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Will Jesus Save Harvard?


Not everyone is trying to soothe his soul with politics or drugs these days. Christian Fellowship leaders at Harvard say that Christianity is undergoing a remarkable revival here-a revival they say is too vast to be explained solely by their own work.

Participation in the fall Christian Fellowship retreat here increased from 35 last year to 100. Meetings held by the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship (HRCF) have drawn large crowds to the Union's small dining room every Friday night. And nearly 60 students now meet daily in prayer and discussion groups to explore the meaning of Christ's teachings.

Rodney B. Petersen '71, president of HRCF, explained that fellowship members "believe in a God who knows the affairs of men." Petersen believes that God's hand is behind the current revival because, he said, "This is nothing we could do alone."

The increase in fellowship activity is reportedly widespread. Jim Mannoia of the M.I.T. fellowship said the activity of prayer groups at his school has increased "at rates that are unbelievable." Simmons Christian fellowship members say that participation in the group has tripled since last year. And the story is much the same, though less dramatic, at Boston University, Tufts, and Northcastern.

Six Wellesley women took part in Harvard's retreat in 1968, but 30 joined this year's retreat. Wellesley's Fellowship President, Ruth Ricsner, said, "Itis God working." She said many members had prayed last year and over the summer for increased activity in the fellowships.

But in addition to the work of an active God, members attribute the revival to present chaos in society. "There are a lot of mixed-up people," said Marilyn Button, head of the Jackson fellowship. "Christ brings all the areas of your life into order."

The fellowships activities are generally informal and personal, not church-oriented. Fellowship meetings-the closest approximation to formal services-consist primarily of spontaneous thoughts and prayers. Students play guitars to accompany folk hymns.

Although most of those active in the fellowships come from Protestant families, the meetings and activities are open to everyone, even those who do not accept the tenets of Christianity.

Hillel spokesman Jay R. Rothstein '71 said that the Jewish organization has also been more active this year than in the past. But Rothstein said the activity at Hillel has been a social action program which arose simply because "something has to be done," and not due to the direct influence of God.

The Rev. Richard B. Griffin '49, S.J., chaplain to the Catholic community at Harvard, said he could not generalize about an increase in Catholic activity at Harvard. "From the viewpoint of Catholicism," Griflin said, "the fellowships seem to be a little too conservative, fundamentalist, and traditional."

But fellowship president Peterson attributes the strength of his group to that very "fundamentalism" -Christianity, he said, offers a "very historic, very real, and very complete philosophy."

The fellowships have grown because 'people are looking for something to believe in," Petersen said. "We stand for true truth."

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