Students Carry Bibles—Everywhere
Class, lunch, athletic events, restuaurants, stories, and church: for one week, Oct. 8-15, students in Jubilate Singers carried their Bibles with them to places such as these--in fact everywhere.
The inspiration for this assignment came through vocal music instructor J.D. Smucker's participation in Bethany's current strategic planning process and his engaging with questions such as "What do we wish to nurture in our students at Bethany? What does it mean to be Christ-centered?" He states, "The connection between music and the experience of carrying the Bible is directly related to how we should talk about and live out our faith. I want students to think about living their faith openly and how that extends to their meeting new people or expressing themselves in singing songs of faith in concert halls, churches, and at school."
At the end of the week-long assignment, students took time in class to share reflections of their experiences. Smucker, who has taught at Bethany for 20 years, continues to be impressed with insights of students as they reflect on how they express their faith: "Through this assignment students thought about how our faith message comes across to others. Who we are as Christians has something to do with how we relate to others. Sometimes we forget this."
Students found that carrying a Bible with them was a catalyst for conversations with others. At times adults would affirm them for carrying the Bible and encourage them to read it more often. In the home of one international student, his host family used the opportunity to begin having devotions at breakfast. Junior Mary Roth and some of her friends decided to read from their Bibles before eating lunch in the cafeteria. "It was a nice time of fellowship centered around God's word," she says.
Many students found that having the Bible with them served as a personal reminder to spend time with God, whether in reading the Bible or in other ways such as praying. As a result of her experience, senior Simone Sommers is committed to keeping a Bible in her locker as a reminder to focus on God more faithfully each day. Sophomore Emily Grimes reflects, "Sometimes we unintentionally forget about our faith. We need to intentionally work our faith into our everyday lives so we don't forget. That is one reason why I attend Bethany."
Students also experienced some tension with mainstream culture when carrying their Bibles. When sophomore Cassie Sweetser took her Bible to a party, the host parents jokingly asked if she was going to have a Bible study instead of a party. Cassie recalls, "I laughed, but it made me think how sometimes we put our faith away for another time." Senior Jena Schwartzentruber felt comfortable carrying her Bible around school but noticed interesting glances when she carried her Bible to a soccer game and to a funeral. She now realizes "how easy it can be for Christians to blend in with our surroundings." "But it is often at the expense of our Christian values," adds junior Lewis Caskey.
Sophomore Jacob Gerig reflecting on his experience says, "The sad thing is that we shouldn't have to carry around a Bible to be noticeably different from mainstream culture." Senior Moon Shik Woo, who notes that carrying the Bible was like wearing a nametag labeling him as a Christian, adds, "If we show people that we are Christian by our actions, then we can deliver the message that we are different without needing to carry the Bible around."
Similar to the time when Mennonites dressed differently than people in the surrounding culture, Smucker notes, "The students, with a Bible in their hands, experienced a constant reminder of being different and the need to think each day how we are called to share our faith with others. Singing in a Mennonite high school choir provides students with the opportunity to share this message of faith in many settings. But ultimately students must consider how they express this as individuals and as members of their community."