Spring Convocation Chapel

Dr. Gary Nelson speaking at chapel

In this Convocation Chapel, Dr. Gary Nelson will be sharing a message for this year's graduates - what does it mean to be people of faith and what does it mean to graduate into this new world. You will also hear from Steven Holmes and student representatives from both the undergraduate and seminary graduating classes.

Dr. Gary V. Nelson is currently the 12th President and Vice Chancellor of Tyndale University. He is a published author, dynamic speaker and recognized Christian leader in Canada and around the world. Since becoming president of Tyndale, Dr. Nelson has nurtured change in positioning the university as a high quality Canadian academic institution.

Steven Holmes is the Chair of the Tyndale Board of Governors.

Hannah Guse is finishing her BA in Philosophy and Honours Psychology. After graduation, she is planning to attend law school. She enjoys spending time with friends, reading, and going to concerts. She chooses coffee over tea, dogs over cats, and Paul McCartney over John Lennon.

Vijay Krishnan is completing his studies in Master of Theological Studies. He is currently the Lead Pastor of Upper Room Community Church, one church with 3 congregations in the GTA. Vijay, his wife Jenn, and their three boys are thrilled to be in ministry in the local church. Vijay’s other passions include playing sports with his kids, listening to loud music, and snowboarding the mountain-less terrain of Ontario.

Speaker: Dr. Gary Nelson, Hannah Guse, Vijay Krishnan, Steven Holmes
Chapel Date: Tuesday April 7, 2020
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Podcast Transcript

George Sweetman: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to this year’s Convocation Chapel. Today is a celebration for Tyndale University, and for the accomplishments, determination, and good work of all the students who will be graduating this year. But it’s more than that. It’s a celebration of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us his community.

In the fog of worry and anxiety during this time of pandemic, it’s really easy to forget all the deeply good things that have happened over the course of this year. But let me think about, let me reflect on some of those recognition of 125 years of our existence. The announcement of a new president at the end of last term, the grateful commemoration of Dr. Nelson, all of his work, service and leadership among us here at Tyndale over the past 10 years. Achievements in the area of teaching, scholarship and research among our faculty and students. Wonderful experiences held by students at the Bachelor of Education Program The seminary and the undergraduate level too. It’s been a good year. And now today we cap it by celebrating over 225 students who will graduate and move into the world to be as Dr. Nelson says, our living letters.

In this chapter today you’ll hear some special music. A greeting from our board chair Mr. Steve Holmes, a message just for you from our president, Dr. Nelson, and two student addresses the first by Hannah Guse, who be graduating from the undergraduate level with a double major in philosophy and psychology, and by Vijay Krishnan, who will be graduating from the seminary with a Master’s of theological studies. We hope you’re well, staying safe, and resting in the assurance of God’s goodness, grace and hope.

Hannah Guse: Hey Tyndale. We need to talk. It’s time to go our separate ways. You know, I’ve learned a lot about myself through these past few years and also psychology and philosophy. However, unlike Dr. Faught, Dr. Davis, I can’t stay with you forever. It’s not you, It’s me. You know, I was praying in newfy chapel the other day. And I really felt that God was telling me that this is what I need to do. Something I love the most about being with you is your family, your dad, George Sweetman, Uncle Barry Smith, and grandfather, Gary Nelson. They guided me through this relationship with wisdom and grace. We’ve all had so many great times together.

In first year, we had to figure out university courses. Do you really have to do all the readings? Can I plan to write all my papers and study for all my midterms during reading week? Or maybe I’ll do none of that and go to Jamaica. We had to juggle different types of courses. We learned about the Bible, languages history, and a lot of other courses that we didn’t care that much about because they weren’t part of our major, such as the nature of a liberal arts education. in residence we followed all the rules played ping pong and pool until 2am. Inside together at one big table in the caf, and second year we discovered the importance of maintaining a good sleep schedule, solve the murder mystery and had a banquet on a boat.

The options for spending an evening with you Tyndale are endless. We could attend to the Sofia society event. Sit in the lounge for dorm church, participate in a study session, relax and de stress with an event hosted by taps, go to a Rez event, or watch the more musically talented among us at coffee house. And I haven’t even mentioned sports. Those clever names we came up with for ball hockey, the victories the defeats, the rivalries the stacked teams, The Most Improved Player, the most valuable player, the goalie and always cheering on the ice hockey team to make sure that they want against Redeemer.

By third year, almost everyone knew about the house system and the competition for house points was at an all time high maybe more so for Harrison McRae. I know you’re cheering and chanting and the competition was a little less so for Boehmer, Adrian and Stiller you deserve an honourable mention. The house competition can really bring out the best in us and the worst in us. Tyndale we have all these great memories to look back on, but we faced a lot of challenges to 8:15 classes being one of them. Remember when that room was called Student Commons but always had other events booked in it, or that one prof that would not give you a mark higher than 78, or when we procrastinated and struggled to get our assignments in on time. And there was never enough time to read those 15 chapters on top of everything else.

And now we’re in the midst of the COVID–19 pandemic. Nothing has shown me how truly solid This family is like the past few weeks. Interacting with faculty and students through FaceTime and messaging has shown me how supportive and resourceful this family can be that we may have had technical difficulties At first, the level of commitment and encouragement through this unprecedented season has been so uplifting. Does anyone else get really excited when they saw their profs face on zoom or Microsoft Teams, and they were there to greet them, pray for them and lecture.

The shift online while difficult has made me all the more grateful to be a Guardian. Thank you Tyndale for being flexible and always showing God’s love and troubling times, for giving us a solid foundation in Christian education that has prepared us for the next step in academia in life, for teaching us about people relationships and Christ. Thank you Tyndale for the years have memories for each member of our family that has contributed to make this community what it is. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for all of us.

Vijay Krishnan: Greetings Tyndale students, seminary graduates, faculty, and all guests joining us today. As with many things in these times, our chapel service looks a bit different than normal. But I’m delighted to be joining you online and consider it a distinct privilege to be able to address the seminary graduating class today.

I started at Tyndale in the year 2000. It was my first course with Donald Leggett in the Old Testament theology and history. At the time, I was working in marketing in the Toronto business community, and the one course I took was simply just to further my own understanding of God and theology in the scriptures. At least I figured it maybe limit the amount of heresy coming out of my mouth as I was a volunteer worship leader at my local church at the time, fortunately, they didn’t record worship services back then. So there’s no way to know Whether it worked or not, but I had no idea or intention that 10 years later I would be quitting my job in business and becoming the lead pastor of a three year old church plant that I had been serving at as a volunteer worship leader.

During my licensing interview with our denomination, they said to me, well, since your undergrad is in commerce, we’re assuming you’re going to do some theological studies to which I said, of course, Yes, I will. And so 10 years later, I picked up the very small thread that had begun in the year 2000 and began chipping away at my MTS over the next 10 years, and I’m thrilled surprised and relieved to say that after 10 years, I am indeed graduating. It was a hand to mouth staying one week ahead of my corrugation experience, but so equipping and so rewarding.

As I reflect on my time at Tyndale, I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions of my life. Throughout my studies and still today I’m a vocal advocate for Tyndale for anyone who’s considering it for anyone who asked me about my own educational journey. Now they’re not paying me to say this, I mean, maybe it’ll be a giant check at my door when this is done, but I have been blown away by the quality of the education that I’ve received here during my MTS. I have found the faculty to be people have such great intelligence, humility, deep conviction, integrity, but then also just so grounded in the day in day out realities of life and ministry.

I have fond memories of so many classes, whether it was furiously scribbling down notes in dentistry in systematic theology class, only to realize there was nothing going to be systematic about the way the class would go, and that I just got to sit and listen to a three hour sermon each week, enlarging my mind and heart to the oceanic immensity, that is our Trinitarian God. Or being ushered into a whole new understanding of spiritual practices by the spiritual formation ninja that we know as David Sherbino. Or moving back and forth between laughter and tears as Victor Shepard would regale our classes with decade’s worth of stories of the nitty gritty life of theology worked out in everyday life. Maybe the most surprising part of it was honestly how much I liked Ian Scott’s elementary Greek world of PI data, the online portal, my oldest son would walk by every so often saying, are you on that again? Like sometimes I would go on just for fun, I know that’s troubling.

The net effect of these many hours of lectures of reading of office conversations and papers is someone who feels more equipped as a pastor, as a leader, as a friend, and as a follower of Jesus. I must say The only caveat to this whole process is the gross misnomer that is the M of the MTS that now follows my name should I choose? I granted I was smarter than all of you m div students because I realized I needed 10 less courses than you to get the M, I’m just kidding, don’t feel bad about that. In all seriousness, though, by no means do I feel like I have mastered anything. In fact, through my 10 years, all I have realized is how much I don’t know how much more there is to know of God and church history and theology. And if you’re like me in any respect like that, here’s what I’d like to leave you with.

Since we have barely scratched the surface, let us not stop learning, simply because our degree program is over. Furthermore, let the realization of how much we don’t know, continue to make us humble people, leaders, pastors, and teachers, no matter how many letters follow our name. And lastly, let us gladly realize that what we have been invited into is not mastery, but mystery. To long to understand the things we can’t fully wrap our minds around. To pursue intimacy and friendship with the uncreated one. To realize that there can be no worship without mystery. I pray that if nothing else, our studies have made us more earnest and honest worshipers. My deepest thanks to the faculty and leadership here at Tyndale, you are doing a profound and beautiful work in the city in which we live. And my heartfelt congratulations to my fellow graduates. May Jesus receive all the glory for what is happening in here and goes out from here. In his name and for His glory.

[Live Music — King of Kings, Hillsong Worship]

In the darkness, we were waiting
Without hope, without light
’Til from Heaven You came running
There was mercy in Your eyes
To fulfill the law and prophets
To a virgin came the Word
From a throne of endless glory
To a cradle in the dirt

Praise the Father, praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings

To reveal the kingdom coming
And to reconcile the lost
To redeem the whole creation
You did not despise the cross
For even in Your suffering
You saw to the other side
Knowing this was our salvation
Jesus for our sake You died

Praise the Father, praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings

And the morning that You rose
All of Heaven held its breath
’Til that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death
And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored
And the church of Christ was born
Then the Spirit lit the flame
Now this gospel truth of old
Shall not kneel, shall not faint
By His blood and in His name
In His freedom I am free
For the love of Jesus Christ
Who has resurrected me, ohh

Praise the Father, praise the Son
Praise the Spirit, three in one
God of glory, Majesty
Praise forever to the King of Kings
Praise forever to the King of Kings

[end of live music]

Steve Holmes: Well, good morning, Tyndale community My name is Steve Holmes and I serve as the chair of the board. This past week, we were supposed to have had the opportunity to have commencement chapel. We were supposed to have the opportunity to share in the joy of those who are leaving to graduate. We were supposed to have the opportunity to share in the joy of Dr. Gary Nelson, who was retiring from his position.

You know, when I first met Gary, and he made the decision to join Tyndale, what I have been so impressed for 10 years in his role is Gary Nelson has always been all in. He’s never been on the fence. Gary came to us. And he’s been all in whether it was at the front of his tenure with George Bush or now at the back of his tenure with COVID–19. And whether it was all of the renovations in the middle. He is a dear friend of mine, and I will greatly miss him in his capacity as President. But what I want you to know is he has never been on the fence about what are the priorities, and what is his commitment to both staff, faculty and students? Gary Nelson has been all in for Tyndale. And on behalf of the Board of Governors, I wish we had a better opportunity and a better way to say thank you, but thank you, Dr. Nelson, for all that you have done.

You know, Gary, I have been trying to maintain in our correspondence, a level of humour in the midst of all this, not because it’s funny, but because we know what God’s been calling us to do here to try and continue to shape the lives of those young people and those people who are looking for learning opportunities to impact the world for Christ. So our good humour is holding out a sense of faith and hope for what might be.

I want to share a reading with you and then I will allow you to get back to enjoying Gary and his comments. And I once again, I’m only sorry that we haven’t been able to do this in person. Faith and hope. Faith is commitment without knowing whether the object of your faith will meet your expectations. You have faith in an antibiotic and take the drug without knowing before the fact if it will cure your illness. The object of your faith to find your hope. The object of your faith is the antibiotic, you ingested in the hopes of it making you well. You always take your risks in the direction of your hope. We have biblical hope. We have faith, and we must hold tight to our faith in the hopes of what might be in this new time. Thank you, Dr. Nelson. I will give you a personal hug the next time we’re able to connect, have a great day.

Gary Nelson: Good morning. This has got to be probably the weirdest grad chapel that we will ever have Tyndale University. Here I am sitting in an empty chair. College chapel that we’ve come to love and a place that we have found a sacred place in, as we’ve worshiped. At the same time, you’re all in isolation somewhere. Jalesa and I are just the right distance from each other as she records this and Abigail sitting over there, trying to be the audience in the midst of this grad chapel.

Normally, in a typical grad chapel, you would have come in in your robes as graduates, and the faculty would be in all of their academic regalia and we would have celebrated with the student speakers and all of the music that is so much a part of the life of Tyndale here, but here we are, at a time of celebration with nobody here, not today.

So what do I say to you today in a time where you’re in social isolation and I am struggling to try to understand what this place might look like in the future. I was looking forward to graduation where I would shake your hand and I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye the way I wanted to say goodbye. You’ll still have your graduation in the fall. But I probably won’t be there.

What do I say to you today in this strange pandemic time, in which we are seeking to understand what does it mean to be people of faith? What does it mean for you to graduate into this new world? Well, one thing I would want to say to you is, come with me and I would love to be able to take you out to the front of the chapel, out the door or the front entrance, and out to the place where there’s a large stone in the front. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that before. But there’s this big stone out there. We put it there when we moved the chapel and when we move the campus to the Bayview area, it was to be a symbol. And I was to preach a sermon at the opening of the campus that was called a case for stones. In that case for stones, was taking a kind of lesson from Joshua. And I remember asking Scott Rough to find me the biggest stone that we could possibly find that could fit in the front. That would be a reminder to students and faculty, and to graduates and to visitors. What this place stands for, that’s why it’s there.

And so the next time that you come, next time you have an opportunity to come back on campus. I would really invite you to join us at the front first, in front of the rock, because that rock is a reminder to us that we are a special place called Tyndale, that we are a place of learning yes, but we are a place where God is very much a part. You see that stone was put there. As a reminder, much like the story of Joshua.

If you read the first five chapters of Joshua, you’d see this fascinating thing that’s going on in that story. At the beginning of Joshua, they’re standing at the edge of the Jordan and they’re talking about crossing over and they’re thinking about that and they use a word in Hebrew, which is the word “abar”, and that word “abar” literally means crossing over, but it means something different as well. It also means we’ve never been this way before. And that was they crossed over the Jordan, and the fascinating thing if you remember the story is that Joshua tells the people of Israel that the Ark of the Covenant, God’s presence will go up in front of them, and there to keep their eyes on that Ark and there to get to the other side, and then when they get to the other side, in Joshua, chapter four, there’s a pause. All of a sudden, after they have crossed over this place that they have never been to before. God says to the people of Israel, build an altar, build an altar that will remind people of the kind of place and the kind of thing that took place here. So that the next generations, the next people will be able to when they say and they come on to this place, and when they come to this location, there will be this altar that is built that says, God brought us to this place. That’s why we put the stone out there. That stone is a reminder that over our history, God has always been out in front of us.

This is what it says, on that stone. There’s a shield. And then there’s also this inscription, “Like Joshua, who set up 12 stones to commemorate the deliverance of the people of Israel, from the waters of the Jordan. We lay this stone for future generations as a sign that here in this place, God was with us, shepherding us, speaking to us and sustaining us. This rock is placed here” it says, “and dedicated on September 25, 2015, as a touchstone of a reminder It is an acknowledgement and a declaration of God’s work in bringing Tyndale University College and Tyndale Seminary, to this campus, To God be the glory.”

And that’s what this graduation is all about. In this graduation as you come to this point in which you are moving from being a student now to being an alumni, but also a graduate into some kind of field, not all of you are preparing to be ministers. Not all of you are preparing to be leading worship and things like that, some of you who are preparing for law, some of you were preparing for counselling. Some of you are seeking God’s call on you to become a psychotherapist. Others of you will go on to graduate school, and even more of you will go into entrepreneurship and business, but each of you will be a rich reminder of that which has happened through this place for over 125 years.

Did you know for instance, that all of the architectural programs that were started at Conestoga College were begun by a Tyndale graduate over 50 years ago. Did you know that there is a person who works in China, in business, running factories? Did you know that there are people making a difference all across the world? This rich history of people who have left this place and gone on to something else, because God has called them to this place and then on into the world.

What a rich history and you graduates, you become living letters to us, and living letters for us. You become the examples of what this place is about. Not just a place of intellectual learning, but a place where formation takes place, where spiritual formation takes place, where character takes place where you were taught how to ask the difficult questions, but at the same time, to seek God, and to be in fellowship in the diversity of this place. So go as graduates this year, in this strange time, in this strange isolation, in this strange place that we find ourselves—go from this graduation, and know this, know that God has gone out before you that God knows what He created you to be and in all of these things, that he placed you here for a time so that you might make a difference for a lifetime. Go from this place this place called Tyndale University, this seminary called Tyndale Seminary and go into the world and be salt and light. In the name of Jesus, amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you. The Lord be gracious to you and give you his peace, amen.

— End of transcript —