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Convocation brings ‘life and light’ back to former NMH campus

  • Worship, testimony, word, prayer and celebration were on the agenda in the Moody Auditorium at the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield during the New England Unity Gathering on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Worship, testimony, word, prayer and celebration were on the agenda in the Moody Auditorium at the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield during the New England Unity Gathering on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Worship, testimony, word, prayer and celebration were on the agenda in the Moody Auditorium at the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield during the New England Unity Gathering on Wednesday. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Worship, testimony, word, prayer and celebration were on the agenda in the Moody Auditorium at the former Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield during the New England Unity Gathering on Wednesday. Here Cynthia Riad, class of NMH 1975, has her husband take her picture in front of the Moody Auditorium. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

NORTHFIELD — Underneath a large white tent on the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus, musicians strummed their instruments and sang gospel songs. Members of the audience joined in, singing and swaying their arms to the harmony.

The tent has been a fixture on the campus since Friday, hosting ongoing worship and prayer meetings as part of a Christian unity movement called “10 Days of Prayer.” As part of the movement, the campus also hosted “Restore: A New England Convocation” from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., leading Christians from across New England to converge on the largely vacant campus.

The event featured seminars, presentations about campus founder and famed evangelist Dwight L. Moody, tours of the C.S. Lewis Study Center, as well as music and group prayer.

The campus, which is currently owned by the National Christian Foundation, has been vacant for more than 12 years. The foundation plans to gift the campus’ educational buildings to an institution that honors Moody’s legacy, while retaining several buildings to implement The Moody Center promoting Moody’s ideals.

“This is a big day for us,” said Emmitt Mitchell, a member of the National Christian Foundation Heartland’s board of directors, who has been involved in planning The Moody Center. “The campus we’ve been stewards of for the past four or five years has life on it … I couldn’t be more excited.”

During a presentation titled “The Moody Center: Vision and Hope” in Hibbard Hall, Mitchell spoke of how he “felt the presence of God” upon first visiting the campus, something he wants others to experience as well.

“We want to make this place open for education, for contemplation, as a retreat,” Mitchell said of The Moody Center and the campus as a whole. He added that the National Christian Foundation is “very close to an entity who might and should be granted the campus,” but wouldn’t elaborate as the deal is still in the early stages. Several past attempts to find an educational use for the campus have fallen through over the years.

The convocation, Mitchell said, is just the first step toward bringing “life and light” back to the campus.

“It’s so valuable to bring life back to the campus,” said Susie Maddern, 73, of Greenfield, who attended the convocation because she grew up in Northfield and has strong family ties to the campus. “It’s starting right here.”

While local residents came to explore the familiar campus, others traveled hours for the event to be involved in group prayer and to feel close to God by visiting the spiritually significant location.

“We want to build a greater relationship with (God), so we come to places like this,” said Ken Smith, 50, of Bridgeport, Conn.

“It’s like a New England church family gathering,” said Luis Burgos, 30, also of Bridgeport, Conn. “This, what they’re doing here, is historical.”