Attending a Christian College

I went to a Christian college.  Well, maybe that’s not the best way to describe it.  I went to a small liberal arts college that was affiliated with a Christian denomination.  It had, in fact, once been named after the church, but changed its name after a ginormous donation in the 1970s.  It wasn’t “bible school” by any stretch of the imagination and it was full of some of the crunchiest, artsiest, most liberal-minded people I had ever encountered in my life.  Flowing skirts, Birkenstocks, and tiny belled anklets abounded.  We had barefoot professors and we often called them by their first names as we convened for class under a palm tree.  Seriously.  This was college for me.


Anyway, I never really thought too much about the fact that I went to a Presbyterian college.  I mean, yeah, we had a chapel on campus, but that didn’t really affect me.  The only time I even noticed the affiliation was when the choir, of which I was a part, would go perform.  Many of of these performances were at Presbyterian churches.  This never bothered me, but I didn’t pay it much mind either.  I just tried not to let my ingrained Catholic responses interrupt their services.


Being Catholic, I felt happy that the local Catholic church sent a bus over every Sunday morning to pick up any students who were interested in attending Mass.  There weren’t that many of us, to be honest, who would rise before 9 am to get over there, but I appreciated it.  I didn’t have a car and, realistically, I might not have made it to Mass without this service.  It was enough.


But my junior year in college, something happened.  Our campus chaplain, who we all just called “Fitz”, sat down with the head honchos.  He had been looking through the demographics of the campus, he said, and he had noticed that we actually had a larger percentage of Catholic than Presbyterian students.  What if, he wondered, we let the Catholics use our chapel on Saturday evenings?  Catholics frequently attend Mass as a Saturday vigil and he certainly wasn’t doing any Presbyterian services during that time.  Wouldn’t it be lovely to make it easier for other Christian students to celebrate their faith?


He worked with local parishes and established a rotating schedule of priests who would come to our campus and say Mass, in our little Presbyterian chapel, every Saturday at 6:00 pm.


I was delighted.  My roommate and I quickly took over the “music” portion and happily led the group a capella until we got more organized and added a piano and guitar.  It was convenient and charming and perfect.   And there were dozens and dozens more students attending than had ridden the bus previously.


But I didn’t even realize at the time how amazing it all was.


In a world where divisiveness is so pervasive… in a time when so many of us are determined to be “right” about how we walk with God… in an era when it’s so easy to look inward rather than outward… our chaplain was brave enough to stand up and say, “We have Christians who want and need to worship.  We will open our doors to them.”


I may have attended one of the most Christian colleges of all.

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9 comments to Attending a Christian College

  • mlearley

    That’s great! My husband and I also attended a Christian College (met there) and were amazed and how much more our fellow classmates cared for each other. There were still some petty stuff that went on but compared to what I heard my friends who went to state schools say, I was glad that I choose to pay more to go to the private Christian school. It was nice to know that our professiors actually cared about us and our walk in faith as compared to just coming to teach to get a pay check. We still live in the area of our college so some professiors go to our church, so almost 10 years later we still have relationships with them.

  • Marci

    My first college was a Lutheran college. The first day my roommate told me I was going to hell because I wasn’t baptized as a baby. If you can imagine, it all went downhill from there… My third college was a Bible college. It is far from perfect, though I had amazing professors and met my husband when we went on a trip to South Korea to teach English.

    • Oh good gracious! That’s awful. My sophomore-year roommate was born and bred Southern Baptist and she and I had a funny relationship. We’d read devotionals together and have amazing talks… and then she’d murmur sweetly in that Georgia drawl of hers, “I just find it so sad that you’re going to hell, JessieLeigh…” At this point in my life, I find the whole thing comical, but it was kind of mind-blowing in the moment.

      • Marci

        It’s sad because before I went to that college, I was a sit and read my Bible for hours at a time girl. I couldn’t get enough of it. By the time I left a year later (having been told by the theology professor who also happened to be a vicar that everything I believed in my short Christian life–about 3 years–was completely wrong and that I was in fact going to hell as my roommate had told me(nice run on sentence, Self)), I no longer enjoyed reading my Bible. I never did get that all out joy in reading my Bible back. 12 years later is still shocks me that that was the first thing my roommate said to me. My home town had a youth group that every denomination was a part of (Protestant and Catholic) so I never thought much about differences in the churches we went to making such a big deal. I was also surprised that I couldn’t be in choir at the school since they only went to denominational churches and non-WELS folks weren’t allowed to participate in services at the churches. I don’t even have friends from that college…I like to pretend that year of my life didn’t happen… ;-)

  • I think it’s the SMALL liberal arts college part that fosters that community. I went to a small LA college with a Methodist chapel in the same town as a huge religious university. Mine was definitely more accommodating to various faiths. We had none of that condescending “you’re going to hell for not being baptized as an infant” thing the big university was always saying.

    • Marci

      The ironic part is that the college I went to was tiny…it was just the denomination that was so unforgiving in my case.

      • That whole story/memory just makes me SO very sad, Marci. In a way, I think I was so very lucky that I had absolutely NO idea of the tension/friction between denominations until pretty late in life compared to many. I truly hope to impart that on my own children, too– the idea that, while we’re Catholic, we don’t have a superiority complex about the whole thing.

    • I think there were so many benefits of my small school too, Heather. And I think we looked hard for commonalities rather than differences. Still, I suppose if you’re dealing with a small community where 90+% believe one thing, then the other 10 could really be left out. I’m starting to think perhaps I was just lucky! :)

  • Marci

    No college is perfect, that’s for sure. I just wish more people would focus on having a relationship with Jesus rather than making others feel bad about themselves.

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