Coffee or tea with your Bible study? Or how about a cushion to sit on?Coffee, meditation, and singing are but a few of the many diverse focal points of groups that reflect an increasing spirituality at Goshen College.
Arienne Johnson, who has a double major in History and Bible, religion and philosophy, co-hosts an informal prayer and reflection time at Aurora House with Andrea Kraybill, a senior Art major. The atmosphere is informal and friendly, and the focus is on prayer, collectively experiencing God, and the inherent communal draw of tea and coffee.
The approach now is “organically balancing Scripture, time for silence, [and] communal prayer,” said Kraybill, with the purpose of creating space for intentional faith practice.
Both Kraybill and Johnson also spent the majority of their time last summer interning at a church of their choice through the Ministry Inquiry Program, one of three types of Campus Ministries’ internships: camping, service, and ministry. As with students on SST, they were assigned host families from the church and spent most of their time in related service activities.
Johnson served at Washington Community Fellowship in Washington, D.C., where she preached twice and contributed her time to various aspects of worship. This was her first inquiry program experience. Kraybill served in Hackney, London, at the Clapton Park United Reform Church and was more involved with social services such as food distribution and childcare, and this is her third inquiry program experience. Both had excellent experiences.
“This summer just might be the best one of my life,” Johnson said.
Both recommend the inquiry program experience to others wishing to push the boundaries of their spirituality, and hope others take advantage of the unique, formative opportunities that await spiritual sojourners.
A small group with a similar focus, albeit seasoned with an Eastern flavor, is the Sitting Club, recently founded by Ross Weaver. Meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the Spirituality room in the basement of Coffman, members of this group grab a cushion, take a seat, and…sit.
For up to twenty minutes at a time (there are no minimum or maximum time constraints), anyone who feels so inclined can relax with fellow seekers. And the group isn’t just for those with meditation experience, either. Weaver explained that the purpose of the group is specific to each individual, and “some people come to relax, while others come to quiet the mind, to look deeper into themselves.”
Weaver started the group to ensure his own regular sitting practice, and hopes others will similarly benefit from the mutual accountability and opportunity for growth offered by such a gathering.
Some students are meeting for the traditional Bible study. David Shenk, a fifth-year Spanish major, recently committed himself to a small group that meets every Friday night in the senior apartments. “I want to explore questions of spirituality in the company of others who want to do the same,” said Shenk. “It’s a time for thoughts to be voiced and heard without interruption or fear of judgment.”
The goal of the group is simple yet ambitious: Christian discipleship.
For some, food may be the lure.
Rachel Gerber, the resident director of the senior apartments, is actively encouraging student community through floor potlucks. She plans for students to move their dining furniture into the hallway where they will share a meal composed solely of food that students furnish.
While the purpose of the potluck is primarily communal, Gerber said, she “believe[s] that something happens when we ‘break bread’ with one another.” She continued, “I believe the Spirit of Christ is always present and whatever we do to facilitate deepening relationships with one another, Christ is there, and experienced.”