Westmont College had to postpone its commencement ceremony to later in the year because of nationwide restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it decided to celebrate their graduates this month with messages and music from award-winning guests Lecrae and Phil Wickham.
The Christian college in Santa Barbara, California, hosted a virtual concert featuring both of the popular artists, on Saturday.
Gayle D. Beebe, president of Westmont College, kicked off the event with an emotional speech assuring graduates that they will reschedule their graduation for the fall.
"We do want to do something special to really honor and celebrate you and that is we're having a special concert with two distinguished Christian artists. This is really just to honor and celebrate you as you graduate, but it's also an opportunity for us to invite in the entire Westmont family,” Beebe said.
Wickham performed a 20-minute worship set featuring some of his popular songs, including “Great Things” and “This is Amazing Grace.”
"I love that in Jesus, even in the midst of grief, you know there can be joy. Even in the midst of loss and expectations being demolished, we can experience joy, and we can still say ‘thank you,’ we can still say ‘we trust you,’” Wickham said during the event.
Following a word from two graduating seniors, rapper Lecrae took time to give a sermon on faith with the class of 2020.
"This is an important opportunity. Right now, we're in some extremely challenging times and when Westmont called me and asked me if I would do this, I said absolutely, of course,” the rapper said.
"As Westmont graduates, if there was ever a time that the world needed you, [it] is now. So go out with audacious dreams, big hearts to change the world for Christ. You guys have got this. You're gifted with talents that God has given you. So take it to the next level.”
"Your graduation will never be forgotten, not just because you graduated during a time period when the world was looking for answers and looking for hope," he added. "And who better to go out into the world and be beacons of hope in life.”
Lecrae concluded with his song “I’ll Find You.”
The novel coronavirus isn’t the only challenge the graduating class of Westmont had to face during their years there. In 2017, students had to evacuate campus due to the Thomas Fire and later due to the Montecito debris flows. College officials hope to hold commencement for the class of 2020 in October.
Westmont College is an undergraduate residential, Christian, liberal arts community “serving God’s kingdom by cultivating thoughtful scholars, grateful servants and faithful leaders for global engagement with the academy, church and world.”