Graduates Encouraged to Navigate Life’s Changes Through Faith at Fall Commencement
Posted on: December 8, 2023
Tigerville, SC (December 8, 2023) Challenging graduates to ponder what the title of their six-word memoir might be, Rev. Wesley Church delivered the Commencement address at North Greenville University Friday night, marking the conclusion of the fall semester.
“As you look at all that lies ahead in your life, what might be said to sum it all up in the end?” Church asked. “One thing I am certain of is that everyone could write a memoir that repeats the title of the book, ‘Not Quite What I Was Planning,’” referencing the work by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser.
“The only constant thing about life is that it changes,” he continued. “There are going to be unexpected opportunities in front of you and there are going to be disappointing setbacks. There’s going to be danger and suffering, but there’s also going to be joy and celebration. No matter what you plan, you are not the author.”
Serving as the current president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention (SCBC), Church celebrated the SCBC’s 75 years of ministry partnership with North Greenville University during the ceremony.
“North Greenville proves to the world that you can remain Christ-centered, biblically faithful and academically excellent in the 21st century,” Church said. “Every day at North Greenville University, the faculty and staff challenge the intellect of students while engaging their mind, body, and soul with the authority of God’s word. That is something worth celebrating.”
Church encouraged graduates to walk through the twists and turns of life with Jesus.
Reading from Proverbs 19, Church quoted the words of Solomon in verse 21.
“Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail,” the scripture says.
“We cannot begin to imagine what God has in store for us,” Church said. “God has placed before you an open door that no one is able to close. He has placed opportunity and possibility in front of you. But, it’s more than just an opportunity to do what you want to do. It’s an invitation to allow Jesus to lead your life and submit your plans to his.”
“Since the Middle Ages, people have called graduation ceremonies ‘Commencement.’ The idea is ‘to begin,’” he said. “You begin, which means today is the very best day to choose how to begin. Choose this day to walk through the open door of life in front of you, hand in hand with the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps as you do, you’ll be able to look back and say in six words, ‘God opened the door to me,’ or ‘God knew it in the beginning,’ or ‘God’s plans were good and best.’”
NGU President Dr. Gene C. Fant, Jr. conferred the degrees of 168 graduates during Commencement.
The ceremony began with a welcome from President Fant and an invocation by Dr. Brian Spearman, chairman of NGU’s Board of Trustees. Following a performance of “Finish Well” by the North Greenville University Choral Ensemble, 2023 graduate Matthew Easler read passages from Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Colossians 3:17.
At the conclusion of Church’s address, an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Christian Leadership was awarded to longtime NGU Trustee Ron Edwards.
“Over 30 years ago North Greenville was on the verge of closure and the spiritual mission was drifting,” President Fant said. “A group of trustees (including Edwards), however, believed that God had other plans and they prayed diligently that the university would survive. In God’s providence and wisdom, the university didn’t just survive. It thrived and it became the university it is today.”
President Fant noted the impact Edwards has had as a member of the board, thanking him for his leadership.
“Ron Edwards is serving out his sixth term on the university’s Board of Trustees, and when his term concludes, he will have served the university for more than 30 years. He has served in every role and has been on every committee at one time or another. He has served his church faithfully. He has supported missions. As an attorney, he’s served his clients for more than 50 years. He’s a loving husband to Missy, and they are a model of what a Christ-first marriage can look like.”
Deans of NGU’s six colleges presented diplomas to graduates, and the ceremony concluded with the singing of the university’s Alma Mater, performed by Sara Elisa Delanuez and Larry J. McCullough, and a benediction from Dr. Shannon Dobson, faculty chair and professor of psychology.