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Students: Why CMU?

Housekeeping

In his encounters with CMU students, Chris Marchand had noticed that certain core values, such as food equity, social justice, simplicity, and connections between Christian faith and creation-care were consistently reflected in conversation. But it was not until last Thursday—at breakfast, as it happens—that he began to realize why these students so consistently showed real, day-to-day conviction on such issues.

“The first place I noticed it, the depth and authenticity, was in your cafeteria,” he says.

 

This summer, from July 3-6, CMU hosted the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly, which drew some 500 people from across Canada to the university’s Shaftesbury campus—including Dr. Chris Marchand of Niverville, MB.

Marchand presently serves as pastor to the Niverville Community Fellowship church, a constituent of Mennonite Church Canada. Prior to beginning his pastoral ministry, Marchand taught for 10 years at another local college as Professor of Youth Leadership. Due perhaps in part to these roles, Marchand has interacted with quite a few CMU students over the years.

In his encounters with CMU students, Marchand had noticed that certain core values, such as food equity, social justice, simplicity, and connections between Christian faith and creation-care were consistently reflected in conversation. But it was not until last Thursday—at breakfast, as it happens—that he began to realize why these students so consistently showed real, day-to-day conviction on such issues.

“The first place I noticed it, the depth and authenticity, was in your cafeteria,” he says.

“It was in the little things, but it struck me quite clearly: The way the cafeteria is set up, the way people go up to get their meals, the kitchen’s attention to waste reduction. I noticed green efforts too—the small stacks of disposable dishes are biodegradable, placed inconspicuously to encourage using a ceramic plate.” 

“And the food—it’s not this five-star kind of outfit a lot of universities have now; it’s better. The meals are nutritious and actually taste homemade. You can tell that the kitchen staff make an effort to use up all the odds and ends of what they have, and get creative with things. The values I had been hearing about from students are clearly reflected in your cafeteria. I think this is unique, and in my travels to schools in Canada and the US, I’ve not seen anything like it before.”

Roaming the halls later that day, Marchand was struck by the wealth of multiethnic artwork displayed throughout. Some portrayed Biblical scenes, some simply offered quiet reminders that elsewhere other people are living their own unique, colourful lives.

He noticed, too, the graduating class photos that line the walls of both academic buildings. He was surprised to see that each one featured a different theme verse for the year.

“How ironic,” he says “that a school so often referred to as more ‘liberal’ would place such a high value on Scripture.”

In the every-day physical details of CMU’s Shaftesbury Campus, Marchand saw the priorities that students talk about made manifest.  He saw deliberateness in small, unexpected places.  Ultimately, Marchand says CMU made a strong impression. “There’s an ethos to this place that’s unmistakable,” he said. “There’s something in the air.”