BUIES CREEK -- What does it mean to receive a commission from God? In his Charge to the Students message during the Campbell University Divinity School’s Service of Convocation and Commissioning ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 5, Barry Jones answered that a commission begins with a fire that won’t stop burning; it continues with a voice that won’t stop calling; and it’s confirmed by a presence that keeps leading.
That process is what led 13 new students to the Divinity School for the spring semester, said Jones, an associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew in Campbell’s Divinity School, in his sermon, “The Great Commission,” which drew on Exodus 3:1-12 and Matthew 28:16-20. Those students found their fire, they obeyed their calling, and they followed God’s presence.
The Divinity School celebrated their new students’ call to serve God in ministry and pursue graduate theological education during the commissioning and convocation ceremony in Butler Chapel. To mark the occasion, each student received a pin in the shape of the Celtic cross that bears the royal colors of Jesus. The pin symbolizes the Divinity School’s commitment to providing a Christ-centered, Bible-based and ministry-focused theological education. The school has been holding the ceremony since its founding in 1996.
Among the students commissioned Tuesday was Fannie Nerada Johnson. “As I was listening to Dr. Jones talk,” she said, “it was clarification that this is where I’m supposed to be at this time and that God put something in me.”
Johnson said her call to pursue theological studies began with a hunger to learn more about God. She first heard about Campbell’s Divinity School through the pastor of her church in Raleigh, St. Paul’s AME, where she’s a member of the ministry team. When she participated in one of the Visitation Days the Divinity School hosted last year, she was struck by the interaction between the professors and students. “Everyone was genuine,” said Johnson, adding that’s what led her to choose to enroll at Campbell.
Eventually, she said, she hopes to work in missions, her passion -- or what Jones described as “the fire that won’t stop burning.”
Thomas Bridges, another student commissioned Tuesday, said the passion and calling that led him to the Divinity School is “seeing people have the light come on for Christ,” especially students. Bridges, a part-time student at the Divinity School, teaches seventh grade social studies at Carrington Middle School in Durham.
How will he manage the demands of being a teacher with the coursework of a divinity student?
“God,” Bridges said. And, he added, messages like the one Jones delivered during the commissioning ceremony will help provide reassurance to press on and "pull back to the fire" even when facing challenges, doubts or hesitations.
“God does not commission us because God can’t do what God wants to do without us," Jones said. "God commissions us because God wants to draw us into that life of unceasing love that exists eternally in the very being of God. A commission is nothing less than an invitation to participate in the very life of God, God above, who puts that fire and passion in our hearts; God the Son, the eternal Word of God, who calls us to God; And God the Holy Spirit, the sweet Spirit of Jesus, with us here and now."
Photo: Thomas Bridges, middle, during the recessional for the Campbell Divinity School's A Service of Convocation and Commissioning on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Article by Cherry Crayton, digital content coordinator