On Saturday, my wife and I drove to Philadelphia to participate in “A Farewell to Philly,” an event planned by Messiah College to observe the impending closing of its Philadelphia campus at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
As many readers of The Search for Piety and Obedience will know, Messiah College announced last May that it would be closing its Philadelphia campus after almost 50 years. The campus was started in 1968 by then-Messiah College President D. Ray Hostetter and his friend and educational colleague Ernest L. Boyer. In their scheme, students would live at the Messiah campus at Broad and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia, while taking the majority of their classes across the street at Temple University. At the time, it was the first and only partnership between a U.S. public university and a Christian college.
Ronald J. Sider — noted Brethren in Christ theologian and author — was recruited to serve as the program director for the campus’ earliest years. Rumor has it that Sider actually wrote most of his now-classic book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in one of the top-floor apartments at the campus!
On a personal note, I spent a full year of my undergraduate education at Philadelphia campus, so the program is near and dear to my heart. I’m very sad to see the campus close, given its important role in my own educational and personal development. Like many of my peers who lived in Philadelphia with me, I can honestly say that living, working, and learning in the City of Brotherly Love changed my life. It sensitized me to issues of economic justice and racial equality. It instilled in me a love for urban living. It introduced me to Circle of Hope, a Brethren in Christ community of which I was a part for several years. It opened my eyes to the benefits of public education at a place like Temple University, where I ended up doing my graduate work. The list could go on. I loved my years at the Philadelphia campus.
Of course, I understand the financial and administrative reasons why Messiah College decided to close the campus, and I support the decision. Saturday’s celebration provided an opportunity for catharsis — a chance to celebrate the campus’ successes and mourn its closing. Farewell, MCPC!