Church of Christ finds campus presence through discussion
The Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ has a student branch called Alpha Omega
March 10, 2013, 7:49 pm·
Sam Sherman | DP
Katarina Ziegler comes to campus several times a week to recruit new members to her bible discussion group. She reads her bible in the Starbucks under 1920 Commons and introduces herself to people on campus, asking them about their religious views and inviting them to Bible Talk.
So far, she’s experienced a mixture of reactions.
“Sometimes they’ll be like ‘no’ and keep going,” Zeigler said. “[But] sometimes they’re really interested.”
Ziegler, a Philadelphia resident, is a part of the Greater Philadelphia Church of Christ’s campus ministry. Alpha Omega is the student branch of the GPCC, a nondenominational church that provides a unique outlook on Christianity.
The church mainly focuses on the original scriptures and tries to restore the ideals of the first century church.
“[The] Church was started based upon getting back to first century Christianity and what it meant to follow Jesus,” Campus Ministry Leader Lauren Malcolm said.
According to Malcolm, the church focuses less on customs and traditions and more on building relationships with God and one another.
Besides Sunday and Wednesday services, student members meet for a “Bible Talk” every Thursday night at seven in Commons’ Starbucks, and a “Teen Devotional” on Friday nights for prayer and activities.
About 50 college students from 15 different campuses in the Philadelphia metropolitan area are involved with GPCC, which has 670 members total.
“People actually care and want to be in your life,” member and Philadelphia resident Christina Flinchbaugh said. “[They] want to help in the walk with God.”
Most Bible Talk meetings typically open with an icebreaker or activity, followed by a scripture reading and deep discussion.
The Feb. 28 meeting opened with a “human knot” exercise. After making a circle and grabbing the hands of two different people within the circle, the group worked to untangle themselves without letting go of each other’s hands.
This activity, coupled with a scripture reading, segued into a discussion about obstacles and entanglements. The group decided that sin entangles them while they are trying to fulfill their purpose in life.
Approximately 15 people attended the meeting, which included a mixture of Penn graduate and undergraduate students, Temple students and Penn employees, among others. Malcolm estimates that about three to five new people come to each discussion.
Much of the church’s effort focuses on encouraging new people to discuss their religious beliefs.
College junior Canaan Bethea came to Bible Talk for the first time on Feb. 28 after meeting a member of the church on Locust Walk. He plans on attending discussions in the future.
Member Flinchbaugh first joined GPCC when she was a sophomore at Gwynedd-Mercy College, located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, when a member of the church reached out her husband, Kurt Flinchbaugh, while he was working out. After noticing the changes in him, she began to explore her faith.
“I began understanding the true convictions of being a Christian and not just following the rules,” Flinchbaugh said.
Now, she discusses religious topics with people she meets during her daily routines and invites them to join in church activities. While some people “blow you off,” she said that many are looking for religion.
Aside from spirituality, members enjoy being close-knit and involved in each other’s lives.
Although it was his first experience with Alpha Omega, Bethea was impressed by how well all the members knew each other. Member and College sophomore Isaiah Selkridge also commented that his closest friends were part of GPCC.
“They’re my brothers and my sisters,” Flinchbaugh said.