No one who ever sat in one of Gaymon Bennett’s American Literature survey classes could ever forget the way he made calling the attendance roster on that first day an event to be remembered. Now, after nearly 30 years of teaching myself, I am still amazed at the way he could make us laugh with him, and make us feel welcomed; help us remember each other’s names; and, set a wonderful tone for our class together! My hat is still off to you, Gaymon!
I remember him almost falling onto the podium with weeping at the wonder of God’s love.
Chapel was truly a meaningful time for me, and I have one funny and two serious memories to share. The funny memory was of the day that I was sitting fairly near the back of College Church and began to hear lots of movement noises, shuffling and then a few screams. As I looked around the congregation, I could see what would later come to be called “the wave” in sporting event crowds—when they all do a similar movement but in a wave of different timing across the crowd. “The wave” was making its way from the back of College Church to the front right down to the pews in front of the altar. It soon became clear why—numerous mice had been released from all across the back of the church and were quickly making their way down the slope of the floor, under our feet, and toward the altars in what could only be a crazed attempt to find an exit among the thousands of feet through which they were running! I’m sure this was a “bad” thing to do to those poor little mice (I really don’t like mice very much—especially near my own feet!), and I’m guessing Helen Wilson was unhappy with the students who had let those mice go and their disregard to the feelings of and threats to the little creatures. But, I must confess, after getting over the fear I first experienced at not knowing what was causing “the wave,” I laughed and laughed. Chapel was a complete loss and had to be dismissed. I don’t know who was responsible nor what sort of reprimand they received, but what a memory they all gave us!
The other two memories I have of chapel are of sermons—one by Dr. Timothy Smith and the other by Dr. Sheryl Munn. Dr. Smith spoke in a Wiley Lecture Series, I believe, as part of our chapel, and he preached on the love of God—a love so astounding that one simply couldn’t resist responding back in love. I remember him almost falling onto the podium with weeping at the wonder of God’s love. He was just supposed to be giving a lecture, and he was overcome with the love of Jesus! Thanks be to God, I’ve now lived long enough in my journey with Jesus to have experienced the same thing—being overcome with the love and truth of God while I was reading a poem or giving a lecture to a class. But then I was young and Dr. Smith’s authenticity and vulnerability moved me. I’ve never forgotten that lecture or him!
On a similar note, when Dr. Munn preached about Jesus being a feminist—about how Jesus treated the women he encountered in his ministry here on earth—I drank in every word. The tape of his chapel sermon was the only tape of chapel I ever bought. I think I still have it somewhere in the dusty boxes of cassette tapes long since stored away to make room for newer technologies. His sermon was probably the first that gave me permission to imagine and create a life of faith that interwove my faith in Jesus and my belief in the need to resist women’s oppression with all the work of my life.