A special service, both unique and significant in denominational history, took place in the chapel of Washington Missionary College, Sabbath, May 19, preceding the regular baccalaureate exercises by one week. This service came as the consummation of a plan launched by the college in connection with the intensive development of the field laboratory work of the theological department, and although at the close of the first complete year of operation the plan appears modest in its proportions, we are confident that it is destined to marked growth.
For the first time in the history of our denominational work, senior theological course students, at the time of graduation, and before actually entering upon full-time conference service, were granted missionary credentials by the union conference in which the school is located. Never before have theological graduates been guaranteed a place within the conferences of the school's recruiting territory to demonstrate their call to the ministry and the Bible work. It was an impressive and challenging scene as these young men and women became the recipients of these privileges. The participants in the exercises spoke as follows:
Elder R.F. Farley, pastor of the Sligo church, in his introductory remarks, said: " The service of the morning has been arranged by the theological department of the college, and forms, in a certain sense, its closing exercises. We are very happy to welcome to our pulpit this morning, Elder C. K. Meyers, secretary of the General Conference, who will speak concerning the upbuilding of the gospel ministry; Elder B. G. Wilkinson, dean of the school of theology, will give a survey of the work of this theological class; Elder F. H. Robbins, president of the Columbia Union, will present the graduates with papers; and Elder S. L. Shaw, of the General Conference, will offer the consecration prayer."
Elder C.K. Meters: "I appreciate very much the privilege which is afforded on this occasion of making my first message in the homeland, after being in contact with the Orient for the last six months, a message directed to the upbuilding of the ministry. No one could travel over the territory which I have covered in these six months, touching lands such as Japan, China, the Philippines, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Siam, and Indo-China, without being profoundly impressed by the constant contact with the vast unoccupied territory and the untouched teeming millions. And I am glad this morning that out of the inspiration that came to my soul through these contacts I can speak in particular to this band of students who are pledging themselves to answer God's call, and to the student body in general, concerning the gospel ministry.
" There is a very significant statement found in the sixth chapter of Judges, and the thirty-fourth verse. It illustrates very clearly the method God employs in vitalizing human agencies to carry on His work. At this time, as so often in human history, God found Himself in desperate need. His own people had failed to live up to their privileges, and had been visited with a great penalty. They had gone afresh, anew, and again in their history into slavery; yet God could not allow His people to remain in this state of cap, tivity, and so He looked for a deliverer, and this is how He found him: The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abi-ezer was gathered after him.' In the marginal reading we find the meaning to be, ' The Spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon.' Think of what that implies,— God, with all that His divinity represents, seeking to make a man a mantle, a cloak, through which He could reveal His wonderful power.
" To this student body, I wish to stress this point in particular, that academic requirements are not, primarily, the essential qualifications. The first essential in connection with the ministry is that God must find men who can be filled with the Holy Spirit; men whose soul has become the dynamic chamber in which the great Divine takes up His abode.
" And so God came into the heart of Gideon. He made Gideon a cloak. He put him on just as I put on my coat this morning. It was God putting on man,— God within, man without, that through this unity God might fulfill His purpose, and man might have the blessed privilege of being the instrument to fulfill that purpose. If we will always remember that God Himself is the power and we are but the instruments, it will help to keep us humble in the task and in the enjoyment of that blessed relationship through which achievement is possible. All the way through a man's service for God, the thing that counts most in his success is his own personal relationship with God. And if every day he discovers himself in the relationship that Gideon had with God, every day will be a day of success in fruitful ministry and achievement.
" The call to the ministry is a call for a man to walk with his God. The call to the ministry is for a man to live every day in the newness of his own discoveries of God, and then to go with the thrill of those discoveries to touch others, whose hearts have not yet been won, with the reality of that experience. He must be a man who knows whereof he speaks because the things relate to his own personal experience. The story that he must give is the story of an experience, as is illustrated in the case of the woman of Sy-char. God never used a more humble instrument than this woman, never was there delivered a more unacademic message, and yet nowhere within the records of His achievement through human instrumentality, do we find more effective witnessing. In personal relationship with God lies the true avenue to service.
" Before God could find the way to the fruitful ministry of the day of Pentecost, He had to find the way in the preacher's heart. He had to reveal Himself anew to the human instrument. He had to test that soul through and through as to the quality and quantity of its love. And when He found the man whose love was sincere, whose heart was honest in its surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ, there he found the channel through which the message of Pentecost might be given; and the fruitfulness of that day ushered in an epochal period in the history of a new and struggling movement. Wherever that relationship is entered into, God works just as mysteriously and wonderfully through it, as is suggested in the sacred record itself."
Elder B.G. Wilkinson: " With a sense of supreme joy and gratitude in our hearts, we inaugurate the first field graduation of the theological course in Washington Missionary College, and believe this to be the first such graduation in connection with our denomina-. tional schools. In the development of the work of the theological department we found that there were some requirements necessary whereby the students desiring to qualify for the ministry might give evidence of their calling and fitness for this sacred work. Two years ago, after careful consideration of this need by the General Conference, the board of trustees, and the faculty of the college, it was decided to authorize the establishing of a course of study and training which would create a body of theological students who would be recognized as such, and upon whom special responsibilities would be placed. One of the requirements specified for this theological student group was successful experience in field work. We decided that we would not graduate them solely on the basis of intellectual attainment, but that there must be combined with the intellectual attainment a demonstration of ability to present the truth to others and bring to definite decision.
" In harmony with this action, a statement was prepared announcing such a course through the college calendar, which reads as follows:
" The Columbia, Southern, and Southeastern Union Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists have voted to assure graduates of these courses a place of work in one of the fields on the following specifications:
" 1. All graduates of the four-year course will be given: (a) An opportunity in one of the conferences where they may demonstrate and prove their merit; (b) A regular paper authorizing them to labor as recognized workers of the field they enter; (c) Moral support; (d) Financial support or being listed on the pay roll of the conference as they demonstrate their merit and as the conditions of the fund permit.
" 2. Graduates of the other theological courses are entitled to the recognitions given above if, after they have satisfactorily finished their school work, they are recommended by the faculty to a field to be accepted'
" In the first year of the operation of this plan, twenty-five students were enrolled, all of them young men. But the work of that year was so eminently satisfactory, that in this, the second year, there has been an enrollment of fifty-two, including seventeen young ladies preparing for the Bible work. We established what we call a ' theological base,' located in a section of the city of Washington, which offered virgin territory for our efforts. Here we have developed the laboratory of the theological department. As a result of the field work by the theological students during the first year, twenty-five people were brought into the truth and baptized, a church organization effected, and a harvest in tithes and offerings amounting to $3,700. This year we have enlarged the work by branching out into three different localities. The nurses of the sanitarium have co-operated with the students in the various phases of field work, and with sanitarium and college working together, we have found these two years most delightful and fruitful in the service of the Lord.
" The financial support, as specified in the announcement of two years ago, was very limited. But the General Conference has graciously come forward, and through a plan adopted by the Spring Council two weeks ago, provision is made whereby these graduates receive not only authorization papers, but are guaranteed financial support to a limited extent. The president of the board of trustees is here with us, and will give the graduates their field papers this morning, with the assurance that there Is a place open for each one in the field. Five of these graduates are from the senior theological course, and will receive their credentials; and two are from the junior theological course, and will receive the recommendations specified in the calendar. Concerning all seven members of this group, I wish to say that their intellectual attainments are of the best. As to their spiritual work, souls have been brought into the truth through their preaching and Bible work. It therefore gives me great pleasure to present these seven young people to the president of the board of trustees for the recognition which I am sure is due to them."
Elder F.H. Robbins: " Dear young people, it is a pleasure to bring to you this morning greetings from the General Conference, the Columbia Union Conference, and the board of Washington Missionary College. This is a new order of things in our work, being the first time that we have granted papers to those graduating from our school at the time of graduation. Heretofore the plan has been to endeavor to arrange for placing our young people in the various fields, with the understanding that the conferences would grant them papers when they took up definite work. But today we are giving you a paper which entitles you to recognition as a worker in the Columbia Union Conference. I have taken up with our conference presidents the matter of placing you in the field, which has resulted in calls having already come for some of you, and we hope to have each of you placed in a conference in this union within the next two weeks.
" The question may be asked, What value is there in a paper? I will answer by referring to an incident which occurred many years ago, when Cuba was under Spanish rule. At that time a young American went to that country, was arrested as a spy, and sentenced to be shot. The day came for the execution. As the soldiers were aiming their guns at the American, a United States representative rushed in and wrapped the British flag around the face and shoulders of the young man. Then he took the American flag, and as gently as a mother would cover her child with a blanket, he wrapped that flag around the head and body of the man. Turning to the soldiers, he said, ' Shoot on those flags if you dare! ' Did they shoot? Ah, no. They recognized that those flags represented two great nations, and to shoot would involve Spain in war with those nations. As those flags, representing two powerful nations, proved of value in saving the life of the American, so these papers which I present to you will prove of value, because this denomination stands back of these papers, and we believe with all our heart that God stands back of this denomination.
" It gives me great pleasure to present these cards to you. (We have placed the authorization in this card form for convenience in carrying in the pocket.) I shall read just the one, as all are the same:
"'Missionary Credentials: This is to certify that (Blank) is a licensed missionary in good standing in the Co-Zambia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and is authorized to perform the duties of said office for the Union Conference for the term of one year, May 17, 1929, to May 17, 1930.'
"Our prayers shall go with you as you go forth on your mission of mercy for humanity, that God will give you much fruit in that day when He gathers His people to Himself, and that you may go into the kingdom bearing your sheaves with you."
Elder J.L. Shaw: " I think this is one of the most important ceremonies that we have ever held in connection with Washington Missionary College. The greatest need in this movement is consecrated and trained ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it is by the ' foolishness of preaching ' that men are won to Christ. The enemy has for years endeavored to prevent young men from going into the ministry, for he knows that there is no more effective way to weaken the cause of God than to weaken the ministry.
" In the wide extent of our work throughout the world, we have found it necessary to go from conference to conference, and from church to church, in this country, selecting some of the very best young men and women, and have sent them on to the mission fields. From the reports which come back to us, we know what God is accomplishing through this instrumentality for the finishing of the work. But there has thereby been created a dearth of ministers of strength and power to preach the message and win souls to Christ right here in our own country, to such an extent as to give occasion for alarm. I thank God for the effort of this institution to avert this catastrophe. I believe that God's blessing will rest upon these young men and this young woman who have covenanted before God to give their service to the carrying forward of the work of God.
" It is no easy matter to become a successful minister of Jesus Christ. It calls for toil and hardship, for study, prayer, and earnest effort. You young people have done acceptable work here at the school, and now you are given opportunity to prove your call to the ministry. The plan devised by the General Conference, in which union and local conferences unite, gives young men and women coming from our educational institutions the opportunity to prove themselves and to demonstrate that God has called them into this particular line of service. For it is God that calls men to the ministry. Unless God calls them, their service is of no value. But I believe God is calling these young people.
" May I ask the congregation to arise and join in the prayer of consecration for the setting apart of these six young men and one young woman to the gospel ministry and the Bible work? "