‘Be not afraid,’ graduates

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Today’s high school graduates will receive plenty of advice when they collect their diplomas.

Do this, don’t do that. The usually uninvited counseling will be plentiful.

The graduates’ task will be to sort through all of it and find something meaningful.

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Erik Feig’s unsolicited advice is “Be not afraid.”

Feig, church pastor at Prince of Peace in Burnsville, was the guest speaker at Tuesday night’s 2008 baccalaureate service at the Paramount Theatre.

Feig used the night’s first scripture reading, Psalm 46, as the linchpin of his message about dealing with life’s unexpected.

The advice has been a constant in Feig’s life from the time he was a teenager and his best friend invited him to join the National Guard and he accepted.

“That began God’s continuing story in my life,” he told the audience.

When he went to U.S. Army basic training, he was alone in a crowd and afraid.

When he went to Norway for training, he was afraid.

When he was sent to Kosovo and later Iraq, he was afraid.

When he left the Army’s chaplaincy corps and returned to his wife and their two children for a career as a clergyman, he was afraid.

Feig said he fought those and other fears in life with the words of Psalm 46.

“Every time I was afraid I heard God’s voice say to me ‘Be not afraid,’” Feig told the graduates.

Near the end of his chaplaincy duties in the Army, he was in Iraq, where daily he saw soldiers leave the relative safety of the rear to “go forward into battle.”

What did Feig tell those soldiers he saw with fear registering in their eyes? “I told them ‘Don’t be afraid,’” he said, “because God has you in is hands.”

Today, his life as a church pastor can’t equal the fear he felt as a soldier.

“I know what it’s like to be shot at, I know what it’s like to see roadside bombs go off, I know what it’s like to hear rockets explode and know the next one could be me,” he said. “But I also know not to be afraid.”

“There is nothing in life you need to fear, graduates, because God always hold you in his hands,” Feig said.

The Rev. Dan Kahl, pastor at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Austin, welcomed guests to the Tuesday evening baccalaureate service.

The Rev. Joe Fogal, pastor at St. Edward’s and St. Augustine’s Catholic churches in Austin, gave the opening prayer.

Scott Jasmin provided music throughout the evening and led the audience in singing.

AHS graduates Mandie Mickelson, Mary Wagner and Anthony Hernandez gave scripture readings.

Hernandez also offered his reflections on the milestone in his life.

Tuesday’s last day of classes for Austin High School seniors saw “smiles and tears” on the faces of the classmates Hernandez encountered.

Following the evening’s “Be Not Afraid” theme, Hernandez told of his own childhood fears upon moving from elementary school the middle school classes at Ellis Middle School.

Such experiences should not be discounted as the high school graduates grow older.

“The lessons we learned long ago will help us tomorrow in our lives,” the graduate said. “Jesus will be with us to calm the storms. Faith is not just blind optimism.”

The baccalaureate choir provided songs directed by Brian Johnson, while an offering was taken. All proceeds go toward baccalaureate expenses.

Videyo Arts Productions provided a video of senior’s remembrances.

The Rev. David Brogan, pastor at Faith Evangelical Free Church, offered the closing prayer.

A lengthy list of sponsors recognized those who gave support and assistance to the service.

Participation in the baccalaureate service is strictly voluntary.

On Friday evening, the AHS seniors will have their 2008 commencement exercises at Riverside Arena.

The Pacelli High School commencement will be held at St. Augustine Catholic Church tonight.