With more than 1,400 guests from across the globe attending the Commissioning Service online from their living rooms, dining rooms, churches, and home offices as their witness, President Anna Robbins commissioned the Acadia Divinity College Class of 2021, “You have been called to a noble, holy, and demanding task to serve in Christian ministries in the world. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and by the help of his grace you will find strength and courage.” Each graduand reaffirmed their commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and pledged to seek first the will of God in their lives and the sphere of service he appoints.
Whether attending “pixel to pixel or person to person”, Rev. Dr. Terry LeBlanc, Founding Chair and Director of NAIITS: An Indigenous Learning Community, and the ADC Advisor on Indigenizing Theological Education, welcomed all to Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people prior to opening in prayer. On behalf of the ADC Board of Trustees, Rev. Dr. Brian MacArthur extended congratulations and his delight that, as the church continues to face many challenges, “the mission of God in church and world will move forward as you serve the One who has called you.”
Invited guests provided greetings and words of encouragement to the graduating students. On behalf of Acadia University, President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Peter Ricketts commended them for embodying the Acadia motto: In pulvere vinces, In dust we are victorious. “Dust yourselves off,” he said, in reference to the challenges of the past year, “for you are victorious.”
Rev. Dr. Peter Reid, Executive Minister of Canadian Baptists of Atlantic Canada, noted that the current pace of change has accelerated at warp speed and revolutionized ministry contexts, stressed that the opportunity for missional engagement is exciting.
In his Reflections of a Graduand address, Jeremy Vincent, a graduate of the Master of Divinity Program, may have startled a few people when he spoke of ADC’s preparing the Class of 2021 to be “strange, peculiar, type of Christian leaders.” He went on to explain that the strange times in which we live require leaders who are strange in their confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit, their belief in the Church, and their steadfast hope for the future. ADC, he stated, has equipped them well to all that God is calling them in these strange times.
As she invited Rev. Dr. Gary Nelson to deliver the Annual John Gladstone Sermon, President Robbins noted his strong commitment to the church as comprising the whole people of God. A Canadian Christian leader, former President and Vice-Chancellor of Tyndale University as well as former General Secretary of Canadian Baptist Ministries, and Honorary Doctor of Divinity recipient for the class of 2020, Dr. Nelson is widely published and has made significant contributions to theological education, urban ministry, and global Baptist leadership. Dr. Robbins also highlighted that Dr. Nelson has quietly “opened doors for those leaders prone to marginalization – younger, female, ethnic minority – to give them an opportunity to engage their leadership skills, to experiment, to stretch their wings, and to shine.” With ADC graduates embarking on ministry during an unprecedented period of uncertainty and in a world longing for hope, Dr. Nelson’s message of “Living Faithfully in the Age of the Impossible” was most apt. He prayed that the love of the graduates would abound in knowledge and imagination, that they would discern what is best and live it, and that they might witness to the radical nature of the love of Jesus. “How we serve and how we love will be remembered long after our worship songs and our sermons and our theological debates lose their lustre,” he said. ““Walk in his love.”
A special member of the Class of 2021, as the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree, Rev. Dr. Malcom Card, was recognized for his life and leadership as a Baptist missionary dedicated to deepening relations of reciprocity and mutuality within the Global South. For those who earn Acadia Divinity College Diplomas and Certificates, the Commissioning Service is also a graduation ceremony. This year marked the inaugural ADC Certificate in Lay Leadership, presented to Martha Ross, the first graduate of the program.
Academic awards that are traditionally presented during the Commissioning Supper were announced during the service. In presenting the President’s Award to Jeremy Vincent (MDiv), Dr. Robbins highlighted his diligence to studies, ministry positions, and passion to serve God. “We have been impressed with Jeremy’s gifts and abilities academically and in his desire to serve Christ in ministry. We are proud of you.”
The MacRae Prize, named in honour of Rev. Dr. Andrew D. MacRae, long-time Director of Doctoral Studies, for the best Doctor of Ministry thesis was awarded to James Rempel-Bekkers. Current Master of Divinity student Mike Poworoznyk was the recipient of the Special Service Award, in recognition of his significant contribution to the community life, spirit, and well-being of the College.
Throughout the service, scripture passages were read by Rev. Dr. Malcolm Card, Rev. Dr. Marjorie Lewis, Acadia University Chaplain, and graduating student Margaret Totten (MAT). Music was provided by Ms. Hannah Freeze, Master of Divinity student.