By Sherrie Norris
On the heels of Saturday’s historic graduation ceremony recognizing all graduates of Watauga High’s Class of 2020, Bethany Lutheran Church of Boone hosted its own outdoor service on Sunday afternoon, May 31, honoring four very special graduates and members of the church.
Having grown up in the community, attending the nearby Green Valley Elementary School and completing their education together at Watauga High, Rylan Coffey, John Moretz, Macey Moretz and Clay Townsend were recognized for their achievements with family, friends and fellow church members participating. A private blessing of the graduates, with family members present, preceded an hour-long “drive-by” opportunity for fellow church members and the community at large to congratulate each of the graduates.
Church pastor Laura Weant shared with High Country Press that the church normally offers a blessing of graduates during worship service each year, often on Pentecost Sunday, which actually fell on that same Sunday this year.
Weant explained, “We celebrate as the birthday of the church, because Pentecost in Acts 2 was when the Holy Spirit came to the gathered disciples and the church was born — the gospel was preached in different languages and spread from there.”
Since the church is not currently gathering in for corporate worship due to the Covid 19 restrictions, Weant said, the church still wanted to do something for its graduates, “something with a personal touch.”
“We decided on doing a drive-through celebration after I did a brief service of blessing for the graduates and their families at 12:45 p.m., after which we presented them with gifts and had them remain in place under the tent from 1-2 p.m., when folks from the church drove through the parking lot to offer their congratulations. We practiced social distancing, as well-wishers were asked to stay in their cars and only the graduates and their family members were present for the blessing.”
This group of graduates is special to Pastor Laura for several reasons, she said. “They were the first group of kids that I taught First Communion Class to at Bethany, when I came here 10 years ago — when they were in third grade. I have watched them grow up. I also taught them confirmation, and recently, I’ve been teaching them Sunday School as teenagers, so I’ve really seen them grow and mature, and I couldn’t be prouder of them. They are all four generous and kind-hearted Christians.”
In her blessing to the graduates, with readings from Isaiah and Hebrews, Weant shared, “We all are called by the Holy Spirit to offer ourselves to the God of all creation in thanksgiving for what he has done and continues to do for us. It is our privilege to affirm those who are endeavoring to carry out their vocation as Christians in the world.”
In her prayers, Weant said, “Almighty God, you have blessed each of us with unique gifts, and you have called us into specific occupations, relationships, and activities using those gifts. Enable us to use our talents to witness to our faith in you and to communicate your love to the people we meet each day. Empower us to be ministers of your reconciliation, love, hope, and justice. Keep us steadfast in our commitment to serve actively in your name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The graduates and their families all expressed sincere appreciation for the celebration and the nice gifts they received.
The celebration was coordinated by Kathy and Eric Gustaveson, and Karen and Phil Critcher, with the help of a grant from Thrivent Financial, a Lutheran financial service agency, along with congregational giving.
Located at 1030 Big Hill Road in Boone, Bethany Lutheran Church is known for its love for God and humanity and maintains a very strong community presence through numerous year-round mission and outreach projects.