As the notes of Pomp and Circumstance rang through the R.G. Lee Chapel, the processional of graduates consisted of one videographer slowly making his way toward the stage. This was the beginning of an historic graduation program held on May 15, 2020, that was transmitted to its audience totally through a virtual format. All of the traditional elements of the graduation exercises were conducted by members of the administration and faculty of The Baptist College of Florida (BCF) in Graceville. BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen led the service and delivered the Address to the Graduates, while Academic Dean Robin Jumper presented the class for the conferring of degrees. Music and Worship Division Chair Bill Davis led in the singing of the College hymn, Tell Me the Story of Jesus, and Sierra Hernandez presented a solo performance of "On Eagle's Wings."
In his graduation address, Kinchen shared perspectives on ministering "In a Strange Land." Taking his text from the first chapter of the Book of Joshua, Kinchen reminded graduates that while they are going into a world of strange new challenges, this is not a new experience for those who have followed the Lord and ministered in His name. He compared the challenges facing the graduates with those faced by Joshua. He challenged graduates with the reassurance that God's promises remain constant and God's instructions remain clear no matter what the period in which we live. His bold charge to the graduates was to "Be strong and courageous; the same God who has touched and called the heroes of our faith, has called you!"
In a traditional graduation service, BCF Registrar Stephanie Orr calls the name of each graduate as they cross the stage and receive their diploma. During this special graduation celebration, Orr read each name as a portrait of the graduate was shown on the screen listing their name, degree, hometown, and any academic honors. After all of the names had been called and portraits presented, President Kinchen conferred the degrees on the graduates and gave his customary instruction, "You may turn your tassel."
When the heartbreaking and yet wise decision was made to cancel the traditional graduation service and give May graduates the opportunity to walk in December, not a dry eye could be found on the BCF campus. It was at that moment, plans were put in motion to honor and celebrate graduating seniors by conducting a virtual graduation on Facebook Live. One graduate's father, Senior Pastor Charlie Higgins of Westview Baptist Church in Sanford, Fl., stated, "I think that is a very wise decision and actually the one I hoped the president would make. As sad as I am not to be able to attend, we are still planning to celebrate with Hunter anyway. We WILL make it a grand event." Graduating Senior Hunter Higgins is the third son of Charlie and Kim Higgins to graduate from The Baptist College of Florida.
According to the BCF President, "We had all of the traditional elements of a graduation ceremony presented in a most untraditional manner. The R.G. Lee Chapel is a beautiful, historic setting that presented a wonderful venue for the ceremony. However, it seemed a little lonely without our BCF family there. I am grateful for the technology that allowed us to present this virtual graduation, but I am looking forward to the time when we can greet these graduates and the remainder of our BCF family with a broad smile and a big hug."
For more information about the Spring 2020 graduating class at The Baptist College of Florida, please call 800.328.2660 or visit the website at www.baptistcollege.edu.