First baccalaureate service held in over 50 years

It was a small and intimate gathering of roughly 50 people at the Munising Baptist Church on Sunday, May 21, as ten graduating seniors from two local high schools celebrated their graduations in a baccalaureate ceremony. It was the first known service of its kind since the mid 1970s.

“This was something that was a part of growing up downstate and we thought it might be something people were interested in,” said James Petersen, pastor of Munising Wesleyan Church. “It wasn’t until somebody mentioned it as part of the Mather Centennial documentary that we realized that there used to be one locally.”

Baccalaureate ceremonies date back to 1432 at Oxford University and American baccalaureate ceremonies began sometime around 1760 at Princeton University. They are typically interdenominational services of Christian faith celebrating graduations. While not typically known for high school graduates in the Upper Peninsula, local congregations will provide a service for college graduates at Northern Michigan, Lake Superior State and Michigan Tech.

The ceremony included the two graduates from Munising Baptist and eight from Munising, some of whom went to Munising Baptist as elementary students. A number of Superior Central graduates were interested, but unable to make the ceremony due to scheduling conflicts and Burt Township did not have a graduating class for 2023.

Multiple faith leaders were involved with the ceremony. Munising Baptist’s Jason LaFlamme opened the event while Petersen led songs with a band comprised of members from different churches. Pastor Todd Spranger of Community Covenant Church in Carlsend provided the keynote address. All three have served in various roles at Superior Central, Munising and Munising Baptist schools.

According to Petersen, all churches present wish to continue the ceremony for the next two years to gauge long-term interest in a baccalaureate ceremony. Participation is voluntary for graduating seniors next year, but those interested may contact either the Munising Baptist or Munising Wesleyan Churches.