Friday, August 31, 2012

Matriculation Chapel: Renewal and Remembrance

After a long summer of jobs and internships, research and missions trips, the whole Gordon College community assembled Wednesday morning for this academic year's Matriculation Chapel service. Held each year on the first day of classes, Matriculation Chapel represents a long Gordon tradition. It serves as a time for students, faculty and staff to rededicate themselves to Christ, and to be reminded of the crucial importance of Christian education to the global church and to the common good.

The call to spiritual renewal and to faithful scholarship was given special meaning this year, the 50th year of Biblical and Theological Studies Professor Marvin Wilson's teaching career. As President Lindsay asked Dr. Wilson to step forward for a word of acknowledgement (and the bestowal of Marv's very own designated parking spot for the year), students, faculty and staff burst into heartfelt applause. Marv continues to model the very essence of Gordon's commitment to deep and informed Christian faith for thousands among the College's students, alumni and friends.

The capstone of each Matriculation service is the "charge," a speech delivered by a recipient of the previous year's Distinguished Faculty Awards. This year's speaker, Professor of Sociology Dr. Ivy George, provided a few key meditations for the start of this new year. Weaving together insights from modern authors and sociological perspectives (Dr. George—no surprise—teaches a "Sociology of Literature" class), the sociology department chair encouraged the campus community to have respect for the mystery of God's grace, to recognize that God alone is the source of wisdom, and to turn to God in all we do this year.

Within these broad exhortations, a theme of interpersonal connection emerged—an intuitive outgrowth of Dr. George's chosen discipline. As we consider the mystery of God's grace, we recognize that God is preparing not only our own hearts, but the hearts of all those around us. As we seek God's wisdom, we realize that "God is in the world," as Dr. George put it, and that we are to "go into the world to be changed and to make change" through that same divine insight. And as we turn to God, we remember the importance of "active participation in a local church" in keeping our focus on him.

When the service concluded, the whole community emerged from the chapel, out into Wednesday's first whispers of clear fall breeze—this new year both a fresh beginning and the continuation of a long history together.

Photos: 1.) Faculty procession 2.) Dr. Marv Wilson, Harold John Ockenga Chair of Biblical and Theological Studies 3.) Dr. Ivy George, professor sociology and social work. Listen to Dr. Ivy's Matriculation Chapel speech here.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Many Faces of Gordon [at SoulFest]

Well, here we are, with three days under our collective belt and another one well underway. As our blue "This Is Different" Gordon College t-shirts have yielded cyan-saturated throngs of SoulFestians, and as our street teamers repeatedly become the life of whatever party they enact upon an unsuspecting crowd, perhaps I should take some time to reflect on the deeper significance of it all. What does Gordon bring to SoulFest, aside from colorful shirts and unexpected prizes?

Submitted for your consideration:

On Stage
Chances are if you've been at SoulFest for more than a couple hours, you'll recognize Dan Stevens ’07 (pictured above). This Gordon alum is the face of the festival's Inside Out stage, and also helms the College's daily giveaway. Dan takes his Revival stage time opportunities to outline some of his favorite things about Gordon, most recently waxing poetic about the food in Lane Student Center: "Gordon College: Good food, good prizes, happy SoulFest."

Dan is also one half of In The Car Media, a Beverly-based video production company Dan runs with David Ells ’07 that made the past two year's SoulFest video pieces.

In The Tents
I learned about the amazing work of Boston nonprofit Amirah last SoulFest, when I spoke with Sarah Durfey ’08 at length about her role in the Hub's abolitionist network. Sarah is a board member for the organization, which operates a safe house for women escaping human trafficking. This year, Amirah has it's own booth up here, and they're a Revival stage sponsor right alongside Gordon, and Sarah is up supporting their efforts as a volunteer at their table. Her work here, of course, is in addition to her full-time role as director of the Abolitionist Network at Emmanuel Gospel Center in Boston.

As Speakers
I've had the privilege to sit in on three great talks given by Gordon faculty and staff. Thursday we heard Professor of Chemistry Irv Levy speak on the changing landscape of the "green" movement. He cautioned the audience to be conscious consumers, not being indiscriminately taken in by "greenwashing"—putting green or "natural" labels on products with no verifiable advantage for the environment or human health—but instead to do some research and find out how we can each reduce, reuse and recycle most effectively. 

Susanne McCarron, program coordinator for the College's Core curriculum and The Great Conversation, discussed the growing trend of fatherlessness and the challenges it poses to children and their mothers. McCarron stressed that this is an issue churches need to be aware of, and one that we need to react to with an increased focus on pursuing mentoring opportunities. 

And today, I listened as Associate Professor of Christian Ministries Bob Whittet reframed what many would see as the misfortune of New England Christianity—namely, that there are demographically fewer of us than in much of the rest of the country—as a tremendous opportunity to be examples and light-bearers of Christ. He encouraged us to be bold, remembering that through the Cross and the Resurrection we have been made worthy, even when we face challenges to our faith.

In short, Gordon at SoulFest as many faces. They're silly, they're serious, they're compelling. They're all different.

Photo: Dan Stevens ’07 running Gordon's daily giveaway on the Gordon-sponsored Revival stage.

John Mirisola ’11 is a Gordon alum and staff writer for the College. Follow along this week as he blogs about all things Gordon College at SoulFest.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

An Unexpected Union: Rock Concerts and Historical Theatre

If you want to know what it looks like when Gordon takes over up here, consider Cry Innocent.

Now, one would think that a history lesson would be at the very bottom of any SoulFest teen's To Do list. But lo and behold, a few strategically intermingled Puritans become the center of attention in just about any crowd.

The cast took to the SoulFest streets to call for the arrest of Goody Bridget Bishop, accused of witchcraft. Once they found the goodwife nervously pacing in front of the Gordon tent, she was swiftly apprehended and, with the help of a few passersby, escorted to the meeting hall arranged in the Gunstock lodge. The crowd that followed grew steadily in Pied-Piper-like fashion as the players stalked across the festival. By the time we made it to the lodge's back room, the space was packed.

But perhaps more amazingly: once it had occurred to the audience that they were about to participate in an interactive historical education experience, nobody left. And if I do say so, they all enjoyed themselves quite a bit. The play's format allows opportunity for audience members to cross-examine witnesses and Goody Bishop, and then at the production's conclusion to vote on whether the case of Goody Bishop should proceed to formal trial. Questions were on-point and engaged, and by show's end there was an audible sigh of relief as Bridget Bishop was declared innocent by a single vote.

As the excited crowd filtered out or stuck around to chat with the actors about their magical land of origin (that is, Gordon College), it was clear that this SoulFest crowd had in the last hour encountered something totally unpredictable and completely worthwhile. I'll resist overt comparison to a certain institution of higher learning.

(In other SoulFest factoids, our intrepid street team has discovered that if fabulous prizes are involved, highly motivated concert patrons can fit upwards of thirty human hands on a regulation-size hula hoop. No news on the current condition of said hula hoop.)

Photo: The arrest of Bridget Bishop

John Mirisola ’11 is a Gordon alum and staff writer for the College. Follow along this week as he blogs about all things Gordon College at SoulFest.