On Thursday, August 30th, the annual Festival of Beginnings was held at Concordia University St. Paul. New student leaders, faculty, and staff processed in after the student body had been seated. Dr. Chatman and President Ries gave sermons on this year's theme, "Our Refuge and Strength". After the sermons, all new leaders, faculty, and staff members were inducted in front of the student body present.
The processional hymn was "A Mighty Fortress". This hymn was chosen due to the theme. It connected with the sermon and theme for the year. The professors all processed in after all the returning students had taken their seats. Psalm 46 was read, followed by Isaiah 41 and Matthew 11. These three readings all connected to President Ries's sermon. He began by telling the meaning behind the word refuge in different languages. They all shaped the meaning perfectly and added meaning. For example, the Spanish version represents strength and protection whereas, another language, such as Greek, represented comfort and shelter. This year at Concordia, the faculty and staff want students to be aware that they have God to serve as a protector and refuge when things start to get tough. The beginning of the year can be a difficult time, especially for new students, and it's hard to adjust. For many, they are the first to go to college and everything is new and scary. It's nice to know that there are people here at the university to help, as well as God, who will always be there. It's so great to have students participate in these convocations because it helps other students connect to what is going on. Seeing peers involved with the ministry or just in the convocation helps make the occasion more welcoming, as well as relaxing. It shows that this university wants to incorporate their students, faculty, and staff together to make it a well-rounded place to be.
I love the Festival of Beginnings. It's so inviting and helpful for new students. I remember going in last year and thinking, "oh my gosh, this is crazy". This year, I got to participate and carry one of the banners on stage. I felt so special just to be chosen as part of the convocation. Last year, I thought it was so neat to watch the student leaders be inducted by President Ries. It's so wonderful to watch them be recognized for their contribution to the university. This year, I was one of those student leaders. I felt completely honored being able to stand up in front of the students of this university and show them that I am there for them during this school year. Another portion of the Festival of Beginnings that I really love is when four students are chosen to go on stage and speak in between the verses of a certain hymn. They say certain things that new students feel such as, "how will I survive being so far away from home?". Last year I taped this hymn up in my dorm room to remind me that no matter how difficult my first year would be, God would be there. This year, hearing that again brought a huge smile to my face. It reminded me that I made it! I got through an entire year of college and my future is bright. I am so happy with who I am and that I have gotten through so much. Praise God!