The weekend of June 24–26 was a festival of celebrations, reflections, and anticipations of the 40th year of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary (LBTS) and the institute’s 16th graduation ceremony.
Several high profile individuals, faculty, staff, well-wishers and families of the graduates attended the occasion.
On Friday evening, graduates and their families assembled in the Stephen R. Tolbert Dining Hall for a fellowship meal, where they were challenged by Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor.
Senator Taylor reminded the graduates that their “Seminary is one of the most respected and important schools of higher learning in our country.” She also spoke of the need for the students to embody their motto and to “walk worthy of the calling” they had received.
On Saturday morning the Carolyn and Bradley D. Brown Fellowship Chapel was filled with excited graduates decked in their caps and gowns. The students were surrounded by family and friends. On one side of the building, the choir from the Restoration Baptist Church added style and passion to the service when they offered several selections in the course of the two and a half hour service.
The Baccalaureate speaker was Rev. Gerald Emory Thomas, Jr. from the Lamberth Memorial Baptist Church in Roxboro, North Carolina.
The Seminary’s President, Richard F. Wilson, reminded the assembly that the Lamberth Church was the key partner with LBTS during the Ebola crisis. “During more than 16 months, beginning August 2014, Lamberth Memorial Baptist Church and its Pastor were present with us all,” Wilson recalled. “During that time over US$70,000 was collected and sent to LBTS to provide needed food for Liberians sequestered in closed compounds because of Ebola,” he said, noting, “In partnership, we fed people in six of the country’s 15 counties.”
Rev. Thomas delivered a focused and inspiring sermon on the theme, “We are supposed to be surrounded,” taking his texts from Psalm 139 and Hebrews 12. “We are called to be surrounded,” he said, “finding our place in the midst of a world of suffering and need.”
Respondents included President Wilson, Deacon Aaron Marshall, Chair of the LBTS Board of Trustees, and Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention’s (LBMEC) President, Rev. Dr. Olu Q. Menjay.
Following the service Thomas remarked: “It is a joyous thing to participate in the celebrations of the LBTS Class of 2016. We sent them out with the hope that they will influence and shape better days for all Liberians.”
Sunday’s celebrations included the full-fledged pageantry of Commencement, held at Effort Baptist Church in Paynesville. The commencement address was delivered by the Rev. Dr. Terry L. Henry. His address explored the Gospel story of Bartimaeus, a blind man who insisted that Jesus hear his cry. The theme, “Carpe Diem,” Latin for “Seize the Day!” challenged the graduates to take seriously every day and every opportunity they will face in their life of ministry.
Dr. Henry announced that the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Wilmington, North Carolina where he has been Pastor for 29 years, has elected to include LBTS in their budget for four years, donating US$10,000 each year. When asked about the financial support, Henry said, “I know Presidents Menjay and Wilson. I have seen for myself their commitments and passions for theological education in Liberia. Our church in North Carolina shares those commitments and passions. We will be proud and attentive partners for years to come.”
Nine graduates received the Bachelor of Theology and seven received the Bachelor of Religious Education. The LBTS Board of Trustees approved conferring the Doctor of Divinity upon Rev. Thomas, Rev. Henry, Rev. Jones, and Rev. Wilson.
Rev. Jones is an LBTS graduate. A son of Liberia who has an impressive history in global ministry, he currently is the Director of Missions in Europe, the Middle East, and Liberia, under the auspices of the Baptist Churches of America.