One of my most meaningful memories from seminary was participating in the baccalaureate ceremony a few days before graduation in 2010. About 30 minutes prior to reporting for the processional, I tried the gown, hood and cap on for size. Before I could step fully into the living room, I could see the look of confusion on the face of my three-year-old daughter.
“Why are you wearing THAT?!?” she snickered. “You look funny in that costume, dad!”
To be honest, I felt funny, and I didn’t have much of an answer for why I was wearing this “funny looking costume” other than saying, “it’s just something you do when you graduate, love.” But even the snickering of a three-year-old couldn’t temper the feelings of excitement and accomplishment I felt!
The baccalaureate ceremony that followed was beautiful; still such a vivid memory. To walk into a chapel service wearing regalia with the faculty who had discipled, trained, encouraged and challenged me in my graduate studies was an honor and privilege. I even remember the sermon preached that day (when, let’s be honest, how many of us can remember the sermon preached this past Sunday?). Our professor from Sierra Leone gave the 300-plus future pastors, missionaries, professors and lifelong followers of Christ a not-so-gentle admonishment that the hopes some of us might have had for riches and fame following seminary might elude us. Instead, the call was to consider the cost that might come with carrying our crosses as we follow Jesus with his.
The regalia we wear during special events like a baccalaureate or graduation ceremony are important symbols of academic achievement. For the Christian, the robes we wear are teeming with even greater significance. As I looked around the church at the baccalaureate service in 2010, I couldn’t help but think ahead to the time when the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language are standing together, dressed in robes of righteousness and singing praises to God as one (Rev. 7:9). Baccalaureate is like a dress rehearsal for when we will spend eternity together with God!
One of the questions that we in the Office of Spiritual Formation have been asked on occasion is, “why don’t we have a baccalaureate service here?” Quite frankly, we never had a good response. But the time has come to create space for this important celebration!
For the first time at FPU, we will be having a baccalaureate service on Friday, December 15, at 2:00 p.m. at Butler Church on the main FPU campus. We invite all students—especially graduating seniors!—faculty, staff and administration to this time of reflection, celebration and anticipation for what God has next for our graduates.