This past weekend (October 5-6), I had the privilege of attending the Presidential Inaugurations of Dr. John Knapp of Hope College in Holland, Michigan, and of Dr. Melanie Humphreys of King’s University College in Edmonton, Alberta. (Yes – one was by car and the other by plane!)
These events gave me an opportunity to wear my academic regalia, but why go to such events and walk in and out of with similarly garbed persons? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my Inauguration, but what is central to such events?
Hope College Presidential Inauguration
First, it is an opportunity to see a community gather. Faculty, staff, students, administrators and supporters gathered together to worship and give thanks. Such a gathering does not take place every day. Such an event helps an institution see the “others” who make up the community.
Second, it is an opportunity to tell stories. The primary stories are about the newly inaugurated President and the institution to which they were called, but ultimately it is a story of God’s provision and acknowledgement of His guiding hand. In this world, we need to mark, remember and celebrate such stories. God is at work and the people rejoice!
Third, there is a ministry of witness that is going on at such ceremonies. When others gather to observe and participate in such community events, we acknowledge that this story is wider and deeper than any one community. We are blessed to be a blessing to others and others need to be included. At both ceremonies, persons like me were thanked and appreciated for our “witness.”
Finally, such gatherings remind me that there is such a thing as the “ministry of showing up.” To show up where you are not the center of attention (someone else is getting inaugurated) and where all that is really asked of you is to follow another person in walking in and walking out is a great spiritual discipline.
As a pastor, I had the pleasure of “just showing up” to birthday parties or graduation parties or other gatherings. To be a part of a community and to build a community, we all need to be reminded that it begins by “showing up.”
The King’s University College Inauguration. Left to right: Dr. Harry J. Fernhout (2005-2013), Dr. Henk Van Andel (1985-2005), President Melanie Humphreys, and founding President Dr. Sidney DeWaal (1979-1983). Photo credit: Laughing Dog Photography