Colleges Open With Praise and Ritual

By LORETTA FULTON

“You Are Here for a Reason.”

That was the title of a message from McMurry University Chaplain Marty CashBurless during the opening chapel service, but it could easily have been the theme for similar ceremonies at Hardin-Simmons and Abilene Christian universities, as well.

All three of Abilene’s universities opened the fall semester on Monday, Aug. 29. ACU held its traditional opening ceremony in Moody Coliseum that day for the first time in two years due to the COVID pandemic and the renovation of Moody.

McMurry University students and faculty greet one another during opening chapel service Aug. 30. Photo by Loretta Fulton

Hardin-Simmons and McMurry held their opening services during their regular chapel times on Tuesday, Aug. 30. At McMurry, students were forced inside Radford Auditorium after heavy rains flooded the ground underneath a huge white tent that had been set up in the quad. CashBurless made her point early, instructing everyone to turn to the person sitting next to them and say, “You are here for a reason.”

She reminded students that their job is to be a professional learner. Only 6.8 percent of the world’s population has the opportunity to attend college, she said.

“Your participation and your presence is critical to the survival of this world,” she reminded them. 

ACU’s opening ceremony was highlighted by the traditional Parade of Flags, with 52 flags representing the nations that students, faculty and staff are from. ACU President Phil Schubert announced that the university has 5,900 students enrolled on campus and for online courses, a record for ACU.

Phil Schubert, ACU

At Hardin-Simmons, fall convocation took the place of the regular chapel service at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30. Convocation speaker was George Newman, a retired HSU biology professor. Following convocation, a dedication of the Dr. George and Carolyn Newman-Sid Richardson Science Center was held in the center. 

George Newman retired from teaching in 1992 following a 25-year career. He was named Professor Emeritus of Biology when he retired and was chosen in 2002 as the Outstanding Former Faculty Member of the Year. 

George Newman, HSU

McMurry is kicking off its centennial year with several events this fall. The university opened in September 2023 and special events will be scheduled throughout 2023. A centennial kickoff rally will be held 12-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. An official opening and ribbon cutting will get the event started. A McMurry community aerial drone photo will be taken during the ceremonies.

At the opening chapel service, students were reminded of McMurry’s religious heritage. It was founded by the United Methodist Church and remains affiliated with the denomination today. ACU is affiliated with the Churches of Christ and Hardin-Simmons is Baptist.

McMurry University President Sandra Harper receives communion during the opening chapel service in the photo at left. The center photo shows an abandoned tent on the McMurry campus where the service was supposed to be held before it was flooded. The photo at right shows the Parade of Flags at Abilene Christian University from a previous year’s opening ceremony. Photos by Loretta Fulton

At McMurry’s ceremony, a praise band provided music, scripture was read, and prayers offered. The service concluded with Holy Communion.

The scriptures came from Exodus and Nahum. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” The passage from Nahum 1:7 says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble; he protects those wo take refuge in him.”

CashBurless, the university chaplain, said bracelets will soon be available with the passage from Exodus on them. She reminded students that prayer should be a first resource, not a last resort. 

“Trust that God has your back,” she said. 

Loretta Fulton is editor of Spirit of Abilene 

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