The Seattle Times wrote this week that students at Seattle Pacific University ‘lovingly refer’ to their campus as the ‘Bubble. “Usually,” one student said, “the most exciting thing that happens around here is popcorn burning in the microwave.” The June 5th murder of an SPU student, Paul Lee, and the wounding of two others tragically altered that reality.
I know the kind of campus. My college, North Park, in the heart of Chicago, was also a safe haven. One day while I was in the library, a woman came in who was obviously not a student. She sat near me, and was nervously looking around, trying to figure out what to do with her purse while she went to go look something up. I told her, “You can leave it. No one will take it.” She looked surprised, but I knew I was right. As a history major, I had my own study carrel; I left stuff there for weeks on end–including special, primary sources borrowed from other libraries. No one ever tampered with the stuff.
Like North Park, SPU is a safe, warm, fun, supportive, urban community–an ideal place for my daughter and other students to stretch their thinking, explore options for their future, and mature in their faith. But, almost everyone associated with SPU has been hit hard in the days since the tragic shootings. The scary event is enough to burst anyone’s ‘bubble.’ Yet, as a theology professor observed, SPU is in “grief, not despair.”
The students’ and faculty’s hope in Christ is palpable. In the days following June 5th, prayer groups spontaneously erupted everywhere; worship services, large and small, took place, where the gunman was prayed for as well as the victims and their families; banners proclaiming faith and unity plaster the victim’s dorm; artwork witnessing to Christ’s love as well as the love between the students and the victims and their school plasters signs and sidewalks. Below, students at the dorm gather in a celebration of Paul Lee’s life:
My daughter, Stephanie, who missed by 30 minutes being in the lobby where the gunman killed a student and seriously wounded another, said “Now we are those people”–the people seen all too often on TV clutching each other in grief and praying in small circles. A few days later, she wrote: “I can’t believe the ways we are being loved this week!” Therapy dogs. Piglets and ponies. Cookies and strawberries and posters signed by hundreds of students at the school in Santa Barbara who experienced the same kind of pain only a few weeks ago. Security guards from other campuses in Seattle who volunteered their time at SPU to give SPU guards a break. The list could go on and on.
SPU’s ‘bubble’ has not burst. It’s been stretched and poked at, but if anything, it got bigger and encompasses more people than ever before.
Romans 5:5 says, “And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Truly, the Holy Spirit has been present at Seattle Pacific University this past week.