Vox & Idiom Release Party

If you had been in Chester’s Place at 8:30 on Monday night, you would have been in the midst of a spontaneous (although short-lived) dance party spurred on by the awesome electronic music of Bronko (a.k.a. Gordon student RJ Papaleo). If you had come a half hour earlier, you would have heard the lyrical retelling of the myth of Orpheus from the perspectives of three different characters and the tale of one Canadian student’s experience gaining American citizenship. If you’d come half an hour later, you would have listened to flash fiction about a ficus with feelings and a family, and finally, the story of one student’s coming-of-age and awakening to pluralism in India.

Now you may be thinking two questions: one, how were all these diverse and awesome artistic endeavors in one place at one time, and two, how did I miss it?

I’ll let you struggle with the second question, but the answer to the first is simple. Just five words:

Vox Populi. Idiom. Release Party.

The Vox Populi and Idiom are Gordon’s two literary and artistic journals who both celebrated the release of their most recent publications just this week. The marriage of this joint celebration gave birth to the Vox and Idiom Release Party on Monday May 7th. This once a semester event ran for nearly two hours and featured readings of play-writing, poetry, fiction, and non-fiction interspersed with performances of original music, all showcasing the published artistic work of Gordon students.

The Vox Populi and Idiom provide an outlet for the expression and sharing of artistic creativity at Gordon. While both accept all forms of writing, the Vox focuses more on non-fiction and editorial pieces, with a smattering of fiction and poetry, while the Idiom features art and photography as well as all forms of writing: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and most recently, its first published work of play-writing.

Also exciting and brand new this semester for the Idiom was an expansion into music and a foray into the digital world! For the first time ever, the Idiom accepted submissions of original music and compiled a 12-track digital album, with lyrics printed in the Spring 2012 issue of the Idiom. If you want to, check out and even download for free music from Gordon students at http://theidiom.bandcamp.com/.

I have a special (and somewhat biased) love for the Idiom, because I have been this year and will continue to be next year the assistant editor. I was so proud of all the hard work everyone else on my editorial team put in to making this issue possible. I love seeing the finished product and providing an opportunity for Gordon students to express themselves and share their work with their friends and peers. I’ve loved working on the Idiom this year, and had so much fun on Monday night partying with the Vox, listening to good music, hearing amazing readings, and appreciating beautiful art with awesome friends.

And all shall be well…

We drove along winding roads, past colored clapboard houses nestled in the trees, until we veered onto a narrow dirt road and at its end, found ourselves beside a quaint New England farmhouse, painted red with green shutters and surrounded by woods. A black cat slipped from the open door marked with the sign “Welcome JAF – come in” and an arrow pointing the way. We followed the directions past rowboats overturned in the rambling garden, purple wildflowers, and white garden furniture to the rustic barn. And leaning against the fence, stroking the soft, thick mane of a horse contentedly munching the grass on the other side, was our host, Bruce Herman.

Our final outing for the Jerusalem and Athens Forum, the honors program I’ve been a part of this year, was an afternoon spent in the studio of Bruce Herman, art professor and world-renowned artist, at his home in Gloucester, MA. After meeting the horses, we spent an hour looking at and discussing his artwork in his studio and hearing his wisdom on life, art, and faith. It was an extraordinary experience to learn so intimately from Bruce about his art, for he’s an amazingly talented artist, but he’s also so affable, humble, and kind.

Two of the most moving pieces Bruce showed of us were portraits of his parents that he painted after their death a few years ago, and both revealed, as someone described it, “with sheer compassion but without a shred of sentimentality”, the love he has for his parents and the complexity of their persons.

Bruce Herman's portrait of his father, William Herman

 

Bruce Herman's portrait of his mother, Ruth Herman

 

Bruce is also currently working on a project with a composer, a theologian, and another painter in response to T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Four Quartets.” This work was my favorite book we read in our JAF class this semester, not only because I love poetry, but also because of the incredible use of language, imagery, emotion, and ideas evoked in this beautiful work of art. Bruce is making four paintings inspired by the four sections in Eliot’s poem, each painting showing a season and stage in life through a single portrait of a family member, friend, or model, yet all focused around a tree that appears throughout all four paintings. It was so cool to see and touch the paintings and hear about the process of how they’re being made. While Bruce talked about the works, he also read sections from the poem, and as a lover of poetry and a believer in the power and beauty of the written word, the words stirred my being. I’ll end with the final lines from this poem, some of the most beautiful I have ever read:

 

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

 

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time,

Through the unknown, remembered gate

When the last of earth left to discover

Is that which was the beginning;

At the source of the longest river

The voice of the hidden waterfall

And the children in the apple tree

Not known, because not looked for

But heard, half-heard in the stillness

Between two waves of the sea,

Quick now, here, now, always –

A condition of complete simplicity

Costing not less than everything

And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

When the tongues of flame are in-folded

Into the crowned knot of fire

And the fire and the rose are one.

 

- T.S. Eliot “The Four Quartets”

 

 

 

Can one be good without God?

The JAF Cohort 2011-2012 before the debate

Fourteen students. 217 audience members. An hour and a half. One century-old question: Can one be good without God?

This can only be one thing: the The Jerusalem and Athens Forum Debate.

After months of avid preparation, countless meetings, and endless hours spend researching, editing speeches, and practicing, it was finally time. On the surreal evening of April 17th, I gathered with thirteen other nervous but excited students to publicly debate the resolution One can be good without God. This night was what we, the members of the 2012 JAF cohort, had been anticipating the whole year and preparing for throughout the semester. Before the debate began, we gathered in a side room off of the auditorium, and holding hands, prayed together the prayer of Thomas Aquinas entitled “Before Study”. Then we took our seats, lined up at tables in front of the large room, and began our debate.

The debate was structured after the classic Oxford style, including prepared opening, follow-up, and concluding statements, extempore rebuttals, a question and answer time from the audience, and concluding with an audience vote. The experience was at once tense and exhilarating, stressful and enjoyable, full of nervous moments and even some laughter. Representing the negative side, arguing that one cannot be good without God, I gave the opening statement which I had written and practiced, while my six teammates filled the other roles of giving speeches, rebuttals, and answering questions. Although we didn’t win the vote of the audience, both teams did incredibly well and I was so proud of everyone involved.

As soon as it was over, we all filed outside and burst into screams and hugs, congratulating one another and letting out our relief that it was finally over. After so much work and preparation during which we’d learned an incredible amount, the pressure was over and it was done. To celebrate after the debate, we as a cohort changed out of our formal clothes and drove with cars full of wood, drinks, and snacks to a nearby beach to relax around a bonfire on the sand, listening to the waves of the ocean.

Everyone at the bonfire after the debate

 

Relaxing around the fire...

Relaxing and laughing around a bonfire on the beach with friends was the perfect way to end the night. Even though I learned a lot through preparing for and doing the debate, I’m grateful that it’s over…if only to have some free time again! Although, three days later, I’m starting realize that it’s never really over. We haven’t (and probably never fully will) resolve the questions we raised in the debate, for our thinking and conversations don’t stop, but continue on, seeking the answer to the question we’re all still asking: Can one be good without God?

 

Dance for the Glory of God

The lights dim, swallowing the chapel in darkness. As music begins to play, bodies become visible on stage, forms moving in rhythm and harmony to the sounds. The notes swell, and dancers leap and twirl in never-ceasing motion, expressing themselves and worshiping God through dance.

This was the scene of the annual dance ministry showcase on the evening of April 13th, two hours of beautiful music and dance to the glory of God. Dance Ministry is a group of talented and dedicated students who love dance and together, worship God through that art form. Dance Ministry never ceases to amaze me: the girls not only practice, memorize, and perform numerous dances in diverse styles, but they also choreograph all their own dances. I went last year, and again, I was so astounded at the talent of the dancers and the expressive and moving beauty of dance.

The evening was filled with numerous songs, ranging from classical to folk to pop to country, including Adele’s “Rumor Has It”, Florence and the Machine’s “The Dog Days are Over”, and Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars “Safe and Sound” – all songs which I love! Interspersed between dances were live musical performances by a band and the comedic relief of two MCs. The performance was not only entertaining and enrapturing, but at points, an authentic worship experience.

For what is unique about Dance Ministry is that they truly view dance as a form of worship, and through their dancing, draw others into worship as well. The final performance of the evening was one of praise. As the band played the doxology, the dancers filled the aisles of the auditorium and praised God through their physical expression, concluding in a group on stage. The dancers stilled and the music faded away, and the evening ended with the voices of the whole auditorium lifted in praise to God:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below

Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts

Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly

This week was the third annual Human Rights Week, entitled “Justice at Home”, an amazing and challenging time to reflect on issues of injustice in the world and how we as Christians should respond. The week was planned and executed by the six passionate and hard-working students (and my good friends) in The Human Network, Gordon’s human rights and social justice group. The issue of social justice, especially for the poor, needy, and oppressed, is one about which I am passionate and that I seek to pursue with my life, and so I loved every part of this week devoted to raising awareness and pursuing justice for all human beings.

The week kicked off in Monday morning chapel with visiting speaker  Mike Yankoski. Mike is an amazing Christian speaker, writer, and human rights activist – intelligent, compassionate, and humble – and his messages resounded deeply with me and questions I’d been struggling with. Mike shared about his experiences living in voluntary homelessness for five months in six different American cities, an experience which he wrote about in his book Under the Overpass, and his powerful testimony has spurred me on to greater compassionate action towards the homeless. Mike is an amazing example of what it looks like to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God, as Micah 6:8 commands we as Christians do.

The rest of the week included a panel with faculty and staff about how to live seeking justice at home and abroad, a student-led chapel involving worship, dance, prayer, and Scripture, a discussion about justice in the prison system, and the showing of a documentary about human trafficking.

Human Rights Week was both challenging and convicting as well as encouraging and motivating. Issues of injustice at home and around the world are so great that we can often feel so overwhelmed that we don’t know what to do or so paralyzed that we don’t do anything, but this week was a refreshing time to join together and encourage one another on towards the pursuit of justice. And together we desire to spur one another on to live out the theme verse of the Human Network and God’s command to us:

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8

 

Spring Break in NYC!

One reason I love Gordon and especially the honors program the Elijah Project: I got to go NYC for half of spring break – for free.

On March 14th, our chaplain and twelve of us students in the Elijah Project piled into a Gordon van and drove four hours south to NYC, where we spent three days experiencing the city and meeting amazing people doing awesome work there. We stayed in a lovely Christian inn called Hephzibah House, only a block away from beautiful Central Park in the heart of NYC. The days were full with visiting various organizations, meeting their passionate leaders and volunteering where we could, and cavorting about the city in our free time, eating in Chinatown and Chelsea Market, hanging out on Fifth Avenue and walking through Central Park.

First we visited World Vision in the Bronx: at this location of the international non-profit we learned about their work training local organizations, leading youth development programs, and providing supplies to schools in the area. While there we made posters to creatively advertise their programs and helped organize supplies in the warehouse to be given to teachers in local schools.

World Vision, an international Christian non-profit ministering mostly to children

Next we visited the International Arts Movement in Manhattan, an organization that seeks redemption through what they call “rehumanizing” the arts and every area of life. We engaged in discussion with some of their staff about how they’re seeking truth and beauty and the “world that ought to be”. 

International Arts Movement

The next day we met with Jeff White, the church planter and recently former pastor of New Song Community Church in Harlem. Jeff White’s purpose in starting the church was to show Christ’s love by loving and living with his neighbors among the poor. New Song is a church comprised of the community and existing to benefit the community in a disadvantaged area.

New Song Community Church in Harlem

Next we visited the Bowery Mission, a ministry center to the homeless that has been around since the late 1800s. We learned about their work serving the homeless through daily meals, housing, discipleship, and job training programs. We were blessed to be able to share a meal with their staff and formerly homeless men now apart of a discipleship program at the mission.

The Bowery Mission

And what else could we do in NYC but go to Broadway? Friday night we got to see Memphis, the 2010 Tony Award-winning musical – an entertaining and fun show about the birth of rock and roll in Memphis and love across racial boundaries in the 1950s.

Memphis, the musical, winner of the 2010 Tony Award

We concluded our trip by visiting Freedom Farm in upstate New York on our way home. There we met Edgar and learned about his work doing sustainable and organic farming and ministering to youth from the city, and we even got to do some composting and planting ourselves! 

The Elijah Project, minus two people, farming with Edgar!

The whole trip was an amazing opportunity to spend time with the friends I love, experience the city, and meet awesome people to learn about the work they’re doing to benefit NYC. Thank you Gordon, and Elijah Project, for a wonderful spring break.

Gordon’s Own Sweaty-Toothed Madmen

You are probably alarmed at the title of this post…What are the “sweaty-toothed madmen”? How can your teeth be sweaty? And why on earth are there self-professed madmen at Gordon College?…and let me warn you, you probably should be alarmed.

The Sweaty-Toothed Madmen are none other than Gordon’s one and only comedy improv troupe. The Madmen are comprised of nine students, seven hilarious men and two equally hilarious women (don’t be thrown off by the name, women can be madmen as well), and headed by two zany student leaders from their ranks, perhaps all the madder for assuming leadership of this group:

The Sweaty-toothed Madmen 2011-2012

Every holiday, the Madmen treat the student body to a night of comic relief, therapeutic laughter, and communal hilarity, all for the price of two dollars. The Madmen traditionally kick off the year with the Halloween show, where you get in free if you wear a costume, and can choose to compete in a costume contest for prizes. Other shows include Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and most recently, the Irish Spring. The Madmen shows are always at 8 and 10 on the same night, but the 10 o’clock is the more popular, and crazier, show.

So this Friday night, at 10 o’clock, my friends and I trouped across campus to the usual dingy auditorium in the basement of Jenks. The show always begins with a performance, usually set to music, this one featuring a “shower” made of crepe paper on stage, in which the Madmen took turns pretending to wash as the others danced. Sounds strange, and yes, it was – but it was also hilarious.

The real show is just a game. Literally. With no preparation, the Madmen take turns playing games, the sole purpose of which is to entertain and amuse the audience. One of my personal favorites is “party quirk”, where one person is hosting a party, but unbeknownst to them, the three others attending their party each have a peculiar quirk. The host goes out of the room and the audience, by shouting, determines the quirk of each of the guests – anything from always acting as the star of an action movie to going into labor. The task of the host then, as he welcomes each of the guests to the party, is to guess their quirk.

For an hour and a half, the Madmen keep us as the audience laughing uproariously and on the edge of our seats, always eagerly expectant for the next joke to be told. The Madmen never cease to amaze me with their acting skills, including diverse accents and personae, and their ceaseless ability to be hilarious on the spot.

I always leave the Sweaty-Toothed Madmen shows tired but content, with that refreshed worn out feeling from having laughed a lot. Walking back across campus through the chilling dark to our dorm, we always try and recap the funniest moments of the show. It’s never the same though, because the Madmen shows are impossible to repeat, relive, and in some ways to describe – it’s just something you have to experience for yourself.

 

 

 

One Epic Class

Today, Sunday, I had a class for eight and a half hours. I know what you must be thinking: class on Sunday? For eight and a half hours?? What kind of class would do that??? Well it’s not just any ordinary class.

Our lengthy weekend excursion was a part of the Jerusalem and Athens Forum, what we call JAF, a year-long honors program of which I’m a participant this year. The goal of the program is to explore the integration of faith and intellect – between Jerusalem and Athens. The program includes one six-credit class a semester, a Great Books seminar that explores philosophy, theology, and literature throughout history, a public debate in the spring, and many lectures, gatherings, and outings throughout the year. JAF is a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of good food. Prime example: today.

Today was my favorite JAF day this whole year. We spent our eight and a half hours in the amazing city of Boston, enjoying the first few hours at the beautiful Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. This art museum is unlike any other. It was the home, passion, and brainchild of one person, the late Isabella Stuart Gardner, who personally collected all the art and designed all the installations. The building itself is breathtaking, centering around an open-air courtyard filled with seasonal flowers rising to balconies on each floor and a glass ceiling that floods the whole room with light.

The courtyard in the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

The museum’s collection of artwork is astounding in variety and size: including medieval tapestries, Renaissance frescoes, and famous paintings such as a self-portrait of Rembrandt and John Singer Sargent’s breathtaking El Jaleo. I love art museums, and it was so relaxing to spend time in such a beautiful place.

We went from the museum to Park Street Church, a church rich in tradition and history right in the heart of Boston, for their afternoon service. Although I don’t normally attend Park Street Church, it was a really good time to worship and hear the Word of God with other believers.

Park Street Church, right by the Boston commons

Afterwards we went out for dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant in Chinatown. The experience included dozens of tiny cups of tea to drink, only chopsticks to eat with, and potential dinner options swimming around in tanks nearby. One guy in our group got eel for dinner; two girls tried jellyfish (very slimy – I wasn’t brave enough to try it). Dinner was full of raucous laughter and some good, some just plain ridiculous, conversation, leaving us all full and happy.

Our Chinese dinner

Although the day was long and tiring, it was well-worth it. Boston, the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Park Street Church, and Chinatown: that’s what I call one epic class.

 

 

 

Only at Gordon…

I don’t think I could have planned a more quintessential Gordon weekend.

It began Friday night at midnight as my old roommate (who transferred to a college closer to home in Philadelphia this semester before her wedding in June) and her fiance arrived for a visit to be greeted with high-pitched screams amidst hugs all around. We immediately set off through the deserted streets to Marty’s Donut Land: the popular haunt of Gordon students during all hours of the night. Marty’s is a regular coffee-and-donut shop during the day, but when midnight rolls around, Marty’s transforms into the hang-out spot for college students seeking their fill of sugar. Although the lights aren’t lit, Marty’s is always open – all you have to do is walk in, line up, and pay one dollar for a freshly-baked, warm doughnut. Friday night the place was so crowded with Gordon students that there was hardly a place to sit, as people talked and laughed in the dark, sharing gallons of milk and licking fingers dripping with sugar.

Saturday dawned crisp and beautiful: sky a brilliant blue, sunshine warm and bright, the air a balmy 45 degrees. What else could we do but go to the beach? The ocean was stunning, the sand heated from the glowing sun, and the tide low so that we could walk far out and unearth shells burrowed in the moist sand. We swung on swings on the nearby playground and soaked up the Vitamin D we’re sometimes sorely lacking in the middle of a Massachusetts winter. I almost forgot it was winter, though, as we laid in the warm sand until we almost fell asleep.

My suite on the beach

After a few relaxing (and very sun-sleepy) hours, we girls holed ourselves up in our suite to music blaring in the bathroom, our rooms quickly becoming a mess of curling irons, make-up, silky dresses and high heels, the air filling with a cloud of potent hairspray. There could be only one explanation at this time of year: Gordon Globes.

Gordon Globes is a Gordon-unique event, a mock “Golden Globes” where everyone turns out in their best for a pre-party involving food and photos, and then convenes in the chapel to view and vote on short films by Gordon students. Featuring a live jazz band, two witty hosts, and a dozen videos created exclusively by students, the night was enjoyable, amusing, and classy. We ended the evening with a movie night in a lounge in our dorm, but we never finished the movie, because by halfway through, everyone was already falling asleep :)

Our friends at the pre-party

Marty’s, beach, Gordon Globes: only at Gordon could twenty four hours include all of the above. And although tiring, this weekend was fun, memorable, and thoroughly Gordon.

 

Deep Faith

This past week at Gordon, from February 6th-10th, was devoted to Deep Faith: a period of renewal and reawakening to love God with our hearts and minds. From Monday onward, the community came together in morning chapels and evening services to worship, pray, hear the Word of God, and wrestle with the questions at the heart of faith.

For the whole week, we had the amazing privilege to hear from Michael Ramsden, a brilliant British communicator, evangelist, and apologist with Ravi Zacharias International Ministires (RZIM). While amazing us with his knowledge and intelligence and keeping us laughing with his witticisms, Dr. Ramsden challenged, encouraged, and engaged in honest and intensive questioning with us.

What I appreciated most about Deep Faith were two things: the opportunity as individuals to ask and struggle with difficult and seemingly irreconcilable questions, and the blessing to gather together as a community to encourage one another in that pursuit.

From the start, Dr. Ramsden insisted that we ask questions – not only hard questions, but the hardest questions. Dr. Ramsden wanted to address and attempt to answer the most difficult questions of the Christian faith among the community at Gordon College. To do so he and the Chapel Office set up a poll on facebook, where anyone at Gordon could pose their most difficult question about God, and then based on the “likes” as a voting system, the question with the most likes would be answered by Michael Ramsden during his final talk on Friday morning chapel. The question with the most likes was one from none other than Gordon’s president, D Michael Lindsay: How does God judge people with cognitive disabilities who are not capable of the intellectual assent suggested in the Gospel accounts of the offer of eternal salvation?                                                                                          Gordon College Chapel Office Facebook page

Dr. Ramsden explored this and other critical questions about the truth claims of Christianity, the nature of salvation, the role and purpose of God in human suffering, and many others. What I loved about Deep Faith was that it offered a time to openly express these questions, doubts, and struggles that we all as Christians experience.

But what I also loved about Deep Faith was that it truly revealed to me the incredible community at Gordon. Deep Faith brought the community together – gathering students, faculty, staff, and even visitors together to
engage in loving God with our hearts and minds. One of my favorite moments of the week was on Wednesday night, when at the close of the service as we worshiped God in song, professors and faculty members spread out at the front of the chapel and offered to pray for any students who desired it. As I sang, dozens of students came forward to draw close to an older believer, and I watched as with hands laid upon shoulders and heads, the leaders of this community prayed for students. It was an amazing picture to me of what it means to be in a community of believers, and I was, and still continually am, overwhelmed by the love of professors and faculty members that they pour out into the students of Gordon.

 

 

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