On Tuesday, August 27, 2019, The King’s College held its 76th Annual Convocation Exercises to welcome new students. Incoming freshmen, transfer students, and New York City Semester students gathered at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan to celebrate the start of their career at King’s and to sign the Honor Code. House student leadership teams, the student cabinet, faculty, and staff attended to honor the students’ entrance into The King’s College community.
Dr. Dru Johnson, associate professor of biblical and theological studies, delivered the invocation. Quoting from Stanley Hauerwas’s Prayers Plainly Spoken, he prayed, “Invade our lives, robbing us of our fear, robbing us of our envy, so we might begin to trust one another and discover a bit of the truth.” Virginia Pike, lecturer in music, led the singing of the hymn “Take My Life and Let it Be.”
Isaac Coston (PPE ’20) the 2019-2020 student director of spiritual life, read from Galatians 5:13-26. Provost Dr. Mark Hijleh welcomed incoming students with the words of Psalm 118:24, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” and introduced President Tim Gibson.
Gibson’s convocation address centered on the idea of choices. What causes us to choose to trust God when we face suffering, rather than to abandon him? What caused students to choose to come to King’s, knowing that this college experience is more challenging than that at other colleges?
Gibson contrasted the biblical examples of the Israelites wandering the desert and the Jewish exiles in Babylon. Both were faced with suffering, but they responded to it differently. Gibson suggested that the difference between these instances boiled down to the choices that those individuals made. He quoted Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
Gibson urged students to recognize that no matter their circumstances, they have control over their perspective, whom they trust, and their behavior. It is through the choices they make in each of those areas that they become people of virtue. He closed the address with a challenge to students, in light of the Honor Code that they were about to sign. “Your signature on the King’s Honor Code tonight demonstrates your voluntary decision to commit to a way of life rather than a matter of mere law, policy, regulation; a way of conducting yourself that leads to a just, free, and healthy community.”
Student Body President Koby Jackson (Humanities ’20) then delivered a short address on the value of the Honor Code. The Honor Code reads, “A student of The King’s College will not lie, cheat, or steal, or turn a blind eye to those who do. Every student is honor-bound to confront any other student who breaches the Honor Code.”
Quoting from Matthew 18, Jackson explained how the Honor Code is designed to help us follow the biblical pattern of conflict resolution for the health of the body of Christ. Jackson said, “The reason Jesus calls us to go to our brothers and sisters is because we are individually worse off when someone in our community veers off from a godly life. When we gain someone back, we strengthen our bond in Christ.”
He urged students to understand that no matter how closely they may follow the College’s community standards, they are still in need of God’s grace. While the Honor Code urges students to confront one another, this is not meant to make us like “Big Brother,” watching our peers until they commit an infraction. Rather, Jackson said:
The Honor Code is a declaration that you will love your classmate, your roommate, and your friend as yourself. You won’t turn your back on them and they won’t turn their back on you. . . . I thank God that I have friends in this community who care about me enough to bend down and pick me up over their shoulder and help me walk back to the straight and narrow path.
Jackson called each of the ten Houses in turn, and students signed their names to publicly pledge to uphold the Honor Code and the community standards outlined in the Student Handbook. After new students signed, House leadership teams greeted them with hugs and handshakes.
To conclude, Pike led all those present in the Alma Mater hymn of The King’s College and the Doxology, and Dr. Anthony Bradley, professor of religious studies, delivered the benediction from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”