“I believe singing praise music is a form of talking and praying to God. It was like they were praying over us; I actually started choking up while walking to the amphitheater. It was surreal.”
Freshman Annique Dentino’s reaction to this year’s Candlelight Devo is not unlike many others’. The Welcome Week tradition is a very spiritual, emotional event that brings out upperclassmen and members from the Abilene community to sing over the new students on campus.
This year’s Welcome Week theme, “Who am I?” is based on the biblical passage in 1 Peter 1:13-16, emphasizing the importance of identity outside of actions, as in the scripture reference in verse 16, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
Bob Strader, director of ACU leadership camps, built on the theme at the Candlelight Devo on Tuesday night.
“I spoke about what shapes a person’s identity, especially the idea that we aren’t identified by mistakes we make or embarrassing things we do,” said Strader. “In Luke chapter 3, Jesus is baptized before he’s done any miracles. He received affirmation from God for who he is, not what he does, and that’s the message I wanted to get across to everyone at the devo.”
The annual tradition has been a landmark event for students during welcome week. It’s a memorable experience as the new students are handed a candle to walk from Moody Colisuem to the Ampitheater between a tunnel of upperclassmen and other members of the community, all singing traditional Church of Christ hymns.
“I have felt so welcomed here, and the Candlelight Devo was a great experience,” said sophomore Kendyl Cooper, a new transfer student at ACU. “At many other colleges, upperclassmen tend to look down on freshmen and transfers, but here they really seem to love us and build us up.”
In an exciting, fast-paced week of change for new students, Candlelight Devo brings a more relaxed, spiritual moment in the middle of the first week at ACU for more than 800 freshmen and transfer students.
“The way the upperclassmen went ahead and made a path for us, and to be sitting with the entire freshman class singing as one, was really an inspiring moment for me,” added Dentino. “It meant a lot that so many people from the Abilene community came out to spend their time with us; it was just an awesome experience.”