Is Erskine a Christian College?

One thing that I get asked a lot by family, friends, and random people I meet on elevators is whether Erskine is truly a “Christian College.” (I will clarify that the people asking me on elevators are usually those curious sorts of people who have first asked me where I go to school and what I major in.) Does Erskine really offer a Christian education? Do they truly have a combination of faith and academics?

My answer has always been yes.

No, Erskine is not one of those colleges where students are required to sign a statement of faith before attending their first day of class. But the overwhelming majority of the professors are Christians and actively striving to incorporate that faith into their teaching. Some professors choose to do this by getting to know their students on a personal basis and spending quality time as mentors. Others ask students to think about how what we are learning could apply to a Christian’s walk with Christ. Several of my professors have prayed in class before tests or lectures. It is my personal opinion that at a Christian college, even if you are not directly speaking about a faith related topic, you will see more fruits of the Spirit in people then you might anywhere else.

At Erskine there are many opportunities for students to get involved in discipleship. Besides the actual discipleship movement (which just started this year), we have ministries such as Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM), Reformed University Fellowship (RUF), Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), and a whole host of other large and small groups that students can be a part of.

My favorite times of Christian fellowship are when we all meet spontaneously. When my friend Sarah comes to my room and when we decide to read the Bible together. The times when I see Lolly in Java City and end up walking around campus for an hour talking and praying together. When Heather and I go on runs and pray together. When my roommate, Victoria, decides to share something in her life with me, and we pray together.

One of my most treasured memories from Erskine will always be from the night before the 2013 graduation. This was the year of the class ahead of mine, and I had been in a sort of weepy mood all day because I knew most of closest friends were going to graduate the next day. That afternoon the seniors had a whole bunch of ceremonies and classes, and that night was baccalaureate. Everybody was busy running around and doing the last things they wanted to do before graduation the next morning. (For our friend group this was packing, since none of us had bothered to pack pretty much anything in our dorms before that night!!)

Late that night, before all of us went to bed, we met outside in the memorial gardens for one last night of worship. They are some wooden benches out there and we all sat in a circle. There were somewhere between fifteen and twenty of us there that night, I am not sure how many. It was not formal at all, a bunch of seniors had just decided that they wanted to worship together on their last night of college and just invited whoever they saw throughout the day. We sat in the dark and had a hymn sing; whoever felt the spirit lead them to a song or a Bible verse would just start singing or speaking, and everyone else would join in if they wanted to. One of the boys brought his guitars and strummed a few simple chords to each of the songs that we sang.

That night was one of the most sincere nights of worship I have ever experienced in my whole life. The group who came was random, we were not all friends and not all of us knew each other. No one was in charge, and no one had written a script. We all contributed what was on our hearts and minds, and worshiped the Lord together. I think it will always be one of my favorite Erskine memories.

Heart of Worship

Sing, Sing, Sing

Out of all the talents God could have given me, I’m so glad He chose singing. As I look back on my life and all the opportunities I’ve had to share my voice through song, I’m thankful but I’m also disappointed.

I’m thankful because each and every opportunity has provided me with a wonderful platform to share my testimony, but I’m disappointed because there have been one too many opportunities that I’ve turned down simply because of fear of rejection or criticism.

It’s hard when you expose yourself to people through a song. The song itself becomes a part of you and you embody the lyrics and the emotions behind it. Then you present it to the audience and after that you just wait for the criticism. Of course, some of it is very constructive so that you can improve and make your craft even better. Some of it is positive which helps give you that extra confidence to keep going. But some of it is negative and it’s hard to get trapped into only focusing on the negative comments.

I say all this because it took me so long to realize that singing isn’t something I just do for fun or even something I do to minister. It’s truly my passion.

I love business. I love journalism. But i truly LOVE singing.

In a way, I don’t even want to imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life. Although, I’m not sure how realistic that is. Everyone tries to tell you can’t make it but I say that if that’s what God is preparing me for (through music theory, aural skills, and voice lessons) then so be it. Who am I to doubt God and put Him in a box? If I have a voice and song that needs to be heard, He will surely open the doors for me and allow the people that need to hear it to do just that.

As of late, God has actually opened the door for me at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Belton, SC. I went to choir practice there last night for the first time and I was immediately greeted by every one of the choir members. They prayed for me. They encouraged me. They ministered to me. It was just practice but I LOVED it and cannot wait to become even more involved with their music ministry.

The  music that goes beyond the ears and eyes and straight to the heart…that’s the kind of music I enjoy, that’s the kind of music that I hope to share with people one day, no matter how big the stage. I have a voice and I know God gave it to me to use for His glory.

A Fun Night of Music

Well, it’s that time of the semester again. Walk up to just about any Erskine student these days, and they’ll tell you, “This week I have two papers to turn in, three projects due, two tests, and a quiz.” Oh, yes, and then finals. During the rush of these last few weeks before summer, these words of Aristotle’s become particularly apt: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”

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Christine singing Sondheim's witty piece "Lovely"

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Heather singing "I Remember Sky"--this girl has an incredibly rich, full voice. Gorgeous!

In addition to approaching deadlines, innumerable concerts, events, and theater productions are taking place on the Erskine campus about this time. Balancing the academic and the social, thus, becomes quite the challenge, but I was extremely glad this past Thursday that a friend persuaded me to go to a recital put on by Erskine’s voice studios. I had vast amounts of homework waiting to be done, but I nevertheless took a break long enough to head over to the auditorium for “An Evening with Sondheim”—and I’m so glad I did!

Everyone on the program did a fabulous job, and the repertoire ranged from the stirring strains of “Johanna” and “Not While I’m Around” to more humorous selections like “Lovely” and “Children Will Listen.” It was a lot of fun to hear some extremely talented freshman sing solos for the first time. Christian and Heather sounded especially amazing, but I sadly don’t have any videos of their performances because I was too mesmerized by their singing to have the presence of mind to record it. Will—another freshman, to whom I happen to be related—gave an entertaining rendition of “Giants in the Sky,” acting as Jack from Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. All in all, it was a fun and delightful evening and worth giving up some precious study time. But now, back to the books!

The cast taking a bow at the end of the show.

Choraleers On the Move

A couple of weekends ago I went on my first Choraleers mini-tour since my return from Spain. I wasn’t exactly sure how the trip would be, since I’m still getting to know the freshmen in the group (who are wonderful, by the way) and was, *cough*, less than certain of all my notes. On Saturday afternoon, we embarked on our drive to August, Georgia, where we rehearsed at a couple of different churches and were treated to dinner by one of the host churches.

Next, we were assigned our roommates and families for our home-stays—one of the best parts of Choraleers mini-tours. Every home-stay has been different for me, and I’ve actually ended up in a couple of mansions (no, I’m not kidding—if ten girls all have their own bedrooms,  the home qualifies as a mansion) during past trips. Whatever the size of the house, though, it’s always fun to get to know different people from the congregations of the churches where we’re singing. During this most recent trip, I had the pleasure of staying with an Erskine alumna and her sweet family. We enjoyed talking about all kinds of topics over a plate of delicious cookies, but when we landed on the subject of Erskine—which involved our friend’s reminiscences about her time as a Choraleer—we just couldn’t stop talking. We had such fun–even getting to flip through old Erskine yearbooks together– that it was quite late before my fellow Choraleer and I finally realized that we’d better head to bed if we were going to be ready for our early morning performance! Despite our less-than-optimal amount of sleep, our Sunday performances—two in the morning and one in the evening—went well, and the trip in general was great fun.

Being in Choraleers has been one of my absolute favorite parts of my experience at Erskine. Honestly, I didn’t realized how much I’d missed singing with the amazing group that makes up the “Choraleer family” until I came back from Spain and felt a though a vital part of my life that had been missing was suddenly restored. What a joy it is to sing—especially once you know the notes—and what a blessing it is to be able to sing to God’s glory with good friends! We also have an amazing new director this semester, Dr. Nabholz. It’s been a lot of fun learning his directing style and seeing the musical effects of the techniques he’s teaching us.

Friends and I on Choraleers tour at Universal Studios (not where we performed...but a lot of fun) in Orlando my freshman year.

Speaking of which, I was incredibly excited recently when, in preparation for our Spring Break tour to Washington, D.C., Dr. Nabholz had us split up into mixed formation during rehearsal. This mixing of the sections resulted in my being flanked by a tenor and a bass, with a soprano directly behind me. Wow, was it amazing to hear the way all the parts meld together! It’s one thing to be in one’s own section, with a somewhat foggy idea of what each other part sounds like—but to hear the subtle contours of each other musical line? That transforms a “piece” into true music. Of course, I may, *cough*, have noted—no pun intended—that I perhaps don’t know all my notes as well as I ought. Gone is the wiggle room of being able to listen the person next to you when you’re no longer in sections. Which means someone will be frequenting the practice rooms quite a bit between now and our departure for tour. D.C., here we come!

Loving Your Neighbors

In the middle of a busy schedule and with all the accoutrements of Valentine’s Day going on around campus yesterday, a small group of students got to do something unique.  Members of the Fleetones, our male, student-led a capella group, and most of the cast of my J-term jazz show walked over to the retirement center in Due West to sing for their Valentine’s Dinner.  The Fleetones and jazz group alternated singing love songs to the residents, hitting such classics as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (The Andrews Sisters), “For the Longest Time” (Billy Joel), and “I’ll Be Seeing You”.  Another group on campus, the Athenian women’s literary society, served them dinner after the performance.

The entertainment only lasted about 45 minutes, but it was such a pleasure to be able to serve the residents, because they were so appreciative and clearly enjoyed the performance.  On a day like Valentine’s Day it is easy to get too wrapped up in your relational status – either a special someone or feeling like you don’t have someone to celebrate with.  Singing was a reminder that love comes in many more forms than just the romantic, and we all exchanged a great, warm love with the sweet men and women for whom we performed.  What a great reminder that this holiday is not just for romantic relationships, but for everyone special in our lives, including the One who loves us more than anyone else could.

However you celebrated, Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Wise Men come to Erskine

Last week was the busiest first week of J-term that I have ever had.  From the first day, moving back in on Sunday, the rehearsals began.  Every evening we rehearsed the opera at least once, every day adding something new, from the chorus to props to costumes.  On top of all these rehearsals I had all the planning and practice for my J-term project… but that is a topic for another blog.

Usually we prepare and present an opera in one semester, but this year we decided to perform first thing in January because of the Christmas theme.  Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors is set as part of the journey of the Magi on the way to visit the newborn Christ, and our Friday and Saturday night performances fell, appropriately, on the Feast of the Epiphany.  I enjoyed this timing, performing at the end of the twelve days of Christmas, because sometimes it is difficult to remember that season lasts that long.  It seems that many celebrate only through December 25, or until New Year’s.  Being part of Amahlkept me in the Christmas mindset, reminding me that those twelve days are not just part of a (slightly irritating) song, but a continuation of the celebration.

The cast of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" after our final performance.

It was nice for us to have a break before this performance, also, after all the concerts and singing that we do in the last weeks of the fall semester.  After resting our voices over Christmas, we came back and polished it up in a week.  I was a little worried that the singers (including myself) would forget some of what we did before the long break and have to scramble to re-learn some of it when we got back, but we were pleasantly surprised at how well-prepared everyone was.  By the end of the week we were ready and excited to put it before an audience, and had two nights of great performances by the cast, and two good-sized, appreciative audiences.

We had one slight mishap at the end of the second performance when our door frame began to tip over as the kings left, but the one standing below thought quickly and calmly pushed it upright again before it got too far down.  It was a good save!  It is always nerve-wracking when those unforeseen problems occur during the middle of the action onstage.  Depending on what happens, there is usually a mixture of hilarity and panic among those on stage, but no matter the outcome, it certainly makes it more entertaining for the audience!

If you would like to read a little more about our performance, here is a Net News article about the opera: http://news.erskine.edu/?p=1181

Random Moment in Europe

While we were in the beautiful city of Salzburg (place of everything Mozart), a couple of friends and I ran into a college choir from Catawba College North Carolina. Words cannot express how exciting it was to finally run into people who spoke English and were from around the same area as a majority of us in Choraleers. ha. The group had just come from Switzerland, Paris, and I believe England as well, so Germany was their last stop.

We ran into them right on time too. As we were walking, some friends and I noticed singing and when we figured out it wasn’t other people from our group we went to check it out. I’m so glad we did because it was cool to make some new friends through a common love for singing and music! We heard them sing and then this other group of men from Macedonia joined in and sang some songs. Unfortunately we didn’t have our whole choir with us or even enough to sing a selection but we did just kind of mess around with some current pop songs with them. It was pretty fun.

I have a feeling that these random moments in Europe are going to be some of the best memories of the entire trip. =D