Avondale student leaders commissioned

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A commissioning of staff members and students at Convocation and Commissioning brought new meaning to this opening of the academic year at Avondale. In this photograph, Chaplain Dr Wayne French offers a prayer of blessing for student leaders. (Photo: Brenton Stacey)

Biblical symbols of servant leadership and faith expression modelled by Jesus Christ have featured at a reimagined opening of the academic year at Avondale College of Higher Education.

As lead actors Kristy Maletin and Fomai Mohr performed the eponymous song from the Avondale College of Higher Education musical event Jericho Road, student leaders washed the feet of their classmates at the close of Convocation and Commissioning yesterday evening (February 28).

The service of foot washing is a rite in Christian churches symbolising renewed cleansing, a willingness to serve one another in humility and a sense of unity. “Outside of God, people ascend to greatness; inside of God, believers descend to greatness,” said Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church Senior Minister Pr Nimrod Maua in reference to the lowly position of Jesus as He washed the feet of His disciples.

After the breaking and eating of bread, a rite symbolising the death of Jesus and our acceptance of Him as Lord and Saviour, Maua invited staff members and students to respond to the call of leadership. “You have been commissioned. If you choose to accept the commission, respond by saying, ‘We do.’” The audience responded in kind.

Earlier, each Head of Discipline invited their staff members and students to stand for a commissioning. Paraphrasing Seventh-day Adventist Church pioneer Ellen White, Bev Christian recognised educators and teachers in training at Avondale as being “called to learn in the school of Christ.” She offered support through prayer to “daily honour the importance of your calling, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you, to be diligent in your studies and to not be distracted in your calling.” She also issued this challenge: “to see your present and future classrooms as places of healing, reconciliation and safety,” to “experience the joy of serving others” and to have the vision and will to live with “integrity, compassion and faith.”

Staff members and students from the Discipline of Nursing travelled to Cooranbong from Avondale’s Sydney campus in Wahroonga for Convocation and Commissioning. Referencing an illustration in the biblical book of Corinthians about the integrated working of the body and the interdependence of each body part, Dr Alison Smedley, represented by Dr Paul Race, noted this: longevity in the caring professions is not just about knowledge and skills but about “your capacity to seek and embrace new learning and to nurture and support each other.”

Dr Lynden Rogers assured students science at Avondale is presented “within the strongly Christian worldview espoused by your lecturers. Far from diminishing our enterprise, we believe this broad perspective strengthens the scientific imperatives: greater rigour; more transparent honesty; heightened social responsibility; as well as a pronounced humility and a readiness to say, ‘I don’t know.’ It represents, according to Scripture, the beginning of wisdom.” He challenged students to “reject all in the name of science which opposes informed Christian faith, that is too hasty in judgement or that represents second-rate methodology or a partisan perspective. . . . Ours is a world in which scientific authority can sell or condemn ideas and concepts with enormous persuasive powers,” he added. “Let us use this power wisely for the benefit of our world and the remediation of its many inequalities.”

Avondale Seminary Head Dr Kayle de Waal commissioned his staff members and students to a life of devotion, for “devotion precedes duty,” worship, service, discipleship, community—a “one another one another” challenge to, as the Bible says, love one another, serve one another—and evangelism. “I join with you as we make Christ, and Christ alone, our supreme obsession.”

Professional staff received a commissioning, too, with Lake Macquarie campus Chaplain Dr Wayne French reminding them, “You are the oil, you are the water, and without you, this engine that we call Avondale will simply ground to a halt.”

Earlier, Academic Registrar Dr Gwen Wilkinson invited new students to stand. As the audience applauded, Wilkinson presented the students to President Professor Ray Roennfeldt. He encouraged all students to prioritise the living of balanced lives, where the emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual dimensions are “in the right place and in right relation to each other.” “Many of you will end up in leadership,” he said. “But I hope you will learn while here at Avondale that the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”

The ringing of the bell in College Hall served two different roles: it marked the closing of Convocation and Commissioning and the opening of the academic year.