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They Are a Rare Breed

They Are a Rare Breed

I love graduation and commencement events, especially my own! They are ceremonies for family and friends to gather and celebrate students who conclude their intellectual labors. They signal a declaration and a recognition of the end of studies and the beginning of a new season of usefulness. Their sense of expectation and relief is overwhelming, alongside their formality, special robes, majestic anthems, and solemn speeches, all of which display both seriousness and joyfulness. I remember each of my own graduations with fondness and count it a privilege to have participated in them. 

One of the great honors of my role as Director is speaking at our Church-Based Seminary graduations across the country and world. We have graduated more than 1,615 men and women who took on average three-and-a-half years to complete their training, among whom are pastors, Christian workers, church planters, and many others serving as lay ministers where they live and work. Our graduates are Christ’s ambassadors—ready, determined, and adaptive, coming from a broad range of social and cultural backgrounds

Honestly, it is hard to estimate their courage and fierceness. Most received our highest recognition while working full-time jobs, serving with spouses and families, and managing church and ministry affairs. Many did their work while incarcerated, and some even began their studies with barely the ability to read or write. Remarkably, all received their honor after completing our hefty load of genuinely-challenging theological work, alongside exegetical and ministry projects that demanded that they practically apply their knowledge in their own personal lives and ministries. A tall order, indeed!  

With these graduates being such a rare breed, their graduations have been equally joyous and remarkable, hosted in vastly different venues. From a public corner on the very street where a graduate did street ministry, to the day rooms of numerous prison chapels, from church auditoriums and basements to quiet private events—we have saluted our graduates in places small, large, and everything in between. One of our graduates who knew little English had his young, grammar school-age son read and translate the texts and quizzes into Spanish to complete his work. Another graduate said this was his first-ever graduation from anything in his whole life; one finished her work in a hospital room, one of the last things she did in this life, and received her certificate posthumously. What makes these ceremonies extraordinary is not where we celebrated them but who we celebrated them for and with.   

Our Church-Based Seminary graduations are filled with joy and song, procession, “pomp and circumstance” music, testimonials, commencement addresses, and good food. And, while the pandemic has changed our gatherings, their basic DNA has remained the same: testimony and joy! And why not? Such joy can’t be withheld. Just wait. Thousands more will soon know this joy of completion and recognition, too, the pleasure of being equipped in God’s word to do His work. 

Read more from Rev. Dr. Don Davis.


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