by Mary Amelia Taylor, Associate VP for Marketing & Communications
The second day of spring classes at Judson College was rainy and damp, but the warmth and excitement of the Judson community was alive and well. Between classes, students and staff offered cheery greetings to those they met on Judson’s sidewalks, and students jumped into their classes and activities with renewed vigor.
“We have another chance to be on campus and make it the best semester yet!” Student Government Association President Anna Johnson said, at Thursday’s Welcome Back Assembly in Alumnae Auditorium.
The idea of appreciating moments and opportunities emerged as the theme of the assembly. As the Judson community paused at the beginning of this new semester, student leaders and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stacey G. Parham led those in attendance in a time of reflection on the events of 2020 and anticipation and gratitude for the new year.
Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, Hurricane Zeta, and the College’s financial crisis in late 2020, Parham said, “This has felt like the year of uncertainty.” But, Parham offered, there is much to be grateful for and much to inspire hope: “The blessing in that uncertainty is that we have a hope; we have a future; we have a Savior; we have a loving God; we have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to God…We can find support and encouragement from fellow believers; we can find direction and inspiration by reading God’s Word. We can lay our anxieties and stresses at Jesus’s feet, and He will take those burdens for us. We can praise; we can worship; we can rejoice every day; and we have all that to be thankful for, even in this time of uncertainty.”
“These challenging times have really taught me that you never know what the future holds,” said senior Student Ministries council member Jessica Knowles. “Although the future may not be clear, we can have faith that it’ll be God’s plan for each and every one of our lives,” Knowles said. “I’ve been holding this verse close: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight.’” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Stephanie Woodard, a junior on the Student Ministries Council, told her story about her path to Judson via two other colleges. She shared a Bible verse that “got me through all those different times of transition.. I feel like we are currently in one of those times of transition and uncertainty now, and all of us are having to deal with that in a different way. James 1:2-4 says: ‘Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance, and you should let perseverance do its full work, so that you be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’”
Discussing the events of 2020 and her Judson experience, Woodard said, “I kept having to go back to this verse. I feel like I finally found my place at Judson; I feel like I found my voice. Here I was taught how to get involved and not to waste the time that was put in front of me, because time is a gift from God.”
Knowles exclaimed, “Through all these times–COVID, the hurricane, the water, and not even knowing if we’re going to come back or not–we could be on the poster for people who shouldn’t take things for granted!”
Johnson encouraged the Judson student body to “take advantage of the opportunities that come to you on this campus, whether that’s filling a leadership role, participating in the activities that different organizations provide, or just spreading the word about different things happening on campus.” (One of those activities was an SGA-sponsored Coffee & Karaoke night in the Student Center Thursday night.)
Senior Class President Ashlee Kendrick continued this encouragement of her sisters to be involved in activities on campus. “We’re back! All the traditions that are happening this semester are going to be wonderful, because we’re all so excited to be back here. I would like to remind you to not take these traditions for granted…The Spirit of Judson is so important because it’s you all. You are the people that keep it alive and well.”
Senior Class Song Leader Kassidy Giles closed the gathering by leading the student body in singing “There’ll Always Be a Judson”, a traditional Step Sing song introduced by the Class of 1948, whose time as Judson students was also marked by uncertainty. Between 1944 and 1948, World War II finally came to an end, and then Jewett Hall burned to the ground 50 days before the beginning of the fall semester.
Borrowing the tune and adapting the lyrics of the WWII victory song, “There’ll Always Be An England,” the Class of 1948 contributed these words to Judson’s collective memory, and it was those words referenced most often in social media posts by current students in 2020.
“There’ll always be a Judson
Where there’s a glow of love,
Wherever there’s a peaceful soul
Who loves the Lord above.
There’ll always be a Judson
Where there’s a truth to keep;
Wherever there is one, there’s all – a million marching feet.
The spirit, too – what does it mean to you?
Surely you’re proud! Shout it out loud, showing the way!
And Judson, too, we can depend on you;
Goodness remains, these are the chains nothing can break!
There’ll always be a Judson,
And Judson will ever be,
If Judson means as much to you
As Judson means to me.”