By Madeleine Thompson
In an effort to revive and streamline Christian life on campus, leaders of Koinonia, campus Bible study groups and discipleship groups are bringing their programs together under the name “Be.” They hope that the changes will connect the three branches and make the Christian community more accessible.
With the help of Jenn and Zane Sanders, leaders from the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) and campus ministers on the Board of Spiritual and Religious Life, the student leaders of these groups aim to attract more members by getting organized and emphasizing each program’s relaxed manner.
“We believe, specifically as Christians, that God called us to live out our faith in every area of our lives, and college ministry is definitely a place where that happens,” Jenn Sanders said. “Students are figuring out their majors, they’re trying to understand careers, they’re building relationships and they’re going to enter communities after they graduate. So it’s definitely a place for students to figure out how God fits into all of those areas of their lives.”
Jenn and Zane Sanders visited Kenyon last semester from the CCO office in Pittsburgh, where a group of Kenyon alumni advocated a partnership between Kenyon and CCO. “We went through an interview process with CCO and there were four schools we were looking at,” Zane Sanders said, “and Kenyon was the one we felt most drawn to. You can’t beat how beautiful it is, and the students are great.”
Though the couple is new to Kenyon, they are already seeking to consolidate the Christian community and help it grow. Each branch of “Be” will be a subcategory concentrating on a different activity or theme – for example, “Be: community” will take day trips and meet weekly, while “Be: justice” will be a liaison for local organizations and participate in social justice week. “What we hoped in creating ‘Be’ was that it would connect fellow Christians on campus,” Zane Sanders said, “but at the same time help us to better interact with the Kenyon community at large.”
“Be: transformed,” led in part by Faith Bell ’12, will take over Koinonia and focus on larger events rather than weekly meetings. Among the activities planned are weekend retreats and a trip to Jubilee, an annual Christian conference of college students in Pittsburg in February. “Thousands of college students get together and worship and go to workshops on a range of topics,” said Bell, who has been twice. “I really enjoyed it. I think it’s a good way to challenge how we feel.”
Saturday Night Fellowship leader Ryan Talk ’12, who has been involved with Christian life since his first year at Kenyon, is also a fan of “Be.” “I really like [the new program],” Talk said. “I feel like it brings everybody together more. It’s a little confusing to [first years] to have all these separate groups … but this makes it feel like we’re more of a community.”
Like Talk, Bell participated in some Christian events in high school and attended a non-denominational church with her family, but when she entered college, she wanted to make sure she was religious for the right reasons. “I grew up as a Christian, and I realized when I came to Kenyon that if [Christianity] is important to me, it has to be important because I want it to be, not because my family does it,” Bell said. “I went to some of the events during orientation and started forming friends there. It was something that I looked to because I knew that, being Christian myself, hopefully I could find other Christians who I could relate to in some ways, and I did find a good community of people to be with.”
Talk had a similar experience. “During second semester [of my first year], I saw a student-info email about Saturday Night Fellowship,” Talk said. “I was introduced to Jeff Bergeson, who was the campus minister at the time, and he introduced me to various other people who I became friends with, and I just stuck with it.”
As seniors, Talk and Bell agree that their experiences in the Christian programs have led them to learn and grow in their faith. “I think [being a Christian at Kenyon] can be tough,” Bell said. “I don’t always know if I should say I’m Christian. I feel like there’s a lot of tolerance, but that doesn’t always mean there’s a lot of acceptance.”
After graduation, however, Bell plans to continue practicing Christianity and participating in events wherever she ends up. “From this point I can definitely go out and start forming different and deeper relationships,” Bell said. “That’s something that I struggled with, being a shy person before I came to Kenyon. … The community here helped me be able to say, ‘Okay, I’m a Christian. I am who I am.’ There are so many aspects to me, and I think that will help me as I go out into the real world.”
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