Posted by Mary Wimberley on 2010-12-10

Veteran pastor and Baptist leader Julius R. Scruggs urged the newest graduates of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School to “go forward and share your vision,” during fall commencement Friday, Dec. 10.

“Wherever God sends you, in whatever context, serve and bless someone,”  Scruggs said, encouraging the graduates to bless the world as did Isaiah after he saw God and opened himself to hearing and answering God’s call.

“Beeson has prepared you, not to be self-serving, but to be a blessing to the Kingdom of God, to your family, your nation and the global community,” said Scruggs, longtime pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., and president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. since 2009.

Scruggs, author of four books on worship and social consciousness topics, offered clues on how Beeson’s 23 December graduates could be a blessing. First, he said, have a clear and transforming vision of God.

“If our ministries are to be blessed, we need to see God in his awesome holiness,” he said, cautioning against having a one-dimensional vision in which one asks only what God can do for them.

Also, he advised, have a clear vision of self. “When we see the majesty and holiness of God, we see the lowliness of ourselves and humankind.”

Thirdly, hear and obey God’s commission personally, such as when God touched Isaiah with his transforming power and forgiveness. “God had lifted his burdens, so he was ready to serve,” Scruggs said.

“Go and be a blessing. Your prayer should be ‘Bless me that I may be a blessing.’”

The commencement program included a service of consecration, in which each Beeson faculty member lay hands on and blessed each graduate.

“Beeson is a community of learning and spiritual formation,” explained its founding dean Timothy George.  “One without the other is incomplete for preparing men and women for the Lord’s service.”

Dr. George noted the commencement speaker’s long relationship with Beeson, and that the divinity school’s enrollment often includes students from Scruggs’ congregation.

Such is the case of 2009 Beeson master of divinity graduate Jerome Bell, who attended the commencement to congratulate former classmates and hear his former minister deliver the address.

Bell and his wife, Hope, who will receive a master of theological studies degree in May, are both former members of Scruggs’ Huntsville church. “He performed our marriage ceremony,” said Bell.

“I was encouraged by what he shared with the graduates,” Bell said of his mentor. “It was good to hear him share the importance of seeing God and keeping focused on God as these graduates launch their ministries.”

Degrees were awarded to five doctor of ministry degree candidates, 17 master of divinity degree candidates and one master of theological studies degree candidate.

In keeping with the spirit of Beeson’s being a place of learning and spiritual formation, each graduate received a copy of the Holy Scriptures in addition to their diploma.

Samford president Andrew Westmoreland noted the university’s long tradition of preparing students for the Lord’s work.  Graduates in ministry have been a part of every class since Samford was founded in 1841, he said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.