|For years, the "Wittenberg Door" served as the nexus of much campus dialogue. Based on the famed door on which Martin luther nailed his "95 Theses," Messiah's own "Wittenberg Door" prompted debates over a variety of cultural, religious, and college-related issues.
Nearly every Messiah College tradition or ritual is grounded in a commitment to community. Howard Landis, professor emeritus of psychology, founded one such tradition when he initiated Messiah College’s “Wittenberg Door” in the 1960s. Inspired by the intellectual rigor of the “95 Theses” that theologian Martin Luther nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, setting into motion the Protestant Reformation, Messiah’s “Wittenberg Door” was intended to stimulate spirited campus dialogue about important topics of the day. It featured a door-shaped bulletin board on which community members posted opinions and responses. For many years, students and faculty vigorously debated issues ranging from the Vietnam War to academic freedom, from biblical equality to responses to specific chapel speakers.
“One of my lasting mental images from college is of groups of students huddled around the ‘Wittenberg Door’ in Old Main to read the latest posting,” says Harriet Sider Bicksler ’68, a writer and editor who during her college days was the editor of Ivy Rustles, the student newspaper at Messiah College. “On the ‘Wittenberg Door’, students on all sides of the issues passionately articulated their views. As I remember, even if we didn’t agree with the point of view, we respected the right of the person to express it and the right of others to post an alternate view.”
During the mid 1990s, the student government retired the door, when it decided the dialogue displayed on it had begun to reflect a less respectful tone. While it lasted, the “Wittenberg Door” was accessible to the entire campus community, but other traditions have sprung forth from, taken root in, and bound together smaller, more intimate groups of the larger community.
|Established in 1975, the Bruderhof, or "House of Brothers," as the residents of the second floor of Hess called themselves, formed many community-building traditions together. (Above) The 1978 Clarion yearbook ran this photograph of that year's group of "Bruderhoffers."
In the 1970s, one such tradition forged lasting bonds of friendship among some boisterous young men of the second floor of Hess residence hall. Determined to intentionally form community, residence assistants Randy Ness ’77, now the director of alumni and parent relations
at Messiah College, and Jay McDermond ’76, now associate professor of Christian ministry and spirituality, launched a residence hall unit named the Bruderhof—the “House of Brothers.” Their corporate life unfolded in a sprawling lounge in the middle of the second floor. They held regular Bible studies; floor meetings; and games of pinochle, Rook, and Uno. They also hatched schemes for harmless pranks. They even created an orange and white team uniform for their band of “brothers,” which they proudly wore when they participated in recreational sports teams together.
Lasting friendships developed as a result of their camaraderie—friendships that continue to this day. Brad Statnick ’79, senior development officer at Messiah, describes how longtime friends responded to the news that the son of one of the original Bruderhof brothers was recently killed in a car accident. Six or seven original Bruderhof members attended the funeral services to support the father—their “brother.” “We were talking with the father, who was obviously in agony; his son was 13—in the prime of his life and was just an exceptional young man. He loved socializing, enjoyed a good prank, was committed to the spiritual life and his friends,” says Statnick. “The boy’s father said, ‘Nathan would have made a great Hoffer [Bruderhoffer].’ To hear him say that made us realize that there was something really special about our group of classmates.”
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