A Harding Academy alumnus and teacher had a dream—a dream to start each seventh grader on a path that would lead not to college or a successful career but to a lifetime as a disciple of Jesus Christ. What better way to bless the youngest students on the Cherry Road campus than to place in each child’s hand a copy of the Word of God?
Mr. Chris Dahlberg’s dream became a reality in the 2000-01 school year when seventh graders participated in the first Harding Academy Bible Ceremony. Each seventh grader was given a leather-bound Bible, stamped on the front with a gold Harding crest and the student’s name. During the ceremony, Mr. Dahlberg expressed the hope that the students would carry these same Bibles across the stage at their Commencement five years later.
This year’s students are the eleventh group of seventh graders to participate in the Bible Ceremony, but they are the twelfth group to receive Bibles. During homecoming in the fall of 2006, the class of 2007 were surprised to be given Bibles. They had been eighth graders the year of the first Bible Ceremony and had missed out on receiving Bibles. Since then, seniors who entered Harding after seventh grade have been given Bibles in the fall of their senior year.
The first years the Bibles were given, the senior class funded the Bibles, and seniors have always played a part in the Bible Ceremony. The seniors encircle the seventh graders, holding lit candles, and sing, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path,” representing the tradition of placing the Word of God into the hands of our youngest students.
Bibles for the ceremony are now funded by the Dr. Gaylon and Mrs. Deanna Smith Memorial Endowment Fund which was established in 2003. Dr. Smith was a board member of Harding Academy, and he and Mrs. Smith were great supporters of the school. Their two sons, Craig (‘92) and Keith (‘93) are Academy alumni.
In the Bible Ceremony, seventh graders enter stage right and exit stage left, carrying brand new, shiny Bibles. At Commencement in May, graduating seniors will mount the stage in the opposite direction, carrying Bibles that we hope are by then well-worn and well-loved.