September, 2013, when I began my first classes, I looked at the list of 31 classes that I would have to complete for a total of 93 credits and genuinely thought it was an impossibly overwhelming task. Last Saturday, after a hectic week of submitting final papers and assignments, I was awarded a Master of Divinity, with an emphasis in Pastoral Counseling. It went by fast, it felt like an eternity.
Being a full time student, working, and having a family would have been impossible without Heather’s support. Being a student affected the whole family. The ‘yes’ to school meant saying ‘no’ to a thousand other things. It’s why the whole family was so excited to go to the graduation and see this chapter conclude!
Speaking of which, graduation was a zoo! With President Trump as the commencement speaker at Liberty University, their normal graduation attendance of around 30,000 graduates and attendees nearly doubled to more than 50,000. They actually tore down a building to erect additional temporary grandstands for the larger crowd. Contrary to some media reports, which have taken a couple comments out of context, his speech was a good, traditional commencement speech. He didn’t talk about himself, or politics, and instead focused on the stories of two men in attendance; a hall of fame football player who had fought and beat cancer twice (whose daughter was a graduate), and a former vice president of the university who had survived the death march of World War II, and after returning home at only 88 lbs, was told he wouldn’t live to the age 40, is now 98 years old. He praised their tenacity and will to overcome great odds and used that as a challenge to all of the graduates to use their finished educations to push forward in making a difference.
The degree awarding ceremony happened later that afternoon; I graduated from Liberty’s School of Divinity which took place at the original Thomas Road Church. It was my favorite part of the day. Hearing from the Seminary professors, receiving my (symbolic – the real one will arrive in the mail) degree, celebrating with family and friends. It was a fun way to end the experience.
The process has been a good one for me. The classes, the readings, the demands by the professors, have all impacted me in more ways than I anticipated. My approach to sermon preparation and preaching has changed significantly. My thoughts on teaching and planning lessons has grown. The classes on all of the different aspects of leading a church, as well as the studies in pastoral counseling, have all given me a much deeper toolbox for ministry at my church. For any of my peers wondering about whether or not they should go after further education in ministry, I would strongly encourage them to do so!