A group of local pastors complained to the Wake County Board of Education last year that Sunday morning high school graduation ceremonies forced some families to choose between their faith and their children’s big moment.
This year, Wake County will hold two commencements on Sunday, June 10, but they won’t begin until 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., giving families plenty of time to attend morning worship.
“They listened,” the Rev. William Newkirk said Wednesday with some surprise. “I’m very pleased. That’s great. I’m elated.”
A school system spokesman could not be reached immediately to say whether the change was made in response to the pastors’ concern.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The county had 30 ceremonies to schedule this year, and they run from May 22 to June 13. The events are scheduled based on a variety of factors, including school calendars, state testing windows, availability and cost of facilities, and the size of graduating classes.
In 2017, four ceremonies were held Sunday, June, 11, two of them before 1 p.m.
Newkirk, pastor of Oak City Baptist Church and a member of the Raleigh Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, told the Wake school board last year that Sunday morning graduation ceremonies were “disrespectful and insensitive to all the Wake County citizens who worship on Sunday morning.”
Businesses and secular institutions have encroached on Sunday morning worship times, Newkirk told the board. He said schools should not do the same.
He added that ceremonies held early on Sundays also make it difficult for pastors who want to support graduates.
On Wednesday, Newkirk seemed almost as pleased that the school board had been responsive as he was about the change itself.
“You have to stand up for what you believe,” he said. “And it’s a great thing when people listen.”