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Patterson tells grads to view ministry in light of eternity

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, commissioned 245 graduates during its 209th commencement ceremony May 6, while another 10 students the following day received degrees during the inaugural graduation ceremony of the seminary’s J. Dalton Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston.

Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson presented a charge to students based on an unlikely scriptural source –- the genealogy of Ruth 4:18-22. The passage describes the line of Boaz, which ultimately led to King David and the coming Messiah, Patterson said.

Naomi had become so discouraged by her destitute circumstances in Moab, Patterson said, that she told people to call her “Mara,” which meant “bitter.”

“But she could not see beyond her circumstances to what God was doing,” Patterson said.

He warned the graduates that they were embarking on a calling where many of them would be under intense pressure from those to whom they minister. He said some would be fired at some point in their ministry, and a few may even give their lives because of faithful service to God in dangerous places.

“To you graduates I want to say: Do not view that matter in its present state as the totality of it,” Patterson said. “God is with you; your story will not be fully known until God welcomes you home to be with Him in glory.”

The graduation commissioning service in Fort Worth was held at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. Among the graduates was Candace Celine Finch of Tampa, Fla., the first graduate of the newly revised master of divinity program. Finch was awarded a master of divinity degree with emphases in both Hebrew and Greek.

Ten percent of the graduates in Fort Worth were international students from countries such as Korea, China, Malaysia, Kenya, Brazil, Togo, Kazakhstan, the Cayman Islands, the Democratic Republic of Congo and The Netherlands.

The mood was celebratory at the Havard School for Theological Studies as some 300 guests gathered to witness the first commissioning service for graduates of Southwestern Seminary’s Houston campus.

Attending the service was the school’s namesake, J. Dalton Havard and his wife, Lois. Also attending was Clifford “Doc” and Barbara Price, members of the Southwestern Seminary advisory council.

“We are very excited,” Havard said after the first class of graduates had received their diplomas. “But this is not a surprise to me. I have felt this was coming for many years. One of the reasons I have been involved in this as I have been is that I have believed that one day this campus will actually be larger than the one in Fort Worth because of the demographics of the area. We are so happy to be here. We anticipate even more graduates next year.”

Havard Dean Denny Autrey said that he is excited about the future prospects of the Houston-based campus.

“It was a glorious day,” Autrey said. “We are grateful for the administration’s support and help in putting this together. We feel like this is the first of what is going to be many wonderful days to come and that many graduates will come from the Houston campus in the years ahead.”

Southwestern Seminary’s Houston extension program has been in existence for more than 25 years. In 2000, Park Place Baptist Church deeded its facilities to the seminary to establish a permanent home for the school, which until then had met on the campus of Houston Baptist University. The site was accredited as a degree-granting institution last year.

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  • Brent Thompson