Readers who love music know that a revolution has taken place in the world of A Cappella. Years ago, in the United States, A Cappella meant Barbershop four part harmonizing, and those of us who were children in the early years of the twentieth century remember the Barbershop groups that used to delight us all with old standards in those wonderful blends. Occasionally a group would transition to the pop charts, as did the female Barbershop quartet, The Chordettes, which was founded in 1947 by the daughter of the then president of The Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. This rare group of women shouldered its way through the male-dominated movement, winning a spot on the Arthur Godfrey show (the Jay Leno of his day) while still competing in quartet conventions, and ended up partnering with the legendary bandleader Archie Bleyer to record such classic chestnuts as “Mr. Sandman.”
Like so much today, A Cappella is still with us, but it has been transformed. Electrified by the heady combination of such world influences as South Africa’s missionary-inspired Mbube movement, the gospel stylings of southern U.S. choirs, and jazz vocals from the Mills Brothers in the 1920s through the ‘50s Lambert, Hendricks & Ross to the late ‘60s Doo Wop through the ‘90s Manhattan Transfer, today’s A Cappella has hit the college campuses and broken out of the straight jacket of four parts. Mainely A Cappella’s Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) series is a year by year summary of samples from privately pressed student-led groups of unbelievable intensity and breath-taking harmonies, full of energy, taste, and flair. With a digital recorder, young college and university women and men, reared in church and high school choirs (see also their Best of High School A Cappella [BOHSA]), are arranging and performing their own arrangements and even compositions at their own initiative and the results are refreshing and electrifying. Do-it-yourself is what music has always really been about.
I write this by way of introduction to the present issue—another first for us at Priscilla Papers. Readers who like myself regularly check out each biographical paragraph to learn a little about the authors will notice that we have been working occasional contributions from seminary and graduate students from our constituency in among the heavy hitting professors, pastors, and independent scholars that Priscilla Papers regularly features. Our reason is that we want to use our pages in two directions: to edify our readers with the best groundbreaking information we can muster, while we develop the leaders of the future from the best and brightest of our advanced degree students. Most outstanding student contributions are class papers, which are, therefore, near publishing-ready as vetted and corrected juried works (often recommended to us by stunned professors who, after discovering these carefully crafted gems in the sludge pile of hastily thrown together night-before-assembled student assignments, pause and remember why we all went into teaching in the first place and want to share their joy and their bounty with the world). Since I had the blessing to become editor, Mary Brondyke pioneered this movement for us, and, due largely to the impact of her outstanding piece, we never looked back.
Recently, however, much like discovering the Best of College A Cappella, we have been discovering the Best of College Egalitarian Writing. Fresh young scholars have begun sending us their best work, in addition to their professors forwarding it to us. If I had been thinking that seminary students are the voice of the egalitarian future, I have now discovered a voice echoing closely behind them. Why not listen to the best of all these voices and hear where egalitarian scholarship will be going in the mid-twenty-first century when our present voices dim? In these bold papers written by late teenagers and early twenty-somethings, we may very well be hearing our future spokespeople.
So, what are the statements we have gathered for you?
As every good school year opens with orientation for new and returning students, our opening piece is our word of orientation to set us all looking in the right direction with a reminder of what higher education is supposed to be all about—a preparation for life and ministry. These wise words from Professor DesAnne Hippe were shared this year with the graduating women at Bethel Seminary. They echo all the best words given across the educational landscape from high school to college to graduate school commencements, and they remind us once again what was the point of all this work: to be able to discern ourselves and our gifts more accurately with God’s vision. Following these, our first author, Leah Welch of Bethel University, reintroduces us all to a woman who saw the point of education so clearly that she created an educational model in 1792 that is still impacting us today. Next, Justin Miller of Bethel Seminary takes us down another historical path, exposing a fascinating shift in the gender debates that puts some context on today’s struggles. Alexander Bearden of Bethel University follows with an interesting and insightful perspective on the possibility of reading 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 with an egalitarian exegesis. Jessica Buzzell, our poet, is our freshest face, being an incoming freshman at Taylor University. Jess shares some poems from the heart, reminding us again that college is a time for discovering who exactly it is that God has created each of us to be. The beautiful and intriguing flower photograph is by Gordon College junior Jonathan Camery-Hoggatt, who also contributed our cover photograph of Gordon College women and men. Finally, Gordon College’s Brynn Camery-Hoggatt and Nealson Munn turn some of that penetrating analysis outwards as they go a couple of tough rounds with John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. All in all, expect keen insight and energetic zest, all in a mix of satisfying scholarship. Egalitarian thinking is alive and well and, like a Christian college choir, in harmony with God’s truth.