Written by Tyler Lee
“Rain is just a detail. God is sovereign,” Montreat College president Paul Maurer said at the dedication ceremony for the newly renovated McAlister Fitness Center. The ceremony, held at 9:00 a.m. on Oct. 3 was the perfect summation of the entire Homecoming & Family Weekend, which welcomed alumni back to Montreat College on Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3, 2015.
Rain began over a week before the festivities were scheduled to begin. On the Wednesday before Homecoming, it appeared as if it would finally stop. This was not the reality. Hurricane Joaquin soon approached the east coast, bringing torrential downpours and terrible flooding to countless areas (we continue to pray for areas of South Carolina that were hardest hit). The rain also left alumni returning to Montreat in a continuous state of soaking wet, messed up hair, and drenched socks. The rain easily could have dampened the spirits of those returning to Montreat, but the weekend felt just as vibrant as if it was a sunny day outside.
No matter the weather or the circumstances, homecoming is a time to make memories, a time to remember, a time to reflect on what once was and what God is presently doing. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” says the Teacher in Ecclesiastes. “[There is] a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Montreat College is a place to experience the full spectrum of life, in all of its highs and lows. Homecoming shows the ever-present reality of time and how God has hand-carved us.
Several of this year’s main homecoming events were centered on athletics. With a newly renovated McAlister Fitness Center and the new athletic complex continuing to progress, the amount of advancement in athletics demands attention, particularly for those returning to Montreat who have not seen the tangible transformation. The athletic events included not only alumni games, but also the dedication ceremony of the fitness center and an induction ceremony that welcomed Montreat alumnus Trey Aycock into the college’s Hall of Fame. The new fitness center is a particularly incredible change and helps focus on the idea that, as President Maurer stated, “the education we offer is for the whole person.” Physical health must accompany the intellect in education; otherwise, it is impossible for one to fully flourish. With new lighting, paint, windows, and equipment, the new and recurring athletic programs will thrive and be allowed to stretch themselves physically more than ever.
“This space represents something larger than the physical equipment,” Maurer said at the dedication. “It represents hope.” Hope was a recurring theme throughout the entire weekend, visible through even traditional events such as the barbecue dinner, square dance, and coffeehouse.
Much has changed since many alumni attended Montreat; however, countless things remain timelessly true. I was privileged to speak to countless returning alumni, and they reflected on their time at Montreat and how things have changed, with their answers ranging from parking to changes in faculty and students.
“[Montreat] looks the same, except with the parking. There were not many vehicles or anything. And it was always raining when I was here, but not this bad!” Jeanette Johnson of the class of 1956 reflected.
To say that Montreat has changed since 1956 is a drastic understatement. Vehicles are the least of the change that has occurred, especially considering that in 1956, Montreat was still a four-year women’s college. The current year is unique in that Montreat has welcomed the highest class since the college’s establishment as a four-year baccalaureate institution in 1986. And it is crucial to look back at the legacy of those before us.
“Most of the people I knew were in choir together with Mr. Madsen for two years and were in Bible study groups,” an alumnus from the class of 1965 said. “It’s very special to renew those bonds even though we haven’t seen each other in 40 years.”
Montreat is home for those who come here. In these mountains, students meet like-minded people who often become lifelong friends, friends that reunite even 50 years or more down the road. This is what makes homecoming such a unique time; it is an opportunity to reflect on where we are in light of where we have been. Montreat’s alumni are perfect representatives of the massive transformation this college has undergone. Just as every individual person experiences incredible change in their lives, every student leaves a legacy in their time here that touches every future student. Every choice made, every paper written, every goal made influences the college and leaves an example that will continue for generations to come.
“There is definitely more positivity about the future of the school,” Harrison Northey of the class of 2015 said.
Even recent alumni can see that God is continuing to work at Montreat College, and alumni for years to come will continue to see all the work that declares “God is good.”
Rain, like the many ultimately minuscule things that swarm the busyness of our lives, is just a detail. In the end, rain is not just a detail, but a beautiful part of God’s creation and yet another signpost of His infinite goodness. God’s goodness, as Brennan Manning says so brilliantly, “calls us to sing of the everyday mysteries of intimacy with God instead of always seeking for miracles or visions. It calls us to sing of the spiritual roots of such commonplace experiences as falling in love, telling the truth, raising a child, teaching a class, forgiving each other after we have hurt each other, standing together in the bad weather of life…and the radiance of existence.”
What appears to be bad weather is only another opportunity to embrace the all-encompassing grace of the Lord. In the reality of living each day out in God’s infinite grace, every day has the newness of coming home again.