September 25, 2015

Our Interfaith Bible Study

By Cecilia Maciel-Ortega
 

Cecial Maciel image 1As a student at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, I never thought I would encounter such diversity. Not only is there racial diversity, but also religious. Though Martin is a Methodist school, it does not mean that only Christians attend. There are several religious life clubs and small groups, but La Conexion is unlike any other organization on campus.

La Conexion, meaning “the connection” in Spanish, is a bilingual Bible study formed in 2007. This Bible study began with mostly Hispanic students who gathered weekly to not only study the Word but also have a time of fellowship. Several students who attended Hispanic Methodist churches have been in charge of La Conexion, including me.

Last year, I began leading the small group. The wonderful thing about it is that it has never been set in stone what this small group is all about. So the group’s purpose is simply what is needed at the time. Cecilia Maciel image 4When it began, it was a place for Hispanic students to meet. As time has passed by, more than just Hispanic students have joined. We are open to anyone of any race, culture, and even religion.

Several members of La Conexion, including me, became friends with a few freshmen who were originally from Africa. We invited them to our weekly gatherings. A couple of them began to attend, even though they were Muslims and realized that our group was studying the Bible. As the year went by, we learned more about one another than we thought we would. Since our group was so diverse, every week we set aside time for someone to give a presentation about their country and popular religions within their country. I shared a Bible verse, and we all discussed our interpretation of the verse and how it affected our lives.

Cecilia Maciel Image 3One year later, the group has grown to 14 very diverse members. We have members from Bulgaria, Mexico, El Salvador, Congo, Senegal, and Mauritania. Our members are Christian, Muslim, atheist, and everything in between. The group is open-minded. We know that everyone has their own beliefs, and we try to respect each other. We understand that it is more important to discuss our different views and learn from one another rather than arguing or trying to convert anyone to our own religion.

This semester we are focusing on an interfaith Bible study called Passionately Christian, Compassionately Interreligious. It was developed by a professor at Wesley Theological Seminary. We are studying different religions and their practices. Though La Conexion is Christian based, it does not mean that it is for Christians only. As people of faith we strive to be open to welcoming anyone of any religion. More than a Bible study group, we are a support system for each other.

Cecilia Maciel Image 2I have always been intrigued by other religions. This group has made it so easy to facilitate wonderful and interesting conversations. As John 13:34-35 states, we must love one another as God loves us. That is the way we show that we are disciples. People sometimes forget such a simple task: to simply love and accept others instead of judging, regardless of their beliefs or their skin color.

In a world that is so diverse yet has so much religious conflict, I am happy that a small group of students in Pulaski, Tennessee has achieved such unity, understanding, and love.


 

Cecilia Maciel-Ortega

Cecilia Maciel-Ortega is a junior at Martin Methodist College majoring in human services and psychology. Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, she lives in Smithville, Tennessee. Cecilia enjoys running, reading, and learning about different cultures. Cecilia was an intern with Project Transformation with the elementary program at Matthews Memorial United Methodist Church in Madison, Tennessee, in the summer of 2014. During the summer of 2015, she served as a youth site coordinator at Barth-Vernon United Methodist Church in Nashville.

 


SUGGESTED READING

Practicing Compassion by Frank Rogers Jr. takes a look at compassion from the perspective of several world religions. All the major world religions lift up compassion, but few teach exactly how to practice it. Through rich and moving stories of people from various faiths, Rogers offers us ways to incorporate compassion into our daily lives.

Saffron Cross: The Unlikely Story of How a Christian Minister Married a Hindu Monk by J. Dana Trent tells the story of the e-Harmony-born relationship between a Baptist minister and a former Hindu monk who still practices Hinduism. A moving story of love and devotion and of two persons from different faith traditions learning to respect and incorporate each other’s traditions into shared spiritual practices.

 

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