NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Four events, a combined celebration of May and December graduates and a borrowed venue 45 miles away marked the Dec. 18-19 graduation ceremonies and the close of 2020 for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College.
Jamie Dew, NOBTS and Leavell College president, opened his charge to the graduates expressing heart-felt gratitude to God for the opportunity to hold in-person ceremonies. The May 2020 graduation ceremony was virtual with all in-person festivities canceled due to COVID restrictions.
“We were going to move heaven and earth if that’s what it took to celebrate these graduates,” Dew said. To the graduate candidates and their family members, he added, “We are grateful to God for your flexibility and patience.”
December graduation ceremonies were moved to First Baptist Church, Covington, La., north of Lake Pontchartrain. Social distancing and all COVID guidelines were followed.
In what typically would have been one December graduation ceremony, graduates were assigned to one of the four ceremonies, with Leavell College graduation held first on Dec. 18 and master’s students graduating in the final ceremony Dec. 19.
Dew noted how difficult and challenging 2020 has been, then compared it to what graduates would soon experience in ministry.
“In many ways, ministry is a bit like 2020,” Dew said. ”When all is said and done, it’s not quite what you thought it would be, there are difficulties and challenges you didn’t expect to face. But when you are faithful to God and you stay prostrate before Him, God ultimately shows up and is enough for you in every one of those moments.”
Though 2020 has been difficult, Dew called the audience to remember God’s faithfulness in 2020 to provide direction, strength, and energy to “persevere.”
Drawing from Ephesians 3:14-20, Dew said his prayer and his charge to them were four-fold.
“First, I pray that the Lord Himself will give you strength,” Dew said. “I assure you, you will need it.”
Dew explained that the task to which God has called them is impossible to accomplish on their own, regardless of their gifts, education, titles or position.
“But I also promise you this: If you’ll be faithful to live your life on your face before God and ask God for strength, He will be enough for you,” he said.
Second, Dew said he prays that graduates’ communion with Christ would be “rich and strong,” regardless of what ministry or life brings.
“I pray that you will walk with Christ, that you will know Him and that you will have great passion and love for Him now more than you’ve ever had,” Dew said. “In the end, that’s what will matter most.”
Dew said, third, he prays each graduate would be “consumed and overwhelmed” by God’s love and that the message of God’s love through Jesus Christ “would always be on your lips.”
Dew reminded graduates that believers are called to take the Gospel where there is darkness and oppression but that only God can accomplish His mission and only God can change hearts. Drawing from Acts 1:8, Dew said power to accomplish the task comes from God’s Holy Spirit, and urged each to live in the “fullness of the Holy Spirit.”
“Remember that, and don’t ever forget who you are in Christ. Don’t ever forget His power to us if we will walk with Him and be obedient,” Dew said. “God Himself is always enough. So walk in His power. Pursue Him. I pray this for you.”
Before the president’s charge to candidates, Provost Norris Grubbs urged candidates to heed the call in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 to remain faithful and “blameless.”
“Knowledge is not enough,” Grubbs said. “You must always cultivate a growing relationship with the Lord so that you can remain faithful to the end.”
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary conferred 152 master’s degrees and 36 doctoral degrees including eight Ph.Ds., three D.M.As., 21 D.Mins., and four D.Ed.Mins. Sixty-two M.Div. degrees, 24 with specializations, were conferred.
Leavell College conferred 53 Bachelor of Arts degrees and two Associate in Christian Ministry degrees.
About one-fourth of the NOBTS/Leavell College graduates had completed degree requirements prior to fall 2020.
The Lockman Foundation provided each graduate with a copy of the New American Standard Bible.