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Summer 2009
Special Edition Vol. 1 of 5

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The River Within Us

Hear some of Messiah's most recent graduates speak up about their college expereience at ListenUP, Messiah's new
podcasting site!

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Members of the Class of 2009 reflect on the ways they've changed during their years at Messiah College

The river is within us,
the sea is all about us.

T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages (No. 3 of Four Quartets)

Rivers, much like people, are in a constant state of formation — forging new channels, meandering, creating rapids, and even occasionally running adrift. Ultimately, however, in spite of the obstacles, the river flows toward its greatest reward and potential: the embrace of a bountiful, almighty ocean.

Spiritual formation, much like the river determined to reach the sea, isn’t just about who we are; it’s also about who we’re becoming. It’s a journey in which individuals grow to reflect the personality and deeds of Christ on a daily basis. As M. Robert Mulholland Jr., professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary and author of the book Invitation to a Journey, says, “Spiritual formation is the process of being conformed to the image of Christ for the sake of others.”

At Messiah College, we witness daily the wonders of spiritual formation and the change it brings to our community and the world. During their four years here, students become more engaged, open, and compassionate toward others. They make decisions with a commitment toward justice and peacemaking. And, most of all, they learn to live more deeply in a relationship with God, self, and the world.

We’ve asked a number of new graduates to reflect upon their personal growth and spiritual formation while at Messiah College and to candidly share something about their individual journeys. Their experiences affirm that we are all tributaries, flowing into the life rivers of all lives we touch — ultimately enriching the bountiful ocean of our common humanity.

Abby HoeckAbby Hoeck

Hockessin, Delaware

Church music major

Three and a half years does not seem like much in the span of a life, but while reminiscing on these past years, I know I have grown.  I like to think the change has not been all growing up. College does not take the kid out of you, but my experience has been one of growing into a more well rounded, more complete woman of God. Spiritually, I have had to work out my salvation.  I have had to wrestle with the faith of my youth as tougher questions were asked of me and more complicated issues confronted me.  The child-like black and white answers to problems became grayer as I learned to empathize more with others and see more clearly the multifaceted aspects of people and their lives.  As someone who thrives in stability, I have been stretched and I have learned to find answers in the gray.  I have found the love of Christ and His all-sufficient grace in the complexities of life and through that grace, I have grown to love others and God more than I ever thought possible.  In the midst of the gray, I have a never-ending source of light and of joy that shines through me and carries me on...


Messiah College has challenged my limits and has taught me, albeit gradually, how to say no.  I have immersed myself in music, in leadership, and in new experiences.  I love to work with others and I have always been busy.  However, I have been most challenged when I have overloaded my plate and taken on too much.  I almost burnt myself out after sophomore year.  I was tempted to change majors and was frustrated at myself for saying yes to too many responsibilities.  Royally stubborn, I did not change majors and decided to stick it out.  I have never been one for dropping the ball, and I told myself I was not going to start.  Since then, I am still extremely busy and some days (or weeks), I wonder how I am going to get it all done.  However, I am learning to say no and that it is okay to make sure there is time in my life for me and my relationship with God.   By no means am I actually good at this yet, but Messiah College has definitely taught me how to evaluate my responsibilities and manage my time (even though, that occasionally means less sleep)...

My experiences at Messiah have grown me and changed me in ways that will not leave me.  Who I have become will continue to be sharpened, but Messiah has provided a solid layer on top of my foundation prior to college.  Those layers will travel with me and will shape me and the decisions I make from now on.  I will most definitely look on these four years, this chapter of my life, with fondness of heart and with great joy!

Amber JacksonAmber N. Jackson

Windsor Mill, Maryland    

Politics major

To say that I have grown spiritually would be an understatement. My faith and spiritual walk now is the strongest it has ever been and that can be attributed in no small part to some of my experiences at Messiah College. I entered my freshman year believing that my relationship with Christ was great, I needed no growth, and that I had this spiritual walk all figured out. Well contrary to my very naïve thoughts I have, through some tough experiences and well as some uplifting ones, began to realize the frailty of my faith. My trust and dependency on God has increased tremendously. When God makes a promise to me now, I can believe it even when it seems impossible.  I would say that in comparing my freshman year to now I know that I don’t have it altogether. Over these last four years ...I have realized the tremendous need I have for God...

Entering Messiah College in the fall of 2005 I, along with many of my classmates, had an engrained perspective about education, and that was to obtain the highest grade possible. While this may have worked in high school, college was different. Sure the motivation of scholarships and parental approval was valid to pursue a good GPA, but at times and with certain classes those things were not enough.  I have shifted my perspective on education. Classes are not just another grade to boost my GPA are opportunities to learn more about what will eventually be my profession. I am now learning so that I can be a skilled knowledgeable attorney. Education has moved beyond grades and has become the vehicle to which I will achieve my purpose and destiny.


Margaret McKayMargaret McKay

Norristown, Pennsylvania

Music education major

Throughout my college experience, I had the opportunity to know God on a more personal level. As he directed my steps, I sometimes ended up in new situations. However, I knew if I was in God’s will, then there had to be success. I decided to look at each unfamiliar situation as an opportunity to learn and grow.

As a music education major, I had to make the transition from student to teacher over the past few years. This included the development of certain skills such as conducting and addressing a group. Knowing that teaching was part of my vocation, I was determined to learn them. As I put my trust in God to help me acquire these skills, I became more assertive, which gave me the confidence to dialogue with others whose opinions may differ from my own, and also to speak up in situations where I feel injustice or immorality is present.

Ammon PerryAmmon Perry

Middletown, Pennsylvania

Studio art major

There are several people that have significant influence here.  Friends, classmates, and professors often see things about us that we fail to see. When they are honest they will tell you the talents that they see in you and make it more apparent of your shortcomings. There are tactful ways to do these things. A few professors that have helped me realize a better direction are David Vader and Kathleen Quimby. Marlin Eby and Douglas Phillippy remain in my mind as faithful men of great character. Professor Daniel Finch and Professor Don Forsythe have both done a great deal to help me in the way that I think about and deal with art and life.  Life is tough and it is proving better to not go at it alone.

I will certainly have a lot of memories. I have always enjoyed the random memories that pop up for no apparent reason. “I remember when so and so did this crazy thing…” I will have a lot of those from Messiah College. There are a few life lessons that I will surely reflect on.  One wonderful thing about college is the opportunity to meet many people that are very different. I don’t know if I will be in that environment again and I will miss it if I am not. I will definitely miss the environment of creativity that the art program provides.  Where would one go to find this many people working so hard to create?  That desire is infectious, to say the least. 

Robyn SmithRobyn Smith

West Suffield, Connecticutt

Biology major

One of the most valuable insights I gained at Messiah is that healthy, spiritual growth begins for me in community. When I think about my undergraduate spiritual formation, I remember meeting weekly with friends in the campus prayer chapel to sing, to study the Bible, and to pray together. This community encouraged me to pursue dynamic and fruitful spirituality because they held me responsible for what God was teaching me. 

Spiritual formation was also a major aspect of my experiences with Acclamation Dance Ministry.  During my first year at Messiah when praying out loud was new for me, I found that spending more personal time with God helped me feel more comfortable with corporate prayer in my dance class. Later, serving as a leader in Acclamation, I found that preparing devotions for the dancers required me to seek new, personal experiences with God. I realize, though, that I actively choose to engage in worship and service groups that uniquely shaped my spirituality. As a graduate, I hope to both maintain Messiah relationships from afar and search for new communities that will continue to strengthen me in Christ.

Devin ThomasDevin Thomas

Gardners, Pennsylvania

English major

Coming to Messiah College was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I’ve developed lasting friendships. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve worked hard to discern my vocation as I study in my fields of interest—literature, film, American religious history. I’ve gained experience as a writer, as an intellect, as a team player. I’ve felt the freedom to ask tough, often painful questions about my spiritual identity, and I’ve found comfort in knowing that I’m part of a religious heritage that has often expressed a diversity of opinion...

I’ve grown more confident in who I am socially, intellectually, creatively. I’ve asked questions about my religious heritage, my deeply seated beliefs, my future as a Christian. I’ve fallen in love and observed the changes in myself as I invited another person into my deepest thoughts, fears, passions, and dreams.

If I had to pick one specific way in which I’ve been challenged while at Messiah, I’d have to say I’ve been challenged to deal graciously and intelligently with those whose opinions, worldviews, and moral convictions differ from my own. I’ve always been passionate about my beliefs—whether it’s my conviction toward pacifism or my belief in thoughtful Christian engagement with popular culture. And others are equally passionate about their beliefs. So when these two passions collide, there’s always the possibility of flying sparks.

At Messiah, I’ve learned about the value and the necessity of constructive dialogue. I’ve been challenged to face those whose opinions differ from my own and attempt to cultivate mutual understanding without compromising what I believe. It’s an ongoing struggle, but I hope that I’ve made strides toward maturity in this regard.

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