The offspring of a “bridal school”
“Bethany had a huge impact on my life,” said former students in the alumni gatherings after the final concert of praise, Apr. 25, 2015, at Bethany College, Hepburn, Sask. What often followed: “I met my spouse here.”
“It was a good way to get to know people,” said one alumna from the 1950s. Students learn together as equals in the classes – and in the early decades, dating was forbidden. A young woman might set her cap for a certain gent or a young farmer have designs on taking a classmate as a wife; however, they were required to interact in community, learning each other’s minds and talents before delving into each other’s hearts.
It’s not for nothing that Bible training institutions are nicknamed “bridal school” – it’s where young people often find a life partner. However, though Bethany-initiated unions may have launched generations, the effects alumni cite extend beyond their choice of life partner.
It was a time of “grounding in God’s Word,” said one alumnus after another.
Schools like Bethany that nurture mind and heart as preparation for life, not only vocational ministry were part of MB church culture. “Nearly all of our classmates went on to teacher’s college or back to the farm,” one couple from the 1950s observed.
“It was taken for granted you’d study the Bible,” said another alumnus who expected to study for one year but returned for three. “The Lord led me back!”
Over the decades, as Bethany students travelled with choirs, served at camps or interned with churches and partner agencies, they called out the next generation of disciple. Children of today looked forward to becoming students of tomorrow – just like the friendly, servant-hearted ambassadors of the college who burst into their churches and camps.
To discover the impact of Bethany College on the Mennonite Brethren denomination, you must look beyond marriages, and beyond the resumes of pastors and church planters (though you’ll certainly find evidence there).
The influence of Bethany College is written in the lives of its alumni.
You’ll find them directing Christian camps and compassion ministries, serving MCC and MB Mission around the world, and teaching in Christian schools, Bible colleges and seminaries.
But don’t stop with Christian institutions: also look for hockey coaches, non-profit board members and volunteer firefighters.
Dig into churches, and you’ll unearth a rich vein of lay leaders, the behind-the-scenes workers occupied with kingdom advancement: serving on church boards, as Sunday school teachers, on music teams, and as caregivers who show up on doorsteps with a meal, beside hospital beds with a song and a Bible, and in living rooms or coffee shops with a shoulder to cry on.
The little Bible college on the Prairies has done more than matchmake Christian young people. It has spread the mission of God in the world by nurturing disciples and equipping leaders to serve.