There are few classes that are required of every student at Bethel College, and only one that is required for every student, every semester that they attend Bethel. Convocation occurs at 11 am on Mondays and Fridays. There are 28 scheduled convocations, of which a student must attend 16.Convocation topics vary widely. Favorites of students include the study abroad convocations, during which students who have spent a summer or semester abroad report on their experiences; talent show convocations featuring singing, dancing, or instrumental music; and the Messiah Sing convocation, when students get together and sing Handel’s Messiah at the Bethel College Mennonite Church.

This semester, two very interesting convos occurred back-to-back. Last Friday was the study abroad convocation. This past year, almost a dozen students studied in almost as many countries – Germany, Turkey, Israel, Ecuador, Spain, Australia, Guatemala, Greece, and India among them. The students spoke for about five minutes apiece on their experiences, sharing photographs, stories, and a unilateral exhortation to study abroad.

Today’s convocation was a precursor to the Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival (commonly called “Winfield”). A husband-and-wife duo from Nashville (Tim May and Gretchen Priest May) came to entertain us for an hour with their deft fingers and mastery of at least 3 instruments apiece. We heard later than Tim could play as many as twenty different instruments! They played several Irish reels, classic bluegrass tunes, and more modern flatpicking compositions. Tim and Gretchen clearly enjoyed entertaining us, and we very much appreciated their presence – judging by the amount of applause at the end of each song, the Mays were well-liked by all.

Convocation is a great way to expand one’s horizons and listen to speakers and entertainers that would not normally be available to the average person. Over the years, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from many well-known individuals, from peace activists to symphony conductors to academics in nearly every field to some of our very own students, professors, and staff! The convocation syllabus is always very well rounded, with much thought put into the speakers and entertainers.