What is a Baccalaureate Service?


May 3, 2023

What is a Baccalaureate Service?Graduation is upon us and all the fun things that go with it, including senior sneak trip, family get-togethers, and a baccalaureate service. Baccalaureate has been a joy for many universities, high schools and even some middle school graduations across the globe. “The Baccalaureate Service is believed to have originated at Oxford University in 1432 when each bachelor was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic exercise. This historical British practice continued with the earliest universities in this country, which were founded primarily to educate ministers. Columbia University began this tradition in 1897 and the ceremony continues today as an interfaith, intercultural service celebrating each undergraduate's academic career.”-Columbia University.Baccalaureate has always been a part of the prestigious Princeton University. As stated in a paper by Princeton Graduate D. Sack: “Each president talks about religion, the duties of the graduating class, the challenges of the outside world, the importance of education, and personal character. ‘The baccalaureate sermon has more of a moral tone than commencement,’ says Robert Goheen (Former President of Princeton).Appropriately enough, the presidents use religious language most often to explain the purpose of the baccalaureate service itself, to explain, as Dodds put it in 1953, ‘why it is a service of worship and not an ordinary secular graduation ceremony’ Such a service, he stated, ‘affirms that the ultimate, the great truths are spiritual; that man's respect for truth and his endless quest for it are in response to his eternal thirst for something that will not perish.’ Perhaps reflecting on the secularization of the university and a certain sense of fragmentation on campus, Robert Goheen in1959 stresses the community function of the baccalaureate service. ‘As we assemble and worship together in this place, rich in significant beauty, we are declaring our share in the intangible but very real life of the University that is set forth on the seal of Princeton: Dei Sub Numine Viget- Under the will of God she flourishes. It is a time of observance of common concern and common purpose.’As a letter sent to the class of 1949 indicates, the Baccalaureate Address by President Dodds on Sunday morning, June 12, at eleven o'clock, officially inaugurates graduation activities. An integral part of the last phase of undergraduate life. Baccalaureate has always been in many ways the most impressive ceremony in a Princeton career. Whatever else baccalaureate was, some members of the class considered it an important beginning to the commencement events.”Our high school Seniors in Big Sandy do so much for graduation: video presentations, play music or sing, write speeches, pick flowers, and more. They have worked hard for this day to show us their achievements. My husband and I feel that this Baccalaureate service is a way for our community to serve, celebrate and encourage the students that God has a plan for their life, beyond just academics. Our Creator loves them dearly and He sings songs of rejoicing over them (Zeph. 3:17).So please join us Saturday May 20, 2023 at 7pm in the High School Auditorium for an inter-faith Baccalaureate Service to honor the graduating class. This year’s service will include a prayer of blessing and a gift for the students, music, scripture reading and a message of encouragement from Jesse Hartley.


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