Dressing up is good fun – and everyone at IBTS got in on the act recently. Even the chapel was festooned in “IBTS purple” looking its festive best when we celebrated the conclusion of our 61st Academic Year with the annual Graduation Ceremony.Olha Navchuk (Student President) had a question for me as we lined up in the Dining Room beforehand to process into chapel. What was the difference between the long academic robes, the black “Cambridge pattern” Masters being worn by many, the IBTS academic team gowns, the crimson red doctoral robes. Then why were the hoods different colours – purple, Mazarin blue shot red, black with red edging, yellow and white, blue and yellow etc. Thus followed an impromptu seminar on academic dress. Of course if you are really interested you should join the Burgon Society but even if you are note, our academic procession was colourful and varied!
The Chapel was full for the ceremony and for the first time in memory we had students physically present graduating in all the main programmes of IBTS – Doctor of Philosophy, Magister in Theology, Master of Theology, and Certificate in Applied Theology and Certificate in Intensive English. Most of our part-time students cannot get back for this event, so we had a special treat this year.
Our guests included representatives of Baptist Unions in countries with graduating students, other educational institutions in Prague, including Charles University and friends and family members of those graduating.
In his Graduation address, Dr David Goodbourn (President, the Partnership for Theological Education, Manchester, United Kingdom) said he had looked at countless such Graduation addresses and found they fell basically into three categories – the morally improving, the whimsical and the ironic. Drawing on insights from Ephesians chapter 4 Dr Goodbourn referred to all three styles. In an engaging way David offered illustrations of all three styles and how they might apply to the experience of having been a student at IBTS, but concluded – “if your achievement here has given you hope that you can achieve more with others in the future; if the friendships you have made here, across cultural barriers, across language barriers, across theological disagreements, have given you faith that all human barriers can be broken down with God; if today, you are yearning to help others experience the growth in faith and understanding you have experienced yourself – then you go as bearers of hope. And hope is the most precious gift.”
Well, that seems right doesn’t it? IBTS models many things to our students, but certainly I echo David’s encouragement that our leaving students might go as bearers of hope.