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Yale professor featured speaker at Baccalaureate

By Garrett Elder, student writer


“These pandemic days require a new vision of what we might collectively become and what you might individually become,” the Rev. Willie James Jennings told Wingate University graduates in his Baccalaureate message, part of a virtual worship service posted May 13 on the University’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

The associate professor of Systematic Theology and Africana Studies at Yale Divinity School focused his message on the final chapter of Acts, written by Luke about Paul’s time in prison.    

Dr. Jennings said Paul “is under house arrest because of barriers put in place by a political and judicial system that cannot be broken through.” 

“We are living in the midst of some of the same kind of struggles in today’s world,” he continued. 

University Provost Jeff Frederick opened the service by commending the Class of 2021’s resilience and perseverance through a difficult 15 months. 

“It is your accomplishment and we celebrate your hard work, but in reflecting, be sure to remember those that helped you along the way,” he said. 

One of three student speakers participating in the program, graduating senior Tatiana Onley shared how her faith walk has helped her to stay on track throughout her time at Wingate.

“In times that I felt the most stressed or overwhelmed, that’s when my faith came through for me,” she said. Onley insisted that graduates should not let Commencement weekend go by without “expressing some sort of gratitude, whether to God, your parents, Ethel K., or even the Klondike.”

In his words to graduates, University President Rhett Brown said that “For such a time as this” is the mantra keeping him grounded recently. He said the phrase from the book of Esther reminds him that “our Creator has equipped us to be able to face whatever comes next.”

Professor Emeritus Dr. Edwin Bagley gave the Baccalaureate benediction.

“Teach us, O God, to say goodbye,” he prayed, urging listeners to say goodbye to the things they’ve known as they go to explore new opportunities. 

View the entire Baccalaureate Service on YouTube.

May 16, 2021