“This is a momentous occasion for us,” said President of Acadia Divinity College, Dr. Harry Gardner following the appointments of Rev. Dr. Andrew Stirling and the Rev. Dr. Peter Holmes as Lifetime Fellows of the College. Dr. Gardner stated, “Dr. Holmes and Dr. Stirling are two fine servants of our Lord. We look forward to continued affiliation with them as Fellows of Acadia Divinity College.”
The event was held on the 24th of November at The YORK Club in Toronto. It was a fitting venue for the leadership boards of Timothy Eaton Memorial Church and Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, as two long-time friends were celebrated for their exceptional work in ministry and their longstanding commitment to Acadia. Both men graduated from the Doctor of Ministry program at the College, and their ministries have been distinguished by their exceptional preaching and teaching.
Historically, ‘Fellows’ of early Baptist institutions were either elected, or nominated, by the faculty of a respective governing body – the earliest instance being at the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University). The practice imitated the academic institutions of Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, where Fellows were awarded special academic privileges within the University and were often invited to teach, lecture, or act as an advisor regarding academic conduct. In Oxbridge communities, such as the Ancient universities of Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge, Fellows were commonly known as “dons”. The ‘Lifetime’ title, which both Stirling and Holmes received, remains to this day the highest distinction for College Fellows, standing above the designations of ‘visiting’, or ‘sometime’ Fellows of a College. Previously, Acadia Divinity College recognized the following individuals as Lifetime Fellows of the College: William H. Brackney and Alan P.F. Sell (deceased February 7, 2016).
Holmes, Minister of the Congregation at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, said he was “humbled” and “deeply moved” by the kindness of the Board’s decision to hold a reception in their honour – but it was “the people of Yorkminster Park and those who serve alongside me” who he gave all the credit. “There are countless faithful people who daily serve the Lord without any recognition or honour,” said Holmes. Ultimately, he said the award helped him recognize “how dependent I am upon the service and dedication of others.”
In his comments, Stirling, Senior Minister at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, acknowledged the Divinity College by quoting the famous words of Winston Churchill at the opening of his eponymous institute at Cambridge:
“I trust and believe that this College, this seed that we have sown, will grow to shelter and nurture generations who may add most notably to the strength and happiness of our people, and to the knowledge and peaceful progress of the world.”
He spoke graciously of the bond of the Holy Spirit he feels present whenever he returns to Acadia.
Holmes echoed the sentiment:
“I consider the relationship between the divinity academy and the Church to be of the utmost importance to the Kingdom of God. And so in the hope that my serving as a Lifetime Fellow can aid in sustaining Acadia Divinity College’s commitment to the Church, I gratefully accept this honour.”
With these appointments, both Stirling and Holmes will be afforded a continuing presence and influence at Acadia Divinity College. Both have been guest speakers in the past and this coming Spring, Stirling will be teaching a course focused on preaching and worship.
Among those present for the ceremony was the Chancellor of Acadia University, Libby Burnham. Both of the Fellows’ spouses, Marial Stirling and Janet Holmes, were also acknowledged by their husbands for their love and support.