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Stu­dents who are involved with the Greek Bible studies par­tic­i­pated in“Compelling,” a retreat hosted by Inter­Varsity Christian Fel­lowship. Lily Splawn | Courtesy

It smells like banana bread, but it isn’t.

Each week, the aroma of freshly-baked “squash bread” reminds senior Monicah Wanjiru of Bible study.

“This scent is asso­ciated with this Bible study because I have had it every week faith­fully since freshman year,” Wanjiru said.

Many Hillsdale stu­dents, like Wanjiru, have found com­munity within various groups studying scripture on campus.

For the past four years, Wanjiru has attended a weekly scripture-based study with fellow stu­dents led by Robert Snyder, a lec­turer in religion at Hillsdale College and asso­ciate pastor at Coun­tryside Bible Church in Jonesville, Michigan. The Bible study, which has grown from a small group of around seven to a gath­ering of almost 30 stu­dents, is affec­tion­ately called “Pastor Bob’s Bible study,” and is hosted weekly at a student-owned house on West Street called “The Nest.”

“I don’t know how people hear about it, probably just through word of mouth,” Wanjiru said. “But once you get there, you’ll probably want to come back.”

Inter­Varsity is a “wit­nessing com­munity” that gathers in numerous forms across campus to learn more about Christ and to share him with others, Campus Staff Min­ister Hannah Weikart ’15 said. The orga­ni­zation runs 33 Bible studies on campus.

“Our desire is to see Bible studies happen in places where people already trust each other,” Weikart said. “We want to see Jesus become central to people’s lives. A big part of that is how he is central to our rela­tion­ships.”

The Inter­Varsity Bible studies take place in Greek houses, among sports teams, and in other com­mu­nities throughout campus, such as dorms and arts groups.

“Instead of just starting a Bible study and saying whoever wants to come, can come, starting a Bible study in a sorority, you’re going to get a higher level of trust among those people already, and appli­cation can be so much deeper because you don’t have to build that trust first,” Weikart said.

During her own time at Hillsdale, Weikart took part in an Inter­Varsity Bible study at Pi Beta Phi sorority.

“My Bible study expe­ri­ences were up and down,” Weikart said. “I went to a lot of not-the-best Bible studies, and I think that led me to want to come on staff, because you can see the potential of what a Bible study can be.”

She said helping and equipping Chris­tians to witness more effec­tively is the best way to reach people who don’t know how they feel about Jesus.

“My heart has always been for people who don’t know God, and making sure that they have a space where they can question scripture where they can engage with it and be honest about where they are,” Weikart said.

Junior Chris Sturges is the chaplain of Delta Tau Delta and uses the Greek Inter­Varsity cur­riculum to run a weekly Bible study for the men in his fra­ternity, although he said he rearranged the cur­riculum a lot to reflect where DTD is and where he wanted it to go.

“The main thing that I saw a lot in the house was two dif­ferent sets of guys: one of them that were firmly founded in their faith and wanted to grow more, and one who wanted to figure out where they’re at,” Sturges said. “I wanted to meet them wherever they are.”

Sturges said he chal­lenged all the men in his fra­ternity to make a com­mitment to delve more into their spir­itual life, which has led to about half of DTD joining Sturges’s weekly study.

For the next four weeks, the group will study scripture in the context of Delt’s four pillars of Truth, Courage, Faith, and Power.

“What we are doing is exam­ining a scripture passage and trying to figure out what scripture has to say about these things and how it con­nects to how we use these pillars,” Sturges said.

Stu­dents find Bible studies to help them engage with scripture when they might not be able to do so on their own.  

“I love it because reading scripture can be very daunting for me, espe­cially because my temp­tation is to sort of go through it very quickly and try to get more quantity over quality,” said Olivia Brady, who leads a women’s scripture study through Catholic Society.

Brady is a member of the society’s Out­reach Board, and she leads women in a scrip­tural reading approach called Lectio Divina each week. Lectio Divina, which is Latin for “Divine Reading,” is a devotion from the Bene­dictine order and guides people through reading, med­i­tation, and prayer through scripture.

“The point is for it to be slow and med­i­tative and prayerful and not nec­es­sarily just starting out the dis­cussion the right way,” Brady said.

She opens up her group to women of all back­grounds. They study the fol­lowing Sunday’s gospel reading, which allows for her group to function without the ongoing com­mitment of a scripture study that studies a spe­cific book.

“As a student at Hillsdale, studying scripture is a great way to make time for prayer,” Brady said. “Because of all the anxiety of stress, that state of mind wasn’t really con­ducive to open prayer, for me. So having myself step aside and take 10 minutes even to look at a few verses and med­itate on that and have that be the tem­plate and inspi­ration for my prayer was really helpful.”

Weikart empha­sized the impor­tance of Hillsdale stu­dents in par­ticular engaging in Bible studies.

“The culture of Hillsdale is often per­for­mance, and I want the culture of Bible study to be honesty,” she said. “That’s really hard to crack.”

Wanjiru’s study with Pastor Bob this semester has been going through the book of the Colos­sians. She said being reminded “God himself is our peace,” helps her throughout her faith journey.

“This semester we’ve been talking a lot about identity in Christ,” Wanjiru said. “This school is very per­for­mance ori­ented, a lot of people are defined by GPA and leading dif­ferent clubs…so we’ve been talking a lot about what Colos­sians says about identity and how that is wrapped around our identity, which is in Christ and in him alone. Every­thing is sec­ondary to his glory.”

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Josephine von Dohlen is a junior from Minneapolis, Minnesota who appreciates the communicative power of journalism and the community that it fosters. A graduate of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C., she has previously interned with Catholic News Service. At Hillsdale, she is part of the Dow Journalism Program and a major in American Studies. Email: jvondohlen@hillsdale.edu