It is 9:50 on a Sunday night and the church bells are ringing, calling students away from their homework and paper writing. The bells announce a Taizé meditation service is about to begin at First Church on Centre College’s campus. The service, called “Get Centred,” is intended to bring busy students from their academic and social lives and ‘centre’ themselves on Christ.
Around this campus in Danville, Ky., you will see and hear the seemingly misspelled word centre often: Get Centred, Front and Centre News, and The College Centre. But, the founders of Centre College were quite right in choosing the proper British spelling of center for the college’s name. Not only does the campus sit on the former geographical center of Kentucky, but also the students tend to gravitate to the center of the political spectrum and find a central balance among academic and extracurricular demands. But most importantly, in congruence with the ideals of the college’s Presbyterian founders, Centre does not want students to lose sight of God in the whirlwind of college, but instead centre their lives on God.
Centre’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church may not be obvious to the outside observer. The Christian and Presbyterian connection is found in Centre’s morals and ideals. Centre fosters a well-rounded student body that excels in academics. Centre prides itself on being a place of “Personal Education, Extraordinary Success,” and that success begins in the classroom. In Centre’s small classes with top professors, students get personal attention and a diversity of opportunities, ranging from studying biology in the coral reefs of the Bahamas to playing in a professor’s bluegrass band. Centre has produced numerous Rhodes scholars and Fulbright recipients and continues to get thousands of bright young applicants each year. But underlying Centre’s academic success is this foundation: Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word can be explored through Centre Christian Fellowship, CCF, which is the largest organization on campus and has strong support from the nearby Presbyterian church. First Church has opened its doors to all students, not only on Sunday mornings, but also with the “Get Centred” program in the evening, the “Second Wind” dinner and lecture series, and even the quiet study rooms available during finals. It would be hard for a student to miss the Presbyterian influence on campus.
In addition, Centre prides itself as having wonderful service opportunities for all students. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). Many Centre students have heeded that call from God and have invested countless hours in local organizations as well as national philanthropies. Centre Action Reaches Everyone (CARE) is the second largest organization on campus and thrives on serving those in need. CARE sent students to New Orleans after Katrina and sends students to the local elementary schools to tutor children, too. CARE has touched families through something as wonderful as a new home with Habitat for Humanity, to something as small as a new toy for a needy child at Christmas. CARE’s impact has been significant in touching lives, even my own. No one after lighting a lamp covers it or hides it, but puts in on a stand so all may see (Luke 8:18) . I have been a proud member of CARE for four years now, and with each day my heart grows warmer from helping those less fortunate than myself.
Centre is a place where leaders emerge. Whether leading a club or organization on campus, or taking the Introduction to Leadership class taught by President John Roush, Centre produces students who learn to lead and succeed. But behind the quest for success are the words of Jesus Christ who said, Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). My own commitment to service leadership has led to me to Teach For America after graduation.
To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). My father gave me this Bible memory verse when I was confirmed in my home Presbyterian church. I know that God has blessed me in so many ways and that I am required to use my gifts for the glory of God. I know God had a plan for me when I enrolled at Centre College four years ago. God knew that going to college would not only make my knowledge of the world increase, but also at Centre my love of service and my leadership skills would grow strong under the nurture of the Presbyterian Church. God knew that Centre College was the place for me to become the woman he wanted me to be, while keeping my life centred on Christ.
Laura Behrendt graduated from Centre College in spring 2009 with a degree in anthropology and sociology, and a minor in religion. She is currently beginning a one-year term of service among needy children through Americorps.