Each year, Monmouth College honors its Presbyterian heritage by beginning Commencement Weekend with a traditional baccalaureate service. The ceremony will be held on May 11 at 3 p.m. in the Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.
“Baccalaureate is a worship service of thanksgiving and sending for our graduating seniors,” explained MC’s chaplain, the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott, who plans and prepares for the service throughout the year with a committee of senior students. “Baccalaureate is specifically Presbyterian in its central focus on scripture and on the proclamation of God’s word with a sermon delivered by a religious leader.”
This year’s baccalaureate speaker is Dr. Rodger Nishioka, who holds the Benton Family chair in Christian education as an associate professor at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. He is also one of the most sought-after and inspiring preachers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
“This is sure to be a very memorable and meaningful service for our graduating seniors,” said Ott, who added that while the service will be reflective of Monmouth’s Presbyterian heritage it will also honor the diversity of MC’s student body.
Pete Lipinksi, a senior from Western Springs, has heard Nishioka speak and was impressed.
“I thought that he was inspirational through his ability to address the different backgrounds that were present within the group and for his enthusiasm while speaking. He was thought-provoking in a way that enabled me to see all sides of the big picture regarding religion and spirituality.”
“I thought Dr. Nishioka was very charismatic and humorous, but also honest and unafraid to address important issues of our time,” added another MC student who has heard him speak, senior Dan Reid of Carlinville. “I am very pleased and honored that he will be speaking at this year’s ceremony.”
Nishioka received his undergraduate degree from Seattle Pacific University, his master’s degree in theological studies from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, a Doctor of Divinity degree from Austin College and his Ph.D. from Georgia State University. He has published several articles, chapters and books, largely focused on ministry with youth and young adults and the educational ministry of the church as spiritual formation.
Special music will also be an integral part of the service, including performances by the Monmouth College Chorale, the Scotsmen, the Sassy Lassies and the Colorful Voices of Praise. Additionally, several graduating seniors will have speaking roles.
“Framing this life transition in a context of faith, the baccalaureate service leads our graduates to reflect on their higher purpose, or ‘calling’ in life, and encourages them to meet the needs of the world through service and work that they are passionate about,” said Ott. “It is our hope that the baccalaureate service is a meaningful and inspiring moment for our seniors as they celebrate this significant accomplishment and life transition.”