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Collection created of student-written devotionals on the nativity story, traditional advent themes

The George Fox University Office for Spiritual Life has been distributing a scriptural reading during advent for the past few years, but this winter, university pastor Jamie Noling-Auth was inspired to take a new approach.

The result is the "Advent Project," a collection of daily devotionals and meditations, written entirely by undergraduate students for the weeks leading up to and through Christmas.

"We really liked the student-centered piece of it," Jamie Johnson, associate university pastor for chapel programs, said. "I think that gives it, for a lot of the community, a little more meaning."

Spiritual Life staff came up with their own list and requested suggestions from staff for students to approach about being contributors. That list was a bit longer than the 25 needed for the project, but Johnson said he was a bit surprised that everyone that was asked agreed to participate.

In addition to a feeling of honor, it seems there was also a sense of surprise on the part of the students, who represent a wide range of majors and class standing.

"As they have looked through it and seen the submissions that their peers have written, what I've heard from them is just a great sense of feeling like they contributed to something that was really meaningful," Johnson said. "There were a couple who said they had never done a writing like that before and to realize they could and that it would be meaningful to other people was a surprise to them, but also something that they really valued."

The collection is organized around passages of the nativity story from the gospel of Luke, with students given the choice to write about either the particular scripture or theme (hope, peace, joy and love) given for each week.

The student contributors — Maricruz Arias, Abby Baker, Jamie Barrett, Maggie Bolden, Zak Buckles, Josh Cayetano, McKenna Dean-Hill, Sarah Gibbs, Jacqueline Hazlett, Nehemiah Heye, Tavin Headings, Emma Jorgensen, Shea Krevi, Sienna Lundeen, Kearsten McCoy, Rachel Nguyen, Tanner Nicholls, Kaleb Puckett, Jenna Richards, Zack Tewksbury, Emma Turner, Johnny Walker, Hannah Wagar, Emily-Lynn Warren, Alicia Wolverton and Gracie Woolard — also devised and submitted their own reflection questions. The design work was done by Sophia Zempel.

"We didn't have to do a lot of editing work on it," Johnson said. "The submissions were really great."

The Office for Spiritual Life distributed PDF versions via email and posted the collection on its website (http://bit.ly/2AthY9f), but limited the amount of printed copies.

"We've had a great response to it," Johnson said. "I imagine that in the future there could be something where physical copies are created."

Johnson added that perhaps staff and faculty could be included if the project becomes a new tradition on campus.

That seems to be a distinct possibility, especially because of how useful the collection is for students, especially, during the first couple of weeks of advent.

"The mental energy that they are exerting is all geared toward their finals," Johnson said. "One of the things I've been impressed with about our students is wanting to engage their spiritual lives, but when the tyranny of the urgent is upon them during finals, to have something readily made for them is really valuable."

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