RINGING TRUE: RING BY SPRING

A story about post-college marriages and the opinions held by various students on Gordon College’s campus

BY SHANNON PETERSEN

The stereotype of Christians: they get married too young. Being a Christian evangelical college, this stereotype also rings true on Gordon College’s campus.

“Ring By Spring” is a phrase thrown around during Gordon College’s orientation. Expectant students fill the Chapel to hear D. Michael Lindsay’s presidential address and some start to think, ‘I wonder if my future spouse is in here?’

Freshmen year is filled with murmurings of friends getting asked to coffee. Then it starts. Relationships begin and newsfeeds fill with pictures of couples. Some end quickly, others endure. But toward the spring of senior year, statuses start to change. Every few months, knee deep in a senior capstone project, you’ll go on Facebook and see a new status. After looking through dozens of beautiful engagement photos, there is only one thing everyone is wondering: “Who’s next?”

Above: Aly Towle and Brandon Bonville

Brandon Bonville (’15) and Aly Towle (‘15) are preparing for their wedding coming up this summer. Both being seniors at Gordon, this couple fits the Gordon mold of those who get engaged before graduation.

Coming into college, Bonville had expectations for the future. “I’m kind of a romantic and definitely thought that my soul mate was going to be waiting for me in college,” says Bonville. Although the couple met at a summer camp instead of Gordon, Bonville is still excited that his dream is becoming a reality. “We are incredibly excited to be getting married this summer and to be starting a totally new chapter of our lives,” says Bonville.

Since their early engagement in the fall, many others have followed suit: Claire Brooks & Andy Guthrie, Nathan Levad & Susanna Lincoln, Jordan Heckelmann & Emily Wilson, David Egeler & Catherine Francis, Hans Miersma & Rebecca Brule, and Allee Keener & Shaun Roach. Some Gordon seniors have also gotten engaged to non-Gordon affiliated students, such as: Victoria Cottle and Will Fortier.

But this isn’t just a new phenomenon at Gordon. Young post-college marriages within this specific Christian evangelical circle have been a point of contention for many years now. “When I went to Gordon, this couple got married because they couldn’t wait. Gordon didn’t have married housing back then so they had to live in separate dorms,” says Gordon alum, Mina Deckert (’86). “Yeah, they always wore the same thing. Like the same Christmas sweater!” says Deckert’s college roommate, Karyn Thompson (’86).

Above: Claire Brooks and Andy Guthrie on their engagement night

Even with all the Gordon relationships now, a lot of the engaged couples didn’t think it would turn out this way. “Never in a million years did I think I would find Andy in college, but God most definitely had other plans. He is good, always,” says Claire Brooks (’15).

Catherine Francis was also doubtful that she would find her husband at Gordon and fearful of becoming just another statistic. “I actually had promised myself that I wouldn’t marry someone right out of college. Of course I thought that I would date in college, but I saw the divorce rates for Gordon alum were higher than the country. I was adamant that that wouldn’t be me,” says Francis (’15). However, the divorce rates of Gordon alum have not been measured.

Other Gordon seniors have also recognized this. “One of my friends babysits for a married couple who went to Gordon, and they say most of their friends who got engaged during college are unhappy and are getting divorced” says Mikah Baker (’15).

Peering into the Gordon bubble, many outsiders sit back and judge the inner circle, claiming that Christians get married too young. “What is with all these Christians getting married so young?” says Debbie Petersen, a local of the North Shore who is not affiliated with a church.

When compared to other schools, Gordon certainly differs in the number of marriages after college. “I actually don’t know anyone from UConn who has gotten married since graduating,” says Natalie St. Denis, current senior at UConn. “I know my boss is 30 and went to UConn and got married when he was 26ish. I think that’s about the earliest I know of.”

Abel Cherian (’15), senior class representative, has also noticed this difference. “It’s not surprising here, but step outside and people are completely surprised.”

Why the difference? St. Denis alludes to the fact that it might be because of the bond of faith. “I think that faith creates a bond that is way stronger than any kind of bond that can exist where faith does not. That gives Christian couples the confidence in their relationship that doesn’t exist in other places,” says St. Denis.

But according to some, “Ring by Spring” might be creating more dating pressure. “I’ve been dating my boyfriend since freshman year and a few people have explicitly said we should get married. It’s always a bit awkward because I feel like people are expecting us to get married. I just feel a bit too young to tie the knot,” says Baker.

This stigma can also be unhealthy for singles at Gordon. “50% of the reason I thought you went to college was to find a husband or wife,” says Casey Beardslee (’15). “Now that I’m graduating Gordon and didn’t find a significant other, I am somewhat disappointed.”

Even still, Cherian is able to look at the situation objectively. “There are a lot of pros and cons of getting married right out of college. Pros are that you meet your significant other and have a lot of time to connect and grow in your youth, but cons are you lack experience, especially financially,” says Cherian.

Cherian further suggests we should look at couples’ motivations to get married. “Are they doing it because it’s the thing to do or because this is absolutely the right person?” says Cherian. He goes on to say that a practical way to determine this is to look at how long a couple has been dating.

Right: One of Catherine Francis’ and David Egeler’s engagement photo

Some others would speculate that rather than looking at people’s ages, maybe the most important factor is the confidence they have. “I think the most exciting thing for me is having the confidence that David is the man God picked out for me. I have no fear of being married to him or any doubts that this was all part of God’s perfect plan,” says Francis.

But what is the overall consensus on Gordon’s campus? Some believe the attitude on campus is a disapproving one. “I’ve seen mixed responses on friends getting engaged. The disapproving response is tied to the idea that couples may be too young,” says Mei Wu (’15).

However, Brandon, Claire and Catherine say they have all been greeted with excitement and encouragement from the Gordon community. “People always tell us they are so excited and are praying for us through this transition and journey,” says Francis.

With this exciting adventure ahead, it’s better to plunge forward and not look back. Even with the stigma of “Ring By Spring” looming in the distance and the heap of statistics piling up, we should strive to lift up those who have chosen marriage, and continue to be hopeful that their relationship is firmly grounded in the unwavering guidance of the Lord.

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