New core course focuses on Christian vocation
|This eye-catching photo mosaic was created by Alan Cook '08, a first-year computer science major, as part of the pilot course Created and Called for Community.
On a cold February afternoon, two dozen first-year students gather in a classroom, many laden with their very own colorful works of art to celebrate creativity. This isn’t an art show but an innovative class intended to educate new
students about the unique mission and identity of the College. The students proudly display to one another their “creation projects”—the culmination of the course’s first unit, which focuses on the importance of being created in God’s image.
Created and Called for Community, launched as a pilot program this spring, is a core course that will be required of all incoming students in future years. Each of the 140 incoming students taking the class is also part of another new program this year: first-year-only housing. For the first time in Messiah’s history, an entire residence building, Hess Hall, has been populated exclusively by new students for the purpose of creating a living and learning community. All students who chose to live in Hess during the spring of 2005—including resident assistants—also agreed to enroll in one of five sections of the pilot course.
Students in the Class of 2008 were first introduced to fundamental concepts of this course when they participated in Messiah’s inaugural common reading project. James McBride
’s The Color of Water
was read by all incoming students in fall 2004, sparking discussion and various activities throughout the year. Building on this foundation, Created and Called for Community introduced new students to the unique identity, heritage, and mission of the College, while encouraging students to develop their own sense of identity and calling.
Featuring a rich variety of readings, music, films, and art, the core course began with a focus on the significance of being created in God’s image. Students were subsequently asked to explore the concept of community and how
to live in community with one another. Having shared a residence hall, these students have already formed a cohesive community.
“Professors haven’t had to create connections among students at the beginning of the class,” says Meg Jones, residence director of Hess. “The students already knew each other.” Finally, the course asks students to consider what it means to be called by God to service, leadership, and reconciliation in our world. Students identify their own strengths and consider how they could be channeled into tangible service opportunities, exploring methods of living a life of Christian faith in a pluralistic world.
“This class gives us a chance to share with students the best readings, music, art, and key biblical and theological writings that we’ve come across as faculty,” says John Stanley, professor of New Testament and course director. “It’s a way of passing on the tradition that makes Messiah what it is.” The pilot team, which consists of the five professors and the residence director of Hess, meets biweekly to discuss the progress of the course and to share ideas about how to improve it for future students.
The response from current students has been overwhelmingly positive. “From this class I have learned how passionate my professor is about God’s active role in our lives,” says Meghan Donaghue ’07. “I have also learned how important it is to explore our own faith through looking at the faith of others.”
—Dulcimer Hope Brubaker '04