “[I realized] this isn’t what anyone wanted, I couldn’t really be mad. HCFA and our Bible courses were a big part of being able to process it well. A lot of people were just trying to numb it out with parties. HCFA helped me think through emotions and about how to end well.”

The event that mattered so much to Lai and his senior classmates was pulled together in about twenty-four hours. Ana Yee ’21 found herself eating in a dining hall with a friend lamenting this unusual ending for the senior class. 

“We were talking about how it was so sad that the seniors didn’t get closure or a ceremony. Those days were stressful enough with trying to pack up and say all our goodbyes. It felt like there wasn’t a singular time for any one community to be together,” Yee said.

“The main goal was to provide a space and time to acknowledge and celebrate the seniors, knowing they had all poured a lot into us. The least we could do would be to celebrate them in return and acknowledge all they had done, not only in HCFA, but also in their time at Harvard. In a community like HCFA, there are so many moving parts. Everyone is playing their role and serving in their specific ways. So many people are doing things that don’t get recognition or face time.”

Typically, the end of an academic year has several events aimed at recognizing the efforts and contributions of the graduating seniors, as well as providing a time to say good-bye as they end their time in college. Students who participate in Christian Union ministries have many opportunities to serve within the ministry, as well as serve their college campus. 

“Christian Union empowers student leaders. Even though we have a Christian Union faculty, the ministry gives us a great opportunity to learn as a community together and to put spiritual ideas into practice,” Lai commented.

But perhaps one of the most surprising elements of the senior farewell was how many underclassmen, even first-years, participated in pulling off the event.

“One of the most special parts about it was that it truly was a communal effort,” said Yee. “[The first-years] had known the seniors for the shortest amount of time, but that was really sweet and cool to see that they came out to serve the seniors who set the tone of their time in the ministry.”

One of the beautiful realities of campus ministry is the heritage of faith, service, and community that is passed down from grade to grade. The graduating seniors were once welcomed as first-years themselves; they were mentored by upperclassmen and brought into a community of believers. And now they are leaving a legacy of pursuing Christ at Harvard.

Lai reflected upon the impact of Christian Union during his time at Harvard. “HCFA was definitely my family away from home,” he said. 

“HCFA was the first place I saw a vibrant community of Christians taking faith seriously and loving God and one another as part of daily life. It was a very unique time in life where everyone was living in the same place. It felt as close to the early church as you can get—living together and feeling like you are working at something together all the