Why We Do What We Do
“It’s the highlight of the academic year!”
These words from ADC President Rev. Dr. Anna Robbins echoed through the bustling halls of Acadia Divinity College and on the lips of staff, faculty, and students on Friday, May 6 – the day of our 61st Commissioning Service.
This year was especially meaningful – for the first time in three years, we invited our community to celebrate with us on-site. And, for the first time in the history of ADC, we presented the Commissioning Service in a hybrid format, with graduands and over 180 supporters tuning in and participating live from around the globe, alongside 184 on-site guests.
Our House is Your House
To kick-off our Commissioning celebrations, we hosted our first Open House since the building was renovated in 2019. For many members of our community, this was the first time they had seen the building since the renovations.
In some cases, even students were stepping foot on campus and into the building for the first time, having completed their programs entirely online. The technology upgrades included in the renovations made it possible for students to study from afar, while staying connected to our community.
“I did a lot of my degree on Zoom,” said Master of Arts (Theology) graduand, Julia Benwell, who attended the open house with her daughter. “It will be so nice to meet my classmates in person, to see the Professors, and to tour this awesome building.”
For several hours leading up to the Commissioning Supper, the ADC building was full of supporters, students, graduands, and alumni. Staff and faculty gave tours, shared updates, and welcomed the long-missed hustle-and-bustle of a building filled with family.
Set the Table, Open the Door
With celebrations once again happening on-site, we hosted our Commissioning Supper at Acadia University’s Wheelock Dining Hall. Set to a backdrop of clear blue skies and the Blomidon Peninsula, we welcomed over 160 supporters, graduands, and guests to eat and celebrate with us.
Dr. Anna Robbins reminded us that “as we celebrate, we do so affirming that human beings were created for flourishing and not languishing.” She acknowledged our “brothers and sisters in fear and conflict and grief” and she prayed “that our celebrations will lay stake to the claim that even death will not have the last word.”
Following supper, Honorary Doctor of Divinity recipient and ADC alumna, Colonel (The Reverend) Barbara L. Putnam (MDiv ‘95) addressed the graduands and welcomed them into the alumni family.
“Ministry is demanding work,” she said. “You cannot take all of it on your own shoulders. You, Class of 2022, are now part of a large community of alumnae/alumni, who will be a tremendous benefit and help to you in your ministry.”
She encouraged the graduands to maintain ties with the college, with their classmates, and with those who have walked through the doors before them.
“If the Pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to rely on each other, and share the burden – because we simply cannot do this ministry alone in isolation.”
Col. Putnam and ADC Director of Development, Rev. John Campbell presented the graduating class with gifts on behalf of the College and alumni: a pen and a pin to remind them of the community that surrounds them, always.
It’s become a tradition for special awards to be presented at the Commissioning Supper to outstanding students. Master of Divinity graduand Erica Corbin was presented with the Student Service Award for her servant leadership, her positive attitude, and the ways in which she connected fellow students through opportunities for social time and prayer. Congratulations, Erica!
The MacRae Prize is awarded to the student with the best Doctor of Ministry thesis in honour of Rev. Dr. Andrew MacRae. Constance (Connie) Phillipson received the award for her thesis: The Legitimate Value and Use of Rhetoric in Preaching the Resurrection: An Analytic Study of the Easter Sermons (2010-2019) of The Reverend Dr. Andrew Stirling. Congratulations, Connie!
To conclude the supper, Rev. John Campbell encouraged graduands and guests to open doors through giving. “We are people who hold doors for others,” he said. “Give to open a door, to set the table, to help others reach this same place you have, so others can join us in the ongoing celebration.”
Formed for the World of Our Time
Surrounded by the magnificent stained-glass windows of Wolfville Baptist Church, and underscored by the talents of Music Director, Dr. Heather Price, our community gathered for our 61st Commissioning Service. The pews filled with people while the excited sounds of a community gathered both on-site and online filled the sanctuary. Downstairs, gowned faculty and graduands prepared for the procession.
We recognize that the beautiful and abundant land upon which Wolfville Baptist stands, and indeed, all the land surrounding us here, is Mi’ima’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.
“We acknowledge this land not to tick off a box,” Rev. Dr. Danny Zacharias said, “but to remind ourselves of our reliance upon the land and our Creator, to learn from the history of this place, and allow it to shape our thinking, our way of living, and even our east coast theology.”
Our Commissioning Service is a chance for our community to send out our graduands with a prayer and a blessing before Convocation. But for two of our students, the Service acts as their official graduation ceremony. Vivien Pealing, who received a Certificate in Lay Leadership, and Blake Dawson, who received a Graduate Diploma in Christian Studies, were both recognized and celebrated for their achievements.
Demonstrating what is possible through online studies at ADC, Dr. Anna Robbins presented the 2022 President’s Award to MA (Theology) graduand Charity Darby, who attended the service virtually from Newfoundland, where she completed her program. The award is given to the student with the highest cumulative grade point average and who shows great potential for ministry. Congratulations, Charity!
We had the opportunity to publicly affirm that the title of President Emeritus was conferred on Rev. Dr. Harry Gardner in November 2021. Dr. Robbins summarized the standing-ovation and support of all gathered when she said, “You can see farther when you stand on the shoulders of giants.”
“Because you stood by our side,” he said, “we have been able to successfully negotiate terrain that everyone will agreeably say has been challenging … the treasures we found in our studies and the compassion of ADC faculty and staff have formed us for the world of our time.”
Faith for 21st Century Realities
This ever-shifting “world of our time” Raphael referred to in his reflections was the basis for the Annual John Gladstone Sermon, delivered by Rev. Dr. Steve McMullin, Academic Dean and Sheldon and Marjorie Fountain Professor of Evangelism and Mission at ADC.
“This 21st century, digital post-modern world of pluralism and secularism and anxiety needs to know God’s love, God’s grace, God’s hope,” Dr. McMullin said. “God has called his church – he’s called us – to go into this 21st century world and make disciples.”
“In such a world, how will you serve?” he asked. “How will you lead?”
Using the story of Israelite leader Shamua in Numbers 13, Dr. McMullin cautioned graduands not to be leaders who choose to go back to the false comfort of the way things were, but instead to choose to look to a new future with faith in the promises of God.
“Amid our 21st century world, skills and knowledge are essential,” he said, “but it will take more than skills and knowledge for leaders of the Christian church. Do you have faith in God?”
Dr. McMullin concluded with a prayer that can extend to our entire community: “May you serve with faith in God, may you lead with faith in God, may you live by faith in God. And to God be the glory.”
And So, We Celebrate
The act of Commissioning – praying for our students and sending them out into a mosaic of ministry contexts – is the truest reflection of our mission here at ADC. Our students and alumni are our legacy, and we will take every opportunity to celebrate the bright futures they represent.
Perhaps your future will bring you to ADC for further study. Discover how you can join our community to study with purpose and be equipped to serve the mission of God with transformative impact.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to make our 2022 Commissioning celebrations a resounding success! For a full list of participants, acknowledgements, and thank yous, please download the Commissioning Service program.