The Zion Christian Mission Center, a Bible education institution of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, held a Graduation Ceremony of Class of 113th of the Zion Christian Mission Center Class at the Daegu Stadium on November 20. A total of 106,186 graduates were in attendance, making it the world’s highest number of students to graduate in a theological education institution.
For safety purposes, the number of participants that attended the ceremony in Korea was limited to 80,000, while 300,000 more participated by watching the live broadcast on YouTube which is available to the whole world in nine different language.
As there have been high concerns for safety recently, safety measures were thoroughly planned for this graduation ceremony. A personnel at the Shincheonji Church of Jesus stated, “In order to have a safe ceremony we prepared by putting safety as our first, second, and third priority. We formed a cooperative network with the local government to prepare for accidents and inspected in advance with measures to prevent the spread of disease, safety, transportation, the maintenance of order, and other aspects multiple times. Also, we are operating a control room to monitor at the location with the police, fire department, and officials in charge of safety of Daegu City and the Suseong-gu Office.”
They added, “The church itself arranged a total of 14,000 safety personnel to maintain order inside and outside the venue, and to prevent crowding, people will be entering and exiting over a span of four hours.” Furthermore, “In case of an accident, there will be 180 medical staff and four ambulances on standby. Emergency rescue training was conducted for all safety personnel and all the graduates watched a video of emergency rescue as well. We like the emphasize we did everything possible to ensure safety for this graduation ceremony.”
The event consisted of two parts, an opening ceremony and a graduation ceremony. The opening ceremony started with praise worship, congratulatory speeches, congratulatory messages, representative prayer, followed by Chairman Lee Man Hee’s commemorative speech. The graduation ceremony that followed showed the graduates not only in Korea, but concordant ceremonies held for locations overseas, along with congratulatory performances, awarding of certificates, turning of the tassel, graduates’ speeches, and special performances.
Compared to the past years, the numbers of pastors that graduated increased significantly for Class of 113. There were a total of 522 pastors graduating, including 37 in Korea and 485 overseas. This outcome was due to the online class environment COVID 19 created. The number of pastors and theology students increased rapidly because an environment where they did not have to be cautious of others while taking the class was created. The two representatives who gave graduation speeches were also pastors.
During the COVID 19 pandemic, pastors were able to access the introductory, intermediate and Revelation (advanced) level lessons online on YouTube without being cautious of others. This was the reason the number of pastors that graduated increased.
In fact, Heo Jung Ook, a representative of the graduates in Korea, is a pastor whose family has been pastors for two generations. After 20 years of ministry work, he shared in his speech, “I learned only about traditional theology in seminary and didn’t know much about Revelation. I taught the congregation words that were easy and disregarded words that were hard. I repent for I was a sinner who added to and subtracted from God’s Word. I put down all my possessions and came forward to the truth. I am able to graduate because I was able to learn not man’s teachings but true theology that leads me to heaven. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to live.”
Dee Jackson, a representative of the graduates overseas, is also a pastor in India who signed an MOU after seeing Shincheonji Church of Jesus’s online Bible study last October. He also changed the seminary he was operating to “Hepto Zion Christian Mission Center”. Currently, the head pastors and the 294 congregation members of the two churches that are affiliated with the denomination have completed the entire course of the Zion Christian Mission Center and are listed as graduates of Class of 113.
This was the large-scale in-person event was hosted in Daegu, where Shincheonji Church of Jesus is focused on contributing to revitalizing the local economy and peacefully coexisting with local residents. Transportations for 100,000 people, accommodation for the staffs, meals and all possible consumptions were carried out in the region in ways to benefit the local residents.
After the Itaewon tragedy there were discussions on whether the event should proceed. But, after careful consideration of the situation and contracts with local companies, instead of canceling the win-win opportunity, Shincheonji decided to utilize the knowledge and skills the organization has gained from previous large-scale events hosted in Korea and overseas to operate an event that exercised safety as top priority.