On Tuesday, pastor Adam Purcell and eight Kenyon students met in the basement of the Church of the Holy Spirit to discuss the Parable of the Sower, the Seven Mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven and the history of sexism in Christianity. Founded in 2013 by Lifepoint Church as part of their Lifepoint Collegiate program, Theology ‘N’ Chill is a weekly discussion group where students can bring up any thoughts, problems or questions they have relating to Christianity.
Lifepoint Church is a network of four Southern Baptist churches located throughout central Ohio, and holds collegiate Bible studies much like Theology ‘N’ Chill at Mount Vernon Nazarene University and several other colleges. Purcell was one of the co-founders of Lifepoint’s Mount Vernon church. “God said ‘You need to plant a church, a new church,’” said Purcell, “and eventually God said, ‘In Mount Vernon.’ I’m from here, I love here, but I didn’t think we’d come here, to be honest.” The Mount Vernon chapter has now been operating for five years.
The meetings begin with “Cool Questions,” an open-ended Q&A session where attendees can discuss at length any topic that is on their mind. After the first half-hour, meetings turn to discussions of pre-selected Bible passages. Although this segment is more structured, there are no pre-planned lectures or talking points.
The informality of these meetings, combined with the intimacy of small group discussion, is what attracted Annmarie Morrison ’20. “I really like feeling like a valued member of the group,” said Morrison. “Like when I’m not here, people miss me, you know?”
Theology ‘N’ Chill gives students a space to speak at length about their personal lives in a religious context, serving as a medium between church services and daily life.
“I can take what I learn from the congregation,” said Luke Hester ’20, “then take everything that’s been happening in my life and I apply it to the situation here, where I can talk about it with other people.”
Many participants also hope that the discussion group will help dispel what they perceive to be misconceptions of the Christian faith.
Conversations at the meeting often revolve around social issues and situating Christianity in contemporary politics.
As an example, Morrison cited the preachers who protested on Middle Path and subsequently faced a counter-protest last semester.
“I came into college not a Christian,” said Morrison. “My family was Christian, it was a huge part of my life growing up, but I had rejected it because of that idea of Christianity as something oppressive, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic. Because of all of these ideas of Christianity that I had, when I saw [those ideas] portrayed in real life, it made me realize that is not what I know Christianity to be. It’s the opposite of the goal of Christianity.”
Although Lifepoint is a Southern Baptist institution, many participants are either Catholic or followers of a diverse range of denominations. Non-Christian students with questions or concerns are also encouraged to attend.
“You don’t have to be Christian to come to our Bible study,” said Ethan Bradley ’20, who is a group member. “We’d love it if you weren’t and you came. We’re not trying to change your mind in any sort of way — we want to hear your perspective.
Joshua Lin contributed reporting