The Rev. Christopher Bowen speaks to graduates
5.06.2022
By Kaylen Ayres '25

Graduates venture “Into the Woods” at Baccalaureate service

The Order of Baccalaureate service was held on May 6 in the Cregger Center arena. The Rev. Christopher Bowen, the Timothy Pickle Dean of the Chapel, presided over the worship service for all graduates, families and guests. 

Jean Getz ‘22 was the crucifer for the service, and Sydney Sellars ‘22 and Joey Slusher ‘22 were the torchbearers. 

President Michael C. Maxey welcomed the attendees in his final Baccalaureate service and spoke of the traditions at Roanoke College such as the kicking post and wood-burning your name into the President’s House.  

“All those traditions are part of who we are,” Maxey said. “Traditions are also the intersection of the past and the present. When you paint the rock, you paint on top of hundreds of others who came before you.” 

Maxey proceeded to read the lesson from Psalm 126, before Rev. Bowen read the gospel from St. Mark, the fourth chapter. 

Every year, the Chaplain has a theme for the message given at the Baccalaureate service, and this year was no different. Rev. Bowen first mentioned seeds in the gospel reading and spoke of how the smallest of seeds become the biggest of trees. 

“Where do we have to go to find a tree?” Bowen said. “We have to go into the woods.” 

After stating that you never know who you might run into, Rev. Bowen emerged from behind a changing divider in a top hat and velvet cape, receiving applause from the attendees.

“Thank you, Class of 2022. Thank you for journeying together with us through some of the deepest, darkest woods that dear old Roanoke has ever had to journey.”

The Rev. Christopher Bowen, the Timothy Pickle Dean of the Chapel

The Chaplain referenced the musical “Into the Woods” by Stephen Sondheim throughout his message, and “magic” beans were even placed under the graduates’ seats. 

“There is a ripple effect, whether we lose [people] along the way or we make it through the woods with them, there is a ripple effect,” Bowen said. “We carry what we’ve learned together through the woods, and nothing is more important than discovering that no one is alone, truly.” 

Rev. Bowen then described the magic in the Roanoke College community and that over 16,000 Maroons are out there to help the graduating class with any problem they might face. 

“We will find a way,” Bowen said. “Because that’s what Maroons do.” 

After finishing his message and blessing the graduates, the Roanoke College Choir, directed by Jeffrey Sandborg and accompanied by Cara Hubbard, performed “How Firm a Foundation.” 

After the performance, interfaith blessings from members of the community were shared, including an additional prayer from Jewish tradition by Annalee Thompson ‘22. 

The Chaplain led a blessing for President Maxey and First Lady Terri Maxey with the help of the graduates. He then shared a final prayer and blessing with the seniors. 

“Thank you, Class of 2022,” Bowen said. “Thank you for journeying together with us through some of the deepest, darkest woods that dear old Roanoke has ever had to journey.”