une 20, 2017
Twenty years ago, the climate was different. Worried over the prospect of lawsuits based on the supposed doctrine of the separation of religion and state, school administrators all over the country shut down Baccalaureate services. It began slowly; locally, at first we were told that faculty could no longer participate and clergy could not lead. The services had to be entirely student-led. In only a couple years however, came the ruling that we could no longer hold the services in the school auditorium. That was the beginning of the end. Once we had to move the services to local churches, the inherently sectarian nature of the locations drove the final nails into the coffin. Two years after the service was moved out of the school, Baccalaureate was no more.
Tonight, I had the privilege of seeing it rise from the dead. Student-led, but with the active support of the administration and school staff, and the guidance of area pastors and youth leaders, tonight’s Baccalaureate service was outstanding in itself, but even more as a sign of a new era of cooperation between the religious and educational communities. It took some years, but the overzealousness of some in the legal community has been tested and found wanting, and the fears of the educational establishment have subsided. Baccalaureate is back.
The service tonight was student-led. Two of the students gave testimony of what Christ has done in their lives. One in particular, told of growing up never having attended church. Invited to an overnight by a friend, she accepted, then was told they would be going to church in the morning. That was the beginning of a transformation that is culminating in her determination to become a youth minister or missionary. Others read scripture and a student band led the singing. I am seeing a boldness of faith and witness in these young people far exceeding anything I had when I was there age. Though some fear for the future, I think it is bright, and am deeply thankful for what I saw tonight.