9/4/2012 - 97th Annual Rose Sunday Marks New Academic Year at Judson College
By Michael J. Brooks
Participants in Judson College's 97th annual "Rose Sunday" service on Aug. 26 were happy to find a clear morning, though threatened by Hurricane Isaac, as they walked the few blocks from the college to Siloam Baptist Church.
Many students donned white gloves, and some wore hats, for the traditional procession and worship service marking the commencement of the new academic year.
Rose Sunday was first observed on Sept. 19, 1915 but has its origins much earlier in a tradition begun by the founder and first college president Milo P. Jewett. Jewett underscored the value of Sunday worship service attendance by rapping his cane at the bottom of the stair railing in the students' dormitory to 'encourage' them to walk with him to Siloam every Sunday.
Judson seniors began the day, appropriately in front of Jewett Hall, by passing through a woven ivy chain, crafted and held by the underclassmen in their honor--another long-standing tradition at the college. Each senior wore her academic regalia and a single red rose, the college's signature flower.
Judson president Dr. David Potts, with many faculty and staff members, then led the procession to the church.
Members of Siloam Baptist Church met earlier in the day in order to accommodate the Judson students, faculty and staff at the traditional late morning worship time.
As has been his custom in his presidential address, Potts brought laughter from the crowd by reading some "general regulations" from early college catalogues:
Students had to have permission from the principal to leave campus, to receive any magazines or newspapers and to open accounts in Marion. They were allowed to spend no more than fifty cents per month from their "pocket money." Letters were subject to inspection unless written to parents or guardians, and two offenses merited expulsion: dipping snuff and "communicating with unmarried gentlemen."
Further, Potts noted that a "regular course" in 1911 cost $20.00 and board was $15.00 per month. Campus dress was rigorously prescribed and students were issued two green, two pink and two white uniforms.
Potts then turned to the purpose of the day, noting that the college's namesake, Ann Judson, is a worthy role model for current students.
Ann Hasseltine grew up in Salem, Mass., and, though raised in a Christian home, found Christ in a deeper way at age 16 during the Second Great Awakening, Potts said. She later recorded in her diary, "When I was thus enabled to commit myself into the hands of Christ, my mind was relieved from that distressing weight which had borne it down for so long a time."
Ann also wrote about a conviction to "try to be useful" in God's work. This conviction bore fruit when she met a Christian teacher named Adoniram Judson. Adoniram and Ann married on Feb. 5, 1812 and set sail for India on Feb. 19. Theirs was the last ship to leave Salem harbor before the outbreak of the War of 1812. En route to India, the Judsons came to the conviction that immersion baptism as taught by Baptists was correct, so they returned funds to the Congregationalists and asked American Baptists for support. After missionaries were told to leave India, the Judsons sailed for Rangoon, Burma.
"They labored for six years before their first convert," Potts said. "But they proved their genius as linguists, learning and translating one of the most difficult languages in the world, giving the Burmese the gift of God's word."
Potts noted that Ann kept her husband alive when he was imprisoned and accused of being a British agent. She visited him daily and bribed the guards to provide food for him. Throughout those years of suffering, Ann Judson repeated her motto, "Bless God and take courage."
Potts said that the Judson's continuing influence is seen at the college. Judson's first Burmese student, Ruth Aung Ra Saga, is from the Kachin tribe where ninety percent of the people claim Christ as Savior. Saga also graduated from the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, and is now teaching in the seminary in her tribal area. A current senior, Burmese student Sau Nam, spent the summer ministering to Burmese and other nationals in Nashville. And the college welcomed her fourth Burmese student, Ja Htoi, in this academic session.
"[Many Burmese people] live eternally because of God's grace and the sacrifice of Ann Hasseltine Judson," Potts said. "What's in a name? In our case, a great deal--bless God and take courage!"
Photo: Judson senior Chelbie Greenhaw of Hazel Green, AL, prepares for the processional to Siloam Baptist Church with the final addition to her academic regalia: a rose pinned by her Judson Little Sister. Photo by Bill Mathews.