28 May Congratulations to the Class of 2021
On the seventh day of May, 2021, the University of Valley Forge (UVF) held its 82nd annual Commencement ceremony and conferred degrees on the class of 2021. The 82nd Commencement ceremony of the University of Valley Forge began at 1 p.m. on the front lawn of Greenlane Commons. The service was also live-streamed on the university’s website via YouTube and social media for those who were not present. Dr. Douglas, vice president of academic affairs, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and introduced Abigail Kauffman Lawrence ’21 who led the audience in congregational singing of three hymns followed by the alma mater which was sung by the graduating members of the University Concert Choir.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, UVF did not hold a separate morning baccalaureate service inside the Flower Chapel, but instead combined the elements of the usual baccalaureate service with the commencement ceremony. The baccalaureate speakers who shared on the themes of past, present, and future were Professor Melanie Weaver, chair of the Arts and Science department, and graduates Samantha David ’21 and Abigail Kauffman Lawrence ’21. Using the verses of Ephesians 2:4-10, the three speakers focused on God’s grace. Weaver eloquently summarized, “As we consider the past, one word comes to mind: history. We all have a history… Ephesians 2:8 contains a reminder that you have been saved. Saved from circumstance, situation, problem, or predicament, but most definitely from your sin. God has saved you from the pandemic of your past… Your story begins from the vantage point of redemptive history. Your past, your history [has] been transformed into His Story, written by his mercy and grace.”
David continued with the theme of God’s grace in the present. “As previously read, Paul asserts in verses 6-8 [that] ‘God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…’ In this, Paul does not say that his grace was a gift, or one day will be a gift, he asserts that it is presently a gift of God through Christ Jesus that we have been saved through faith. This is not a salvation we wait to receive, rather it is one we have the opportunity to walk in each day.” Lawrence gave a poignant testimony to God’s grace in her own life and how she continually released “insecurities to the Lord so that his grace can cover my inadequacy.” She continued, “We can depend on God’s grace to give us strength in difficult moments when we are honoring him with our lives. Let us be encouraged today to step out into this world in confidence, knowing that ‘we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared beforehand which we should walk in.’ Always remember that his grace is sufficient for every moment that we may encounter in the future.”
After their messages, University President David J. Kim introduced Reverend Wanda Carter ’81 as the commencement speaker. Rev. Carter is an ordained Assemblies of God minister, retired AG U.S. Missions chaplain, church planter and pastor. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Valley Forge and a Master of Divinity degree from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. She was the author of an amendment to designate racism as a sin in an historic AG resolution at the 1989 General Council. In 2016, she received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from UVF and the the Alumni Association.
Carter congratulated the class of 2021 on their accomplishments despite the obstacles that faced them during the COVID-19 pandemic. She shared a touching message of God’s redemptive grace and plans for each individual. “You are in the beginning of a new part of living your life. Too many of us humans are not living the life we were created to live. If you live the life of significance each of you could and should be living, it would transform you and the world around us.” She inspired the graduates and family members in attendance to evaluate how to live lives worthy of the calling each has received from the Lord. “God will tell you to do things that will scare you, but do it anyway!” she exhorted. “If it’s His plan and purpose, there is no weapon formed against you that can prosper.”
After Carter’s message, Douglas and Kim presented each graduate with their respective graduate or undergraduate degree. These graduates have now joined the mission of thousands of other University of Valley Forge alumni to live a life of service and leadership in the church and in the world.