Photo Credit: Noah Dake

Commencement opens 2021 commissioning weekend, honors achievements of Messengers of Grace session

By: Brad Rowland

Commissioning Weekend 2021 began on the morning of Friday, June 4 with the commencement service for the Messengers of Grace session of cadets. The gathering honored the dedication and studies of the session just hours before their commissioning and ordination, with Major Thomas Louden, president, and principal of Evangeline Booth College, setting an appropriate tone in both honoring the Messengers of Grace and maintaining focus on the broader mission of The Salvation Army.

“On behalf of all faculty, staff and employees, I salute you and I salute your tremendous support networks,” Major Louden said of the Messengers of Grace. “This is the one and only annual commencement of the USA Southern Territory, and it is always an indelible and poignant marker of the end of one journey and the beginning of another. It is a display of God’s provision for the mission of The Salvation Army and the equipping of his saints for the warfare he has called us to make upon the enemy’s strongholds. Today is a time for us to proclaim, both individually and corporately, that the weapons that the Lord has given to us of love and service — his loving-kindness — are the most effective means of winning the world for God.”

Reverend Dr. Kevin M. Watson, associate professor of Wesleyan and Methodist studies at the Candler School of Theology, delivered the commencement address, first acknowledging the pleasant and encouraging nature of simply gathering together. From there, his words were powerful and focused, reflecting on the mission, challenges and futures of the soon-to-be lieutenants.

“This is a crucial reminder that God has not called you to a career, or to a place, or to protect an institution,” said Rev. Dr. Watson. “God has called you to a people. God is sending you to a people. You have a particular anointing on your lives, a particular commissioning to be messengers of grace. It’s good news for you to be messengers of grace. It’s also good news for the world to have you sent as messengers of grace.”

For the first time in USA Southern Territory history, each member of the graduating session of cadets earned a bachelor’s degree, and those degrees — Bachelor of Arts in practical ministries — were presented to raucous excitement. Cadet Gessica Pierre was named as the recipient of the Commissioner’s Award, presented by territorial leaders Commissioners Willis and Barbara Howell as the top honor bestowed on a cadet in any session.

Cadet Pierre, who is also the valedictorian and session president, featured as the representative speaker of the Messengers of Grace. She delivered a poignant and uplifting message, both to the congregation and to her session mates, and also presented gratitude to those who led and assisted the cadets in their journeys.

The commencement service can be viewed in full below or at