The end is the beginning: Wonderful grace of Jesus
By President Shirley H. Showalter
Have you heard the story of Morning Song?
Each Sunday at 10:45 a.m., a crowd gathers in the lobby of the new
Music Center. Members of College Mennonite Church serve as greeters
and hosts, serving refreshments. Students pour into the building
from three or four different directions. Faculty members come to
visit, to lead singing or to preach. Behind the scenes, a group
of students and staff from the college and College Mennonite Church
plan the service, which begins promptly at 11.
We each pick up a worship sheet and a blue hymnal as we enter Rieth
Recital Hall. When we cross the threshold into that space, I always
thank God for Martha Rieth. She gave a gift for that space, and
she gave herself to hundreds of others through her participation
in the local Methodist Church and many community activities. She
died unexpectedly just months before the building was finished.
I know she would have loved to worship with us, and I always feel
that in she is doing just that.
During Morning Song, I often find myself overcome by feelings of
love, tenderness and awe. The feelings are deeply woven into 27
years of experiences at Goshen College. They are feelings of deep
love for the church that founded and sustains us. They are feelings
of deep gratitude to God for a large extended family that gave me
the gift of unconditional love. For a husband who says, "I
love you," every day and for young adult children who are now
friends. For work that pulses with purpose day in and day out.
The student voices - lifted up in a capella hymns, worship band
praise songs or silent in reflection - stir my spirit. This is a
generation that craves authenticity and passion in worship, and
in Morning Song they find both. The homilies, given most frequently
by students, are only seven to eight minutes long and come directly
from the heart. I am amazed by the amount of suffering young people
in this society endure. One cannot see that suffering when one casually
chats with students, but when they feel safe they will reveal their
deep feelings of unworthiness or other struggles, and they will
also praise God and celebrate their dependence upon God. Students
almost always will mention music as one of the most powerful means
of communicating God's love.
On a Sunday in early February, senior Matt Schrock preached, telling
the story of how God saved him from the worst despair any human
being can feel - dramatically transforming the worst day of his
life into the best day of his life. We all listened as he made Psalm
34 real to us by celebrating his freedom from terror. The lofty
ceilings could not contain the energy as he spoke with conviction
about his favorite hymn, urging us to experience, not just assent
to, the grace that is "deeper than the might rolling sea and
"higher than the mountain."
This message of grace, the possibility of forgiveness, touched us
to the very depths of our beings. After the homily ended, we formed
a huge circle and sang the old-fashioned hymn "Wonderful Grace
of Jesus," - the number one request of recent hymn sings! I
already had a tear-stained face, and so did almost everyone else
in the room, but when I looked at the transparent faces of all those
students lining the room and honoring it with praise, I "scarce
could take it in."
Morning Song fills me with confidence and hope for the future. We
are worshipping God first and foremost, but we are also building
the future of Goshen College. A college that sings together will
grow together. As professors David Mosley and Alexandra Sterling-Hellenbrand
recently reminded us in a convocation on "The Wisdom of Music,"
two human cravings have existed throughout all of history: the yearning
for home and the longing for the unknown. The best music has overtones
of both, carrying us forward while reminding us of our history.
Morning Song arose out of a vision and a place for creating exactly
How can we keep from singing?