Planning for the 2014 Copperas Cove High School baccalaureate service created discussion at the Copperas Cove Ministerial Alliance meeting Wednesday.

“Rather than just a traditional message with a single speaker, we want to use multiple people on panels to address spiritual issues that the graduating seniors may face,” said Mark Kemp, newly-elected president of the alliance and pastor of First Baptist Church of Copperas Cove.

Kemp said the purpose of the baccalaureate service is to congratulate graduating high school seniors on both their academic and faith-based journeys while also preparing them for challenges ahead.

Vice President Gary Hocker, pastor of Cove Church of the Nazarene, laid out a new panel idea to be performed at the ceremony. Comparing the new format to TV shows like “The View,” Hocker said the panel would be skit-like and feature seven archetypical figures who would bring up topics for discussion.

In a question and answer format, the characters would pose future applicable dilemmas such as, “What are the greatest dangers awaiting the graduate?” or “Why is Christianity the most rational faith?”

Some alliance members expressed concern about the panel’s non-traditional nature clashing with the serious occasion.

“To me, a baccalaureate service is solemn and encouraging going forward,” said Russ Cochran, Hillside Ministries pastor. “To me, this would be excellent for our night service at See You at the Pole, but I don’t see a baccalaureate service being the setting for this at all.”

Other members were less worried about the panel’s clash with tradition and more concerned about the effectiveness.

Both Cochran and Scott Smith, Crestview Christian Church pastor, were concerned the panel format would skew the baccalaureate’s intended message.

“You put something hokey up there, and the kids are going to think that we are stupid,” Cochran said. “For us to even think that the kids haven’t already faced these issues ... they’re facing them in fifth grade. I don’t know why we want to make the atheist look bad on the panel. I love the atheists. I have no problem with the atheist because the atheist doesn’t know he’s lost.”

The alliance formed a committee to continue discussing plans for the baccalaureate service.

The Ministerial Alliance meets the first Wednesday of every month at the First Baptist Church of Copperas Cove, 300 W. Avenue B. For information about the Ministerial Alliance, call Hocker at 254-542-8753.

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