To have and to hold …

The sun setting on Belews Lake made for a stunning September wedding day. A gentle breeze complimented the scene as family and friends gathered at “the Point,” a wide strip of land forming a perfect apex at the water’s edge, where the bride and her father docked and processed together.

The heat of the evening in my heavy black clergy robe seemed completely tolerable in the presence of this powerful occasion. Vows were exchanged and promises made, and in the warm shadows of a setting sun, we (God, community, bride and groom) ushered in their new life together.

Life can’t get much better than this …

Photo: Sunset at Belews Lake
Photo credit:

© 2008 J. Dana Trent

9/11 at Salem College

Seven years ago today (9.11.01)

Sitting in the Office of the President at Salem College Office, I tapped my feet impatiently as I waited for my Tuesday morning meeting with Dr. Julianne Still-Thrift. Our agenda: to review my plans as the 2001 Fall Fest Chair. Fall Fest, the decades-old Salem College tradition, was less than two weeks away.

Fall Fest is a day of competition among classes that begins with a lively breakfast in the Refectory, lasts all day (with classes cancelled) and ends with skits and songs in the Hanes Auditorium. As chair, I had begun planning for the event since May of the previous academic year, when I was ceremoniously tapped by my schoolmates to carry on this Salem tradition.

That Tuesday morning, I was missing Dr. Errol Claus’ American history class, and it was one of those “I remember where I was when …” moments, because I recall vividly the president’s assistant (and the president herself) frantically running out of her office in the old Moravian home on Salem Square and asking, “Has anybody got a TV?” Radio? Anything?” These were the days before YouTube, and instantaneous Internet feed, and the word of the two planes hitting the Twin Towers in New York City was now falling on the nation’s eyes and ears.

Given the chaos, I walked back to Dr. Claus’ class to find that he had dismissed our class so that we could return to our dorm rooms and be tuned in. This was, after all, American history was unfolding …

In the days that followed, we mourned the loss of family members and friends of Salem students, and as a school, we asked how and if our Fall Fest celebration should go on. Fall Fest was one of the most important days of the academic term, and often set the tone for sisterhood and community for the year. Could we and should we balance the recent tragedy of 9/11 with the day of celebration of our sisterhood? Would people want to laugh and celebrate again? Was it too soon?

People often ask me what it was like to attend a women’s college. This day, and the ones that followed seven year’s ago demonstrates the experience. Attending a women’s college is about community, sisterhood, and being present with one another – both in joy and sorrow.

We did choose to celebrate Fall Fest that year, though with a very different tone. We chose to celebrate the lives of loved ones lost, and our common life together.
NB: Established by the Moravians in 1772, Salem College is the oldest educational institution for women in the United States. Celebrating over two centuries of educating women, Salem demonstrates a proud history of fostering independence in women.

© 2008 J. Dana Trent


I’ve been receiving fantastic feedback from these postings. By nature, I enjoy the review and suggestions. Over the weekend, a Duke Divinity School staff colleague (an experienced blogger!) of mine sent me a very helpful email about this blog. Per my last post, she too, was not clear as to what my blog is about, but is sympathetic to me traveling the path to discovery.

She offered also that the blog name, “God’s Acre,” is a bit presumptuous – something that I took for granted having known what (and where) God’s Acre is. Certainly, I do not want anyone to think that this is “God’s space” or that I am writing on God’s behalf. Rather, as she pointed out in her email, it is important to identify the blog name as the sacred cemetery at Old Salem, North Carolina.

During my undergraduate studies at Salem College, God’s Acre is where I found peace, and it is symbolic of my time there. It captures the experience, the Moravian way (all stones are equal), and the beauty of Old Salem and Salem College. My colleague suggested adding a photo (or a name plate) of God’s Acre in the title – a stellar suggestion! It places the title back to it’s original space, and reminds me each time I see it of its inspiration.

Most of all, my colleague encouraged me to keep writing – which for me means keep exploring, listening, and engaging my energy and passion.

As time moves on, I know that the objective for this blog will become clearer. It already has. I gravitate toward writing about land, home, sacred space – and for me, Old Salem and God’s Acre are central to those themes. Writing about the experience of attending a women’s college in a historic village is energizing, and something I have been doing for years. Now, each paragraph and each memory gets clearer with age – and a more mature, reflective Dana is able to process it readily.

So, thank you all – for your comments and feedback. Please, keep it coming!

Photo: God’s Acre Cemetery
Photo Credit: Brian Leon,
Used with permission