More than 40 seniors had a role in the service, showcasing their talents by praying, singing or speaking at what MHS principal Leigh Colburn calls “one of my favorite nights of the year.”
The participating seniors celebrated the diversity of their classmates with a selected Old Testament scripture, read in almost a dozen foreign languages.
The tradition of the Baccalaureate service dates back to 1432 at Oxford University when every bachelor candidate was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic requirements.
The service has evolved nationwide to one rarely sponsored by the schools because of separation of church and state issues. In many places the practice has been abandoned, except in communities like Cobb County where students and community groups play host to the event. Other schools have made it a secular event rather than a spiritual celebration.
In Cobb County, Baccalaureate services take on many different looks, most often with a invited keynote speaker.
Several years ago, Marietta High seniors abandoned the practice of rotating youth ministers from the downtown church communities as speakers in favor of the student speaking themselves.
This year’s key speakers selected by the seniors were Tyree Harris, Nikki Friedman and Dalton Bee.
Since 1962, the event has been given by First Baptist Church, with church member Hap Smith serving as the liaison for the senior planning committee for more than 30 years.
In a true act of faith, no member of the MHS faculty or administration has any involvement in the planning, trusting the seniors to handle all the details.
“I would rather attend the Baccalaureate than a football game,” said Smith, who has attended more than 500 Blue Devil football games. “It always restores your faith in young people who never fail to impress everyone with their talent and gifts.”
Students of all faiths are encouraged to participate by their classmates. Last year, one of the keynote speakers was a senior who eloquently described his high school journey as one of only a few Jewish students at the school.
This year’s seniors are glad that one tradition will be missing from the program, a memorial to a fellow senior. For the second year in a row, the class did not have a single classmate die in an accident or from a health-related cause during their four years of high school.