Administrators and leaders charged their colleagues and those in their classes to learn, live and love during a ceremony opening the academic year at Avondale.
Convocation and Commissioning on February 27 began with a welcoming of new students, including those studying on-campus in Lake Macquarie and in Sydney, off-campus and by distance, by academic registrar Dr Gwen Wilkinson. She invited the students to stand and, as the audience applauded, presented them to president Professor Ray Roennfeldt. Referring to the title of a series of sermons at Avondale College Seventh-day Adventist Church, Professor Roennfeldt encouraged all students to “dig deeper” for new and challenging experiences. He would later pray by name for each of the student leaders, who joined him on stage.
In response to a question he had received previously from a student leader, Associate Professor Robert McIver, the acting vice-president (Administration and Research), gave four reasons why Avondale is seeking to become a university. Equivalency—degrees at Avondale are equivalent to those offered at universities so the university name should appear on a student’s testamur. Marketability—the university name is more marketable and may increase enrolment. Distinctiveness—Avondale’s Seventh-day Adventist ethos and mission will bring diversity to the university sector. Quality—Avondale’s academic staff members are research active.
Each head then invited staff members and students in their discipline to stand for a commissioning. Tony Martin’s charge to those in humanities and creative arts: Love learning. Embrace it. Champion justice. Fight for it. Seek the truth. It is to be pursued but never imposed. Make friends. Be a friend. “Join in, turn up, try up,” he said. “It’s called life, and it’s wonderful.” Then he added, “Give Jesus a chance. For with Jesus comes learning, justice, truth and a life fully lived. And you’ll have a best friend for eternity.”
Bev Christian recognised educators and teachers in training at Avondale as “change agents”. “You are called to change learning into an adventure, anger and anxiety into peace and despair into hope.” Honour the importance of your calling, she said, by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide and empower you. “Live with integrity, courage and diligence.”
“Be good role models,” Dr Alison Smedley told nursing staff members. Show you care; demonstrate compassion. To students: seek knowledge; follow your role models. “We all have the development of the next generation of nurses in our hands. And we must strive to make them the best we can.”
Dr Lynden Rogers assured students science at Avondale is presented “within a strong Christian worldview”. This strengthens our scientific mandate and challenges us to study with more rigour and honesty, he said, “as well as a pronounced humility and a willingness to say at times, ‘I don’t know.’” These imperatives “represent, according to Scripture, the beginning of wisdom.” Dr Rogers challenged students to seek to understand nature, which enabled German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer Johannes Kepler to think God’s thoughts after Him, and to “reject all in the name of science which opposes informed Christian faith, that is too hasty in its judgement or that represents second-rate methodology or partisan perspectives. . . . Ours is a world in which scientific authority can sell or condemn ideas and concepts with enormous persuasive power,” he added. “Let us use this power wisely for the benefit of our world and the remediation of inequality. In the context of nations, leaders and perhaps even churches, which all seem increasingly susceptible to fake facts, may your Avondale science experience enhance your ability to rightly and wisely discern, to direct you to responsible, well-researched and balanced viewpoints.”
“Live with integrity, courage and diligence.”
Finally, “Jesus did always leave the best to last,” Dr Kayle de Waal commissioned his seminarians, urging them to place Jesus at the centre of their lives. “Our desire is that Christ will become your supreme obsession,” he said. “As you read systematic, practical and biblical theology, as you engage the vast horizons of church history and reflect on the Old and New Testaments, as you serve in your local placements, may Christ be first, last and best.” His challenge: love Christ “not just with your strength, soul and body, but with your mind.”
In her blessing, Sydney campus chaplain Dr Drene Somasundram prayed “that in the words of the apostle Paul, may love be the blueprint of everything we do as we extend your kingdom here at Avondale.”
Then the bell in College Hall rang. The ceremony ended, the academic year begun.