Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary celebrated the final commencement ceremony of its centennial year on Dec. 12 at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. A tradition that began with the 2008 Spring Convocation, the faculty once again topped off their academic regalia with beaver-felt cowboy hats. “It is the one hundredth year of celebration,” Paige Patterson, seminary president, explained. “And this is Texas.”

Joe Hardin, associate professor of instrumental and jazz studies, led the faculty in a song he wrote this year entitled “As You Go,” which underscores the seminary motto from Matthew 10:7. Though the students became familiar with the song during chapel this semester, this was the first time it was included as part of graduation.

The seminary conferred 254 degrees on students in the presence of special guests, faculty, family and fellow students. Ten students received undergraduate degrees, 222 students received master’s degrees and 22 received doctoral degrees.

In his address to the graduates, Patterson reflected on God’s intervention in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth from Luke 1.  Patterson charged the graduates not to be surprised when God intervenes.

“Even though ministry has to do with eternity, it gets to be familiar, and we think we can do it without the intervention of God. You have prayed for the intervention of God. Don’t be surprised when it happens,” Patterson said. He also promised graduates that ministry will bring times of trouble and fear, but if they stay faithful to the Lord, unbelievable joy will overshadow the difficult times. 

In closing, Patterson charged the crowd to remember the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ as the “most important event in history.” In response to the sign atheists placed next to a Christmas tree and manger scene in the capital rotunda of Olympia, Washington, that reads, “Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds,” Patterson replied, “Isn’t it interesting that atheists are so intimidated by the birth of a little baby that they have to put up a sign to refute it?” 

Seminary leaders offered sincere appreciation to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention for their “sacrificial commitment” in giving to the cooperative program to provide scholarships for students, especially during times of economic uncertainty in the nation.