Bible Talk’s discussion group recruits students

by Beacon Staff • September 22, 2011

strongJackie Tempera, Beacon Correspondent/strong

“This is why I can’t be the look out,” junior Shantelle Stephens shouted to a room of students in the recreation room on the 10th floor of the Little Building. The group, gathered to participate in a weekly discussion called Bible Talk, was waiting to sing Happy Birthday to junior Genesis Lugo of Suffolk University, an avid participator in the discussions.

Soon Stephens, a marketing major at Emerson College, hushed the group of 14, and Lugo entered the room to shouts of happy birthday and a plate filled with pink, white, and chocolate frosted cupcakes.

After a few minutes of chatting, Boston Church of Christ Campus Minister Jon Buccholz, 24, joined the circle of chairs, opened his Bible, and led the student-focused discussion.

A close-knit group, Bible Talk meets every Tuesday at 8 p.m. According to Stephens, they invite students from Suffolk University and Emerson College with all religious backgrounds to participate in conversations about beliefs.

“You don’t have to be a biblical scholar or anything,” said Stephens. “We are open about who comes to the meeting and just like to discuss what the Bible says.”

Last week, members of Bible Talk knocked on the dorm room doors of Little Building residents in an effort to draw in more members. Ryan McDonnell, creator of the group, said interacting with students this way is more effective than other traditional forms of advertising such as posting fliers and sending emails.

“I feel weird [knocking on doors] because it is so awkward and sometimes people slam the door in my face or laugh at me, but in the end it is worth it,” the senior writing, literature, and publishing major said.

Stephens, who also participated in knocking on students’ doors, said it is just an easy way of making residents aware of the meetings.

“Yes, it can seem a little invasive, but we are not trying to force anyone to change their beliefs, just to get the word out,” she said.

As Buccholz led the group Tuesday, he asked students who brought Bibles to open to the week’s passage, Luke 15.

Most students in the room reached for their personal scriptures and flipped to the designated passage. Each book appeared as unique as its owner, ranging from a plain leather front to floral patterns, and even one with a “emDoctor Who/em” sticker. The students engaged in a fluid discussion, each raising their hands and contributing, something McDonnell strived for when he created the group four years ago.

After trying other on-campus Christian groups such as Emerson Christian Fellowship his freshman year, McDonnell said he felt participants were more familiar with the Bible than he, thus he grew frustrated and decided to branch out on his own, creating an atmosphere where no specific level of religious knowledge is necessary.

“I came here freshman year and wanted somewhere to go to discuss my beliefs,” McDonnell said. “It was my vision to create a group for people who don’t know the Bible that well.”

Stephens said what distinguishes Bible Talk from other groups on campus is its non-club status and relaxed attitude.

Kate Caldwell, a writing, literature, and publishing major, is a member of Emerson Christian Fellowship (ECF), an on-campus religious organization that has more participants than Bible Talk and is affiliated with the college.

“What we do is provide a place for Christian fellowship and for students to talk about God,” said Caldwell.

She said ECF is different from Bible Talk because it hosts a wider variety of activities for members, in addition to weekly discussions.

Stephens said Bible Talk does not try to provide a church substitute for members, but rather that it simply embodies its name.

“We just ask you to come with an open mind and opinions to share along with respect and tolerance,” Stephens said.

emTempera can be reached at jackie_tempera@emerson.edu. Follow her on Twitter  @jacktemp./em