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Spring Edition
Volume 96, Number 4


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Students of the '60s and '70s established new traditions--or pranks--with the popular Volkswagen Beetle, such as placing it on stairs or hiding friends' Beetles in trucks (above).
Students of the '60s and '70s established new traditions--or pranks--with the popular Volkswagen Beetle, such as placing it on stairs or hiding friends' Beetles in trucks (above).
Traditions unite, but are not necessarily forever

Some traditions and rituals evolve over time and continue, while others come to an end either on their own or out of necessity. Old traditions are often replaced by new ones that reflect current interests. As Messiah College’s student body has grown to 2,900 members, more students have begun to create more personal traditions of the Bruderhof variety within smaller, more intimate groups of friends. For example, a group of students who enjoy knitting has developed the tradition of gathering regularly to craft blankets and scarves that they donate to a service organization in Harrisburg. Several other students have initiated a pumpkin cappuccino–drinking ritual as they regularly gather to reflect on the happenings in their lives.

New traditions are also emerging from the vision of Messiah College’s leadership. During the fall of 2004, the College community engaged in its first common reading program, jointly reading James McBride’s book The Color of Water, and attending a campus lecture and jazz performance by the author. The focus of this new tradition is one of community building and corporate learning. With a successful inaugural semester completed, this program has all the markings of becoming a significant future tradition in the life of Messiah College.

Other longstanding Messiah traditions have been perpetuated from generation to generation. Messiah College students’ commitment to service is one such tradition. During the College’s early years, students formed the Missionary Band, a group that supported missionaries with prayer and finances, and Gospel Teams, that took the gospel message to a variety of churches, prisons, and service organizations like the Bethesda Mission of Harrisburg. That commitment continues today through Messiah College’s many outreach teams, service trips, Service Day, and the College’s hosting of Special Olympics.

Traditions and rituals offer insight into the very soul of Messiah College, both its strengths and its challenges, as it has developed into the institution it is today. Where one tradition has died, another has been born. The College continues to be blessed with an abundance of rich traditions—some corporate, some more personal; some lasting, some fleeting; some popular, some not. But all have defined and influenced the College. Each represents a single fiber in the larger fabric that sustains us and enfolds us in the warmth of our unique community. Reflecting on his experiences with the traditions of the Bruderhof, Brad Statnick ’79, sums up what college rituals have meant to him and many other graduates of Messiah College: “The memories that we have live on forever. We still love to reminisce when we get together. Our relationships forged at Messiah College are long and deep."

If you have photographic proof that a Volkswagen Beetle was reassembled inside of Old Main or are in possession of photos of other pranks or traditions, please e-mail a high-resolution image, along with the accompanying story, to thebridge@messiah.edu. In addition, we recognize that these pages are only a sampling of Messiah traditions. We will post selected additional stories of Messiah College traditions and rituals from readers on the magazine's website.

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