May 21, 2018
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Grace Evangelical awards record number of degrees

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Grace Evangelical College and Seminary awarded a record number of degrees at its commencement Wednesday night at Bangor Baptist Church.

Five students earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the small school on the Odlin Road in Bangor.

The Rev. Christopher Gnanakan, the missions pastor at Bangor Baptist Church and a teacher at the seminary, rooted his speech in Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy in the New Testament. He gave graduates three charges in his commencement address: to adhere to doctrinal purity, to observe ministerial integrity, and to seek celestial credibility.

“Make sure,” he told the graduates, “that the word is well used, the work is well done and, most importantly, that the Lord is pleased.”

A native of Bangalore, India, Gnanakan worked as an electrician in a Bangalore factory for three years before moving to the United States in the mid-1980s to pursue his theological studies at the Word of Life Bible Institute and School of Youth Mission in New York City.

About 75 people attended the graduation service.

Deborah Jeanne Nadeau and Lee David Grinnell of Manset earned Associate of Arts degrees in biblical studies. William Charles Simpson Sr., pastor of the Milan, N.H., Community United Methodist Church, received his Master of Arts degree in ministry.

Alice Grace Sozanski of East Boothbay Harbor and Paul Michael Zebiak of Brewer earned their Master of Arts degrees. Sozanski, whose degree is in theology, will teach next year at Grace Evangelical. Zebiak is a member of the seminary’s board of directors.

The Rev. W. Lyman “Terry” Phillips, president of Grace Evangelical, called Wednesday’s graduation ceremony the “gateway” to the school’s 10th anniversary this fall.

Grace Evangelical was founded as a mission of Bangor Baptist Church, an independent congregation, on Outer Broadway. The church in 2001 gave the fledgling school and seminary $25,000 in seed money and use of classrooms at Bangor Christian Schools. Grace Evangelical was organized in an effort to offer a more conservative theological education than is offered at Bangor Theological Seminary, Phillips said in 2001.

Over the past nine years, the seminary has grown from offering a few classes to a handful of students to 50 students enrolled in a dozen classes this spring, according to Lyman. Two years ago, the school bought 1.8 acres and a 5,000-square-foot building at 502 Odlin Road, where it now is located. For more than a year, it has offered classes in Presque Isle and will offer one this fall in Trenton.

Grace Evangelical’s vision statement includes increasing enrollment to between 200 and 250 students each semester and faculty from six part-time to 10 full-time members, adding extension sites and a Doctor of Ministry degree, developing an endowment and gaining full accreditation from the Association of Biblical Higher Education.

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