Thunder echoed through the gymnasium as the Rev. Clayton Blodgett warned Cole R-1 senior students of the struggles and surprises that will come to shape their lives.
But in the end, he said, the trials of life will mold the high school seniors into the adults they are meant to be. As students and parents exited the high school, a rainbow graced the skies in the wake of that distant thunderstorm, which had already passed over the verdant hills of Russellville.
"God is pushing and exerting force on us, and trying to make us into who we are meant to be, because what God wants for us as human beings is for us to grow into the people that we were meant to be, not the people that you are now," Blodgett, pastor of Russellville United Methodist Church, said. "Because, we are all a work in progress. We all have rough edges that need to be sanded off."
Russellville High School held its 2018 Baccalaureate Service the evening of May 6. The event was hosted by the Cole R-1 senior class and the Russellville/Lohman Ministerial Alliance. Baccalaureates are religious services held before graduation to offer a farewell sermon to the graduating class.
Seth Payne thanked everyone for attending, as well as school officials for allowing the class members to thank God for giving the students the strength to complete their education.
Payne quoted Psalm 119:105, saying "'Your word is the lamp to my feet and a light for my path.' Our path awaits all of us now, but that doesn't mean we should leave the word of him behind," he said. "This will be the first step that we take on becoming a true believer and follower in Jesus Christ."
Rayni Hartman gave the invocation, asking for God's presence to remain in the students as they enter the next chapter of their lives. She then led the attendants in singing the worship song, "You Are My All in All."
Sara Brandt followed with a chilling performance of "His Eye is on the Sparrow." Laughlin McKinnon later joined Hartman to lead the congregational hymn, "Blessed Be Your Name."
The benediction was given by the Rev. Ed Merckel, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, who gave an adaptation of a speech the Lord gave to Aaron, brother of Moses, to say to the Isrealites, known as the Aaronic Benediction.
"May the Lord continue to bless you with knowledge, but also with wisdom, so to use your knowledge for good," Merckel said. "May the Lord keep you under his protection. May the light of the Lord's love enlighten your path, even to the darkest moments of your lives."