Encouraging One Another To Grow Up Into Christ
Published by Mary L. Vanden Berg
Professor of Systematic Theology
Human beings are created for community. The second chapter of Genesis tells us that it was not good for Adam to be alone so God provided him with a “suitable helper.” Unfortunately, in a time where humans are more connected worldwide than any other time in history, feelings of loneliness and isolation are being reported at increasingly higher rates than in past decades. Despite Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and a multitude of other social media options, people report feeling isolated and disconnected. They feel alone in a crowded, media- driven room.
In the face of feelings of loneliness, however, the Church offers a message of hope for renewed community in Christ. At Calvin Seminary, we strive to model that renewed community. As one walks into the Student Center and looks around, she will see women and men from over 20 different nations coming together to study and pray and eat and play in this microcosm of the world. Students who are distance learners at Calvin Seminary also find community connections not only in their online class conversations, but also during the weeklong on-campus sessions each semester.
When we are not studying or in class, food turns out to be the magnet for many community events. From donuts after chapel on Wednesdays, to pizza at Town Halls on Thursdays, to celebrating Christmas with food and stories that represent our home nations, to the Chinese New Year celebration hosted by our Chinese students, our community loves to gather around food. Indeed, food even anchors our worship at the end of each semester when we celebrate our unity with Christ and each other through sharing the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper.
Recently, as he and his family were preparing to return to their home country after completing two programs at Calvin Seminary, an international student from China told us about how difficult it had been for him and his family when they first arrived. They had to adjust to a new culture, a new city, and a new language. It was hard. But at Calvin Seminary they found a welcome.
They found fellow students willing to come alongside them and help with childcare, food, and other needs. They found staff who helped them navigate everything from medical appontments to tuition payments. They found professors who were approachable and genuinely cared about them, encouraging this student in his studies and spending time with him to help him succeed. They were even invited into the homes of several faculty for a meal together. They found a community that prayed for them through difficult circumstances as well as rejoiced with them through joyous moments. In short, they found a loving, hospitable community to enfold and encourage them in their daily lives.
Living in the seminary apartments was an important part of my formation for ministry. I helped a young girl across the hall with her math homework, and her family shared delicious homemade Korean food with mine. This was the beginning of a beautiful cross-cultural friendship. Our neighbors prayed for me so faithfully, and I learned much from them about this spiritual discipline.
Through formation groups, prayer, worship, and class, Calvin Seminary strives to foster a community of learning that weaves our faith into the fabric of our day-to-day living. Students, staff, and faculty seek to grow together in Christ, reminding each other regularly to clothe ourselves with His virtues (Col. 3:12-14). By so doing, we seek to live honestly and hopefully before the face of God and for His glory.
Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Calvin Theological Seminary
“Living in the seminary apartments was an important part of my formation for ministry. I helped a young girl across the hall with her math homework, and her family shared delicious homemade Korean food with mine. This was the beginning of a beautiful cross-cultural friendship. Our neighbors prayed for me so faithfully, and I learned much from them about this spiritual discipline.”
MARY VANDEN BERG
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Associate Dean of Students
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