The year 2020 has been filled with uncertainties and many interesting challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This fall semester The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville joined with colleges and universities across the nation and made a way for students to be safe while they continued their educational journeys in-person, on campus. Although the semester looked and felt different with everyone wearing mask, using hand sanitizer, and social distancing, graduating seniors were still able to complete the work needed to earn their degrees. In spite of the corona virus, many activities resumed on the campus especially the Fall 2020 Graduation Ceremony.
On December 4, thirty-seven graduates walked across the stage outside in the Grand Bobby Pavilion located in the historic Heritage Village. Several of the graduates that walked were May 2020 graduates participating in the graduation service since their in-person commencement became a virtual graduation based on COVID-19 restrictions. With families sitting 5 to a group and spaced 6 feet apart, the graduates proceeded down the middle sidewalk as BCF Professor of Piano Angela E. Glover played “Pomp and Circumstance”. Following the traditional processional, the invocation was given by BCF Theology Division Chair and Professor of Missions Richard Elligson. Offering the invocation was extra special for Elligson this time because his wife, Cheryl, was one of the graduates. BCF Music and Worship Division Chair Bill Davis then led the congregation in the timeless hymn, “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”.
BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen welcomed family members and graduates making good on a promise to give this group of students the graduation ceremony they deserved. Kinchen recognized the newest BCF faculty member, Professor of New Testament and Greek Steven Winiarski, having him sign the traditional “Articles of Faith” as every faculty member signed before him. The audience’s attention was then turned towards Adjunct Professor of Music Lisa Foltz as she sang the anthem, “Lord, Here Am I”.
Kinchen proceeded to address the graduates and those in attendance referencing Deuteronomy Chapter 8. He instructed graduates to forget forgiven sin, failure, and undue pride and success; and remember how God gave the children of Israel manna, protection, and provision. He challenged graduates, “When you go into the land, become the link between someone who is lost and the gospel. Once you were lost without hope and now you’re members of heaven. You are that link between all that God has done and some lost soul.”
After the confirmation by BCF Registrar Stephanie Orr and the BCF faculty, Academic Dean Robin Jumper presented graduates to Kinchen for final approval. Once approval was granted, the seniors walked across the stage to accept their diplomas. Family and friends clapped and cheered as the new college graduates earned their credentials and could finally appreciate all their hard work. The 2020 fall and spring graduating class included eight students who received associate degrees, fifty earning their bachelor’s degrees, and five master’s degree recipients.
Graduates were then instructed to move their tassels from right to left, symbolizing the final official act of graduation. Among the graduates, there were two students engaged, one BCF professor’s wife, one newlywed, one expectant mother, two brothers, and four Master of Arts in Music and Worship Leadership recipients. After the thunderous applause for these graduates, the audience joined the faculty, staff, and new alumni in singing the BCF college hymn, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus.”
Following the benediction by Instructor of Psychology Tonya Gardner, Glover played the recessional piece “March” as the graduates left with diplomas in hand, excited for the future. The entire ceremony was a celebration of the academic accomplishments of the new graduates, the links, as they embarked on “Changing the World Through the Unchanging Word®.”
For more information on The Baptist College of Florida, please call 800.328.2660 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.