“Going Home, going home, I’m just going home . . . .” William Arms Fisher wrote a spiritual tune with nostalgic lyrics adapted from the famous largo in Dvorak’s 9th Symphony that hints of going home “through an open door.”
Last Saturday I walked through the open door back home to my college reunion during Homecoming weekend at Eastern Mennonite University. Nestled among the purple mountains of Virginia in the lush Shenandoah Valley, EMU‘s banner proclaims itself “A Chritian University Like No Other.”
EMU was just a college when I attended. Now the campus seems twice as large and current students way younger than I remember. I kept having to adjust to the sensation of flipping between decades as I viewed the campus and my classmates in a time warp.
There were other adjustments too. College girls now were sporting blue jeans and serious jewelry; my female classmates, like me, all wore braids or buns with prayer coverings.
Our class gift was the donation of the campus’ first piano. Now there was a magnificent pipe organ in the sanctuary, string ensembles playing folksy tunes, and (gasp!) a theatre department.
“Scatter seeds of loving deeds . . . till we are gathered home at last.” Walking Roots Band
Yes, we have all changed. The institution has changed too, outwardly at least, but the mission of the university has remained the same: commitment to rigorous academics with an invitation “to follow Christ’s call, to bear witness to faith, serve with compassion, and walk boldly in the way of nonviolence and peace” in true Anabaptist Mennonite tradition. The motto that was displayed front and center in the sanctuary of the chapel when I was a student still remains: Thy Word is Truth John 17:17.
Shirley Hershey Showalter and I have been getting acquainted in the blog world by visiting each other’s websites since March 2013. In September of this year her memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets and Glittering World was published and she has been on a whirlwind book tour, yet she made time for us to meet and visit over breakfast at her home in Harrisonburg, VA on the edge of the EMU campus.
Her breakfast room and office space overlook the gorgeous Massanutten Mountains. The office space includes what you would expect from a college English professor, turned college president and now author–tons of books and orderly files. However, I discovered that there is a special chair where she weaves the magic: a red upholstered swivel chair facing the mountain view. No wonder her book sings!
“I promise: you will be transported,” says Bill Moyers of her memoir. Part Mennonite in a Little Black Dress, part Growing Up Amish, and part Little House on the Prairie, this book evokes a lost time in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, when a sheltered little girl with big dreams entered a family and church caught up in the midst of the cultural changes of the 1950s and `60s.
Her website and blog: http://www.shirleyhersheyshowalter.com
Carolyn reports that she loves, loves, loves the book and has underlined certain passages and even inserted little pink sticky notes to earmark special pages. (Stickies concealed for photo!) Carolyn’s name was chosen in a drawing by commenting on my review of Shirley new book: Book review and Contest
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