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Advent tradition enters the third generation

December 17th, 2019

Les Goerzen with his son Peter and grandson Nathan.

Since 1986, Bethel students, staff and faculty have been inviting the wider community to join in the Lighting of the Green.

Current campus pastor Peter Goerzen has been part of this tradition for most of his life, starting from a different and special vantage point.

This year, he saw his experience come full circle.

His first memories of the event are of accompanying his father, Les Goerzen, Bethel physical plant director.

“I would follow my dad around campus beforehand as he would get all the lights shut off. Then we would go up to the third floor of the Ad Building and watch from there.”

This year, Peter Goerzen’s son, Nathan, age 5½, went with his grandpa Les to shut off the lights and watch from the Ad Building’s third floor. The 2019 Lighting of the Green was Dec. 8.

Peter Goerzen studied computer science at Bethel and participated in the Lighting of the Green each December of his four years.

He remembers that “it was moving to join the service as a student, knowing my dad was still watching from the Ad Building” – compounded this year by the fact his son was up there, too.

To light the Green, a couple hundred people line the sidewalk around the large grassy area in the center of the Bethel campus, holding lit candles.

After some Scripture reading and carol singing, everyone walks to the center of the Green to form one large “Christ candle.”

In Peter Goerzen’s opinion, the service perfectly encapsulates the values Bethel was founded on.

“[Lighting the Green] expresses much of what makes Bethel a special place – an inclusive community, with its identity rooted in a faith tradition committed to the hope and joy of the Light that still shines in the darkness.”

Bethel is a four-year liberal arts college founded in 1887 and is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Known for academic excellence, Bethel is the highest ranked Kansas private college, at #12, in Washington Monthly, Top 200 Bachelor’s Colleges; ranks at #23 in U.S. News & World Report, Best Regional Colleges Midwest; is Zippia.com’s highest ranked Kansas small college with the highest earning graduates; has the #10 RN-to-BSN program in Kansas according to RNtoBSN.com; and earned its second-straight NAIA Champions of Character Five-Star gold award, based on student service and academic achievement, all for 2019-20. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.