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“Learning and a Loss of Innocence”: Messiah College in the 1960s

What was it like to be a Brethren in Christ student at Messiah College during the turbulent 1960s? Mary (Walters) Ebersole, a 1968 graduate of the college and a long-time member of the Brethren in Christ Church, recounts her experiences in an interview posted on the Messiah College website.

Here’s a taste:

When we were at Messiah [College], especially when we were becoming seniors in about ’68 . . . we just kept saying to each other, “We feel like hothouse plants here. Because the real world is happening out there, and we’re sorta on the fringes looking on, because we feel like we’re safe, because our college is a Christian college and our college allows us the option of being conscienciously opposed to war because of our religious beliefs.” And yet we were very passionate about what was happening in Vietnam, and we didn’t want to sit on the sidelines. . . .

I remember that feeling of loss, losing innocence — that I had been raised in the kind of family . . . where . . . you were taught to respect authorities, and come to find out that authorities were sometimes not worthy of respect, and that you might want to stand against what they propose — that was just totally not like anything in my background. I felt disobedient. I felt rebellious. I don’t think I looked that way to casual observers, but I felt like that I was how I was being seen . . .

. . . whenever we would question some decision by a government official or authority or — even the head of something else, I mean, we questioned all the way up and down the line, even questioning our parents’ authority — my mom, her comeback would always be, “Well, your trouble is you grew up during Vietnam!” . . . Kind of like it messed with our heads.

Listen to the full interview.