WINONA LAKE, IN – Though classes at Grace College were cancelled for the Day of Worship celebration, students and faculty gathered together on March 31 to voluntarily participate in the school’s inaugural “Communitas” event, a program of academic and artistic presentations organized by the Grace College Office of Faith, Learning, and Scholarship.
Approximately 35 students participated in the event, which included a three-round original poetry slam, while roughly 150 students attended the various presentations. Dr. Jared Burkholder, director of the Office of Faith, Learning, and Scholarship, was highly impressed with student participation and attendance. “It was phenomenal, considering this was the first time for the event and it was not required,” he said.
Senior Andrew Jones, an English major, was named Grace College “Poet Laureate” after winning Grace’s annual poetry slam, which was specially hosted by the Scribbulous company, a student-organized on-campus writer’s group.
Other projects included art exhibits, such as Christi Ziebarth and Jenny Flowers’ “One Big Good: A Celebration of Freedom;” panel discussions, such as Rebecca Roberts, Corey Grandstaff and Robin Tanner’s “Opportunities and Challenges in Local History;” and paper presentations, which ranged from an ethical look at plant stem cell research by Nathan Mosco to a paper titled “Women on India: Culture, History and Change,” presented by Lindsey Marks.
Communitas was held in conjunction with the spring semester Day of Worship, a day when all morning and afternoon classes are dismissed so that students can participate in an extended chapel service. The Office of Faith, Learning, and Scholarship chose to hold Communitas on the same day to “reinforce the notion that our lives should not be compartmentalized into ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ spheres,” said Burkholder.
“In other words, we don’t pursue ‘secular’ things when we study and research or write papers and then do ‘sacred’ things when we worship or pray. If we live in faithfulness to God and do our work with excellence for his glory, then everything that we do has a sacred quality,” he added.
Burkholder felt the day was a success, acknowledging the Communitas planning team, the Office of Student Affairs, and Sodexho food services as integral players in the planning and execution of the event. Communitas will likely be an annual event at Grace College.
“The feedback that we have received has all been very positive, both by faculty and students,” said Burkholder. “One student mentioned to me that events such as this are exactly the kind of thing that defines us a liberal arts college. And he’s right.”
“The Office of Faith, Learning and Scholarship aims to facilitate a culture on campus that celebrates and encourages scholarship, innovation, and creative expression, as well as to facilitate intentional dialogue and reflection on ways that faith intersects and informs our work within the academic community. It also is intentional about affirming our identity as an institution within the Grace Brethren movement,” Burkholder said.