I got a surprise in the mail today.
No, I’m not crazy. Yet. This is a brick from my alma mater, Bethany University. Only when I attended there, it went by Bethany Bible College. During my sophomore year, the trustees voted to take Bible out of the name – but not the curriculum. Over the years it expanded into a Christian University. It started long ago as an institution to churn out pastors, missionaries and evangelists. The Azusa Street Revival drew young people Richard and Mary Craig, founders of the school.
Wikipedia says, since memory fails me:
It was founded in 1919 as Glad Tidings Bible Institute at 1280 Webster Street, San Francisco, California to be the training school for an inner-city ministry in San Francisco conducted by Robert and Mary Craig. It moved to Scotts Valley, California in 1950. In 1955 it became Bethany Bible College. It became Bethany University in 2005.
What the Wikipedia article does not say is the reason for Bethany’s closure in 2011. The school encountered financial mismanagement on a major scale, to the tune of millions of dollars of debt. Despite its prime location and I’m sure generous alumni and donors, it simply couldn’t keep its doors open.
The campus went on sale. Olivet University bought it, then couldn’t keep it. It sat desolate for a long time. Finally, a company called 1440 Corporation, Inc. purchased the property. They have been very gracious to those of us mourning the loss. They allowed people to come on campus and remove bricks from the now-leveled Swanson Hall. They kindly kept a wall together for us. I lived in Circus dorm my freshman year, one of 4 girls dorms in Swanson. Forty girls and 4 bathrooms. You do the math. Good times.
I saw the posts on Facebook. Bulldozed upper terrace. Flattened dining commons. Yes, the buildings had passed their prime, and yet…My heart ached. Despite the fact that Bethany closed 3 years ago, my connection to it remains. I wanted a brick. But I didn’t have the guts to ask. Was it too sentimental, holding onto something that went down in such ignominious flames? I debated with myself. Wouldn’t that brick be steeped in a sort of holy bath of prayer, from decades of prayers going up? needed a tangible reminder of what had been. Jonathon stepped up, unbeknownst to me, and bought a brick.
The small but heavy box arrived today. Excited, I called Jonathon down. Zac, Jonathon and I stood over the box. Jonathon let me open it. The box contained a lot of brown paper bags and one brick. I hefted its rough weight. I turned it over. The back of it still had mortar from the old building.
“I can take care of that,” the handy husband said.
“We should put this brick in our patio we want to make out front,”I said.
I thought about adding this historic brick to our stash. We have pavers of different shapes and a couple dozen bricks. We’ve been hoarding them, hoping to create some more outdoor space, a hardscape area for the summer. I looked at the mortar again, ancient cement that at one time had bonded this brick to its neighbor. Then I remembered all the friends I made at Bethany. Too many to list here, really, but friends for a lifetime. That tie – attending Bethany – connects us in an intangible way forever. I graduated college more than 20 years ago, but the bond remains.
The gal who volunteered to get bricks is someone I’ve never met. But Bethanites, with no fraternities or sororities, connected on a deeper level. This includes the professors and teachers. I would say it’s a “kindred spirit” sort of thing, to quote Anne of Green Gables. We all came from different backgrounds and had different reasons to be at the school; our lives took us in different directions, too. The Bethany grad who sent me the brick I doubt I’ll see in person. But the Holy Spirit who prompts us is faithful to keep us connected, down through the years, no matter what comes. That’s the “mortar” of our link.