Pan Conrad: Reflections on Formation

Pan Conrad image

The following speech was delivered by EDS student Pamela "Pan" Conrad '19 during the school's 40th Anniversary Gala celebration on October 24.

May I ask if there’s anyone here who has NOT seen the film When Harry Met Sally? Yes? Okay, file that thought away for a few moments. When I came here in June, I arrived on Pentecost. It felt like providential timing to me, so I went over to worship with the brothers at the monastery. It was a wonderful experience, and the most memorable part for me was when Brother Ian, who was preaching that morning, said, “When you invite the Spirit in, there’s no telling where you’ll end up, and there’s no turning back.” Upon hearing this, it really struck a chord with which I could harmonize, and I made a decision right then and there to try to let go of expectations for who I am in the Body of Christ and let the outcome of my seminary experience just unfold. So that is how I started the two-week intensive summer session.

A couple of days later we had our matriculation service. It was very moving to me, and when I signed that book, I thought of all the names that precede mine in the book, and I hoped that when I become the legacy of EDS, I can be worthy of the company of some of those names, many of whom are yours. Then the ceremony was over, and we followed the recessional out the Chapel door. On the top step, stood the now retired dean of student life, Miriam Gelfer. She greeted each one of us as though we were her most treasured friend and when it was my turn, I looked into her eyes, and I could swear I saw Jesus looking back at me. And I thought, “I want what she’s having.”

There won’t be another day like that one, ever again. And EDS will never be what it was that day or any other day in the past—that EDS is gone forever. And it’s not all bad news; there’s some good news in there, too. Everything changes except the Divine Creator of it all. That’s what makes us alive. We exist in the domain of time, but God exists outside of that domain—the one in which all creation abides. And so we change continuously, because that’s the nature of everything that is in relationship—it changes everything: in physics and in God. And because of the encounter with Miriam on the chapel steps, I’m changed forever, and because of my relationships with you, our beloved faculty, and all of my classmates, I am someone different than the person who arrived the night before Pentecost. That is the meaning of formation: to become who we are in the Body of Christ in community. My name is now in that book, along with many of yours, and for the rest of my life, I will be linked to EDS. I think about who I will be and who EDS will be as we grow in community and change each other...

My time at EDS will be over in a flash, time seems to move so fast. And I pray for one thing more than any other thing. When I meet the students who will sign that book after me, or greet my teachers either on the webcasts or whenever I can get to campus... or in the future, when I am sitting at one of these tables for the 50th Anniversary Gala... I want whoever looks into my eyes to think... (I think you know where I am going with this), “I want what she’s having.” Amen.

Pamela “Pan” Conrad is a Distributive Learning student at EDS and an aspirant in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. In addition, she is an astrobiologist and mineralogist with the Planetary Environments Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. She is deputy principal investigator and investigation scientist for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite, which is presently exploring Gale Crater on Mars as part of the Mars Science Laboratory mission.