The academic community of Queen’s College Faculty of Theology annual convocation was originally scheduled for May 14, but due to the Public Health Alert level in the spring, it was postponed. Through the fall it was rescheduled to take place in person on Wednesday November 25th. Then, due to an increase in the spread of COVID-19, the decision was made on November 23rd to convert from in person to online for Convocation 2020. This meant that only a very few people attended in person at the college itself. While this was a very different kind of celebration for all those who were involved, it was a very special event, and the college’s ability to pivot and adapt to the ever changing times was wonderful. Provost, Dr. Rick Singleton, noted the online option does take from some of the formality and pomp of graduation, it does allow for many more to see and hear the ceremony and messages. There have been approximately 7000 views of the Convocation the first week. He said, “We are thrilled by the large number of people who have viewed at least part of the Convocation recording, … the feedback through notes, comments, and likes has been very positive and encouraging”. Dr. Singleton commended the flexibility and support of the faculty, staff and students in adjusting to the changes for convocation and all the changes we have embraced in 2020.
Convocation opened with a gathering prayer, offered by Bishop John Organ of Western Newfoundland. Warm and friendly greetings were brought to Convocation by her Honour, Lieutenant Governor, Judy Foote; the Minister of Education, Honourable Tom Osbourne, and Memorial University President, Dr. Vianne Timmons.
Dr. Singleton, in his report, highlighted many of the events and activities of the 2019–20 academic year. He noted that Queen’s College was able to make the switch to fully online course delivery in March, and didn’t miss one single class from March onwards. He commended the leadership from our province and from Memorial University as we navigate COVID-19.
For the academic year 2019–20, Queen’s College had 333 students enrolled, and that showed an incredible increase in interest for theological education and the desire and interest of many develop the competencies for effective ministry. At this convocation, 51 students graduated from their respective programs, including lay people, deacons, priests, a bishop, Pentecostal pastors, and a Salvation Army officer. Six denominations are represented amongst those who graduated. This year, there are 76 students enrolled in degree programs; 30 in the associate program; 48 in the diploma program; 16 in other continuing studies; 163 in volunteer training.
The provost explained that all programs at Queen’s College are built on four pillars; Good theological education, pastoral training and practice, spiritual development, and faith-based learning community. He said, “ …our prime role is to equip lay and ordained people for leadership roles in the Church and in the world. And it is a special type of leadership. Leadership that has four features: Being led by Christ; Leading like Christ; Leading to Christ; and Leading with Christ.” He commented on each feature.
The Provost expressed thanks to all who support the college in numerous ways. He closed by noting to those assembled that the Dean of Theology, Dr. David Bell, came to our province 50 years ago in August. He said, “… hired by our dear friend Rev’d Dr. Morley Hodder to teach Religious Studies at MUN, David Bell came and stayed…He has made his mark in many circles in Newfoundland and Labrador: 42 years professor at MUN, black belt and instructor in karate, wine taster and sommelier, theologian, author…over 40 books and hundreds of articles, deacon, chauffeur, academic and spiritual advisor, Canon of the Cathedral, Dean of Theology, servant of God, and friend to many. David, from all of us, thank you for coming, thank you for staying, thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do for Queen’s College, the Church, and the broader community. David, we are giving you a virtual standing ovation, and from all of us, blessings for the years ahead.”
The Rev’d Dr. Canon Frank Cluett addressed those assembled as guest speaker, placing Queen’s College in an historical setting, explaining how Bishop Aubrey Spencer saw the necessity for training people locally for ministry in Newfoundland if the Church were to grow and flourish. Spencer’s Theological Institute was built upon by Bishop Edward Feild, and he went on to establish the first Queen’s College here in the province. Canon Cluett also spoke on the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 2, verse 17. He said that dreams come when we are asleep, and visions come when we are awake. Christian ministry is associated with being called, and answering a call involves owning a vision of God’s future. He then quoted St. Paul who said that we are all one in Christ—not that the distinctions between us disappear, but that they are not impediments to membership in the Church, and that inclusiveness is a central theme in the teachings of Jesus. He asked the graduates to keep that fresh in their minds and souls as they continue in their lives in ministry.
This year’s two honorary degrees were conferred upon Sister Elizabeth Davis and Mrs. Susan Foley.
Retired Provost, The Rev’d Dr. Boyd Morgan, presented Ms Susan Foley for the degree of Doctor of Canon Law (honoris causa), and reflected on Susan’s 32 years at Queen’s College, many of which were as Administrative Assistant under seven provosts and pro tem administrators, in years when Queen’s mandate, theological education, and technology were evolving. Susan was the steady and reliable one. In the context of COVID-19, when physical distancing is required, the doctoral hood was placed on Dr. Foley by her husband, retired RNC Sergeant Kevin Foley.
The Rev’d Dr. David Bell presented Sister Elizabeth Davis, RSM, for the degree of Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa), in recognition of her many contributions locally, nationally, and internationally in the service of God, and of course for her contributions to Queen’s College. Dr. Bell spoke of things for which Sr. Elizabeth is well known for, but he also noted her commitment to social justice and her steadfast personal commitment and influence as a leader to disrupt structural and systemic injustices and inequalities. Sr. Elizabeth, due to COVID-19 restrictions, attended virtually from her convent with fellow Sisters of Mercy, and her hood was placed by her colleague and friend, Sr. Madonna Gatherall.
Dr. Carmel Doyle, Director of Student Programs, and Fr. John Courage, Chaplain, announced the candidates for the Diploma in Theology and Ministry, Associate in Theology, Bachelor of Theology. Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, and Master of Theological Studies. As each graduates’ name was called, their program, community, awards and scholarships were displayed with their photograph on the screen.
Bishop John Watton of Central Newfoundland, who received the Master of Theology Degree at Convocation 2020, closed the ceremony with a prayer.
A recording is available on the Queen’s College Facebook page.