Friday, October 11, 2013

A Walk Through the Grapevine: Homecoming Weekend 2013

By Sarah Tang ’16

It is the most beautiful time of the year at Gordon and the perfect time for this year's Homecoming and Family Weekend. The cloudless blue sky and falling red leaves welcomed back many alumni and gave current students a chance to show their parents the place that has become home to them. The weekend was packed with illuminating discussions, class reunions, the annual Scot Trot and other athletic events (and complimented by the Captain Dusty's ice cream every Scot has come to love). Alumni strolled through the Ken Olsen Science Center (KOSC) and the Barrington Center for the Arts, revisiting the places they themselves once stood and marveling at the many campus improvements of recent years.

Conversations and Connections
Saturday morning began with a dynamic discussion about Gordon's role in faith and vocational development, moderated by President D. Michael Lindsay with accomplished alumni Christian Smith ’83, Richard Malloch ’74 and Abby Baird ’03—described in detail here.

As this conversation continued in the Philips Recital Hall, fans of Gordon College Women’s Soccer cheered the team on in their match against Eastern Nazarene College. Children enjoyed the bouncy castle and face paint on the Frost lawn and La Vida’s Adventure Swing offered guests a taste of Gordon’s unique outdoor education programs. Elsewhere, chatter and chuckles, shouts of “long time no see!” and endearing embraces marked the joyful reunion lunches.

Just above Gordon’s newest dining option, Bistro 255, in the Jenks Learning Research Center, former cohorts of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum (JAF) discussed the significance of a liberal arts education. Moderated by JAF administrator Ryan Groff ’06, and joined by program alumni Amy Gentile ’08, Izabela Wisniewska ’11, Joshua Birdsall ’06 and Stephen Armandt ’09, the conversation between these Gordon graduates and the many current JAF students and parents in attendance offered a refreshing perspective on the subject. Wisniewska, who now works with grants at Mass General Hospital, remarked on how her Gordon experience continues to impact her work today, “I started going to work by applying those big questions onto little things, and that made it much more meaningful.” Armandt, now a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, said, “[A liberal arts education] sets you up for the rest of your life… It frees students to pursue what they love.”

Another major event, which the Career Services department hosts every Homecoming and Family weekend, was Through the Grapevine: Homecoming’s Professional Networking Event. Current students arrived at Chester's Place in Lane Student Center eager to learn more about career possibilities after college and to speak with Gordon alumni, who were more than happy to network, answer questions and offer advice on how to make the best use of the opportunities a Gordon education affords. 

Musings and Music
The Gordon community was also very delighted to hear again from Christian Smith, who serves as professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Center for Social Research at the University of Notre Dame, at his afternoon lecture: “Contemporary Culture and the Prospects for Christian Faith.”

Smith has spent much of his career researching American teenagers and their views on faith. His main concern about American identity and religion is the "deep culture"—the “deep categories of presuppositions and assumptions that we don’t even think about”—associated with it. In this emergent deep culture, Christianity is perceived as religion about how to be good people and how to cope with problems, a misconception far from the heart of the transformative Christian gospel. 

“People think knowing what’s good and bad is easy, it’s common sense… and the bar on what it means to be good is extraordinarily low,” Smith added. He went on to express his concerns that in modernity, people only value rational evidence, yet at the same time, rationalistic apologetics no longer seem effective. The individual has become an experienced consumer who trusts nothing beyond the self. And among this culture of consumption and skepticism, Dr. Smith observed, “There is a trend of bipolar attitude toward the future; almost all young people think one as an individual will succeed while the world around one is corrupt.” 

In response to the cultural conditions Smith laid out, there are a few things he suggested Christians could do. First, we should believe in the gospel, that “the Holy Trinity has chosen humanity to share God’s overflowing love unconditionally… If we do believe that, then everything changes.” Second, moralism—the idea of being a good person—needs to be challenged at every opportunity. “Christianity is about God being good, not us,” he said. Third, we must embrace our status as resident aliens in the world, and recognize that Christians are no longer in sole control of this country. Forth, we must become a minority without resentment and stop our obsession with being “relevant” to American culture. 

In order to achieve the last point, Smith urged, “Christians need to learn to love the other—not accept or tolerate—the other, meaning the real different ones who has displaced us.” Taking confidence in Christ’s work through the Spirit, we must trade confrontational apologetics for confessional conversations. Lastly, Smith argued, we must begin to recognize that Ecclesiology, or the doctrine of the Church, is a significant sacrament guiding the ministry of Christ. 

At the end of his talk, Dr. Smith reminded the audience that many young people are not at all hostile toward religion, but are instead actually quite open and curious, leaving the audience to reflect on his words long after the crowd had filtered out of the lecture hall.

The weekend of celebration concluded that evening with Jimmy Needham in concert at the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel hosted by the College’s student-led Campus Events Council. The Texan singer shared his Christian testimony and spoke on the charity he works with, the Mocha Club, while delighting his audience with a jazz-pop spin on the classic acoustic singer-songwriter sound, carried by his undeniably amazing voice.

As the weekend came to a close, students and staff said their goodbyes to parents and alumni, having gained, in the space of a short weekend, a deeper understanding and appreciation of this place that continues to bind us together.

Sarah Tang '16 is a sophomore Communication Arts major at Gordon from Hong Kong and a writer in the Office of College Communications. 

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