Cultivating Community
The Barnabas Team
The Barnabas Team

“The most exciting thing was getting to know the students and getting to know how they knew God."

Kristen Horner
Barnabas team member

Most students at Calvin transition from residence halls to apartments or off-campus residences. Senior David Michalowski, however, was disappointed that he couldn't spend 2003-2004 in a dorm.

Michalowski wanted to live with the first-year students and sophomores he was getting to know in the Beets-Veenstra residence hall.

And while junior Kristin Horner didn't live in Boer-Bennink, she did spend a lot of time with the younger girls there, "hanging out with them and studying with them, going on floor activities, and doing floor dates."

Both Michalowski and Horner were members of Calvin's first Barnabas Team, a program that builds meaningful relationships between Calvin's two student communities—older students, who traditionally live off campus, and younger students, who live in the residence halls.

The ultimate goal of the Barnabas Team (named after the disciple who nurtured Paul's ministry) is to cultivate spiritual community in the residence halls. The team is the brainchild of Robert and Cherith Nordling, co-directors of spiritual leadership development at Calvin.

"Our question to these older students has been not whether you are going to be a role model for younger students—that question has already been answered—but what kind of role model are you going to be?" said Robert.

The inaugural Barnabas Team was chosen in the spring of 2003 through applications and interviews, and, come September, they went to work.

They coordinated spiritual activities: In Beets-Veenstra, Michalowski and his partner planned short-term Bible studies to attract residents who couldn't make a year-long commitment. "We had six or seven studies that people signed up for," he said.

They also encouraged the younger students to lead some of the studies, which fits the Barnabas ideal of older students encouraging leadership in younger students.

Most importantly, they built relationships. "It was those mentoring relationships that had the biggest effect on my life, and that's what I want to provide for other people, too," said Michalowski.

Horner, too, relished the time spent with the girls. "I had a lot of late-night talk with girls about—well—boys," she confessed, adding, "The most exciting thing was getting to know the students and getting to know how they knew God."

Robert Nordling was encouraged by the work of the pilot group. "We were plowing new ground and finding out lots of new things about how to format this ministry. We're looking forward to a great year next year."

Proclaiming Racial Justice

Michelle Loyd-Paige
Michelle Loyd-Paige

"We talk about God creating all the different races. We talk about the Fall, about how racism is present, about how it isn’t what God intended."

Michelle Loyd-Paige
Professor of sociology

As one of the final assignments for their interim class, Michelle Loyd-Paige's students write recipes for overcoming racism. "They're in recipe format," she said. "These are the ingredients. This is how long it's going to take. This is how many people it's going to serve. There are some really thoughtful things that they come up with."

Loyd-Paige's class, A Christian Response to Racism, is one of 33 distinctive versions of Developing a Christian Mind, or DCM, an essential component of Calvin's new core curriculum. The DCM acronym replaces a long-standing Calvin acronym, CPOL (Christian Perspectives on Learning), a requirement of the former core that explored a wide range of worldviews.

The crucial difference between Developing a Christian Mind and CPOL is that DCM enables faculty members to customize the Reformed worldview to the subject they know best. Through DCM, Calvin faculty members examine some corner of their discipline through a lens that comprehends creation, fall, and redemption.

The DCM offerings reflect the faculty's creativity, and include courses such as Biomedical Ethics at the Beginning of Life, Worldviews and the Natural Environment, Reading Banned Books, and The Politics of AIDS.

Whatever the subject matter, each DCM course must pose the central questions of Calvin's message, said Claudia Beversluis, Calvin dean for instruction: "What is God's intent for this area of life, of inquiry, of academic work? How does it display the Fall—how have things gone wrong? How does God's redemptive work make a difference? And how can I be a participant in restoration?"

Loyd-Paige has taught A Christian Response to Racism three times, and she has thoroughly integrated the core message into her class. "We talk about God creating all the different races. We talk about the Fall, about how racism is present, about how it isn't what God intended. We talk about not only oppression, but also privilege and misuse of privilege; what racism looks like, how it affects people's lives. And then we talk about hope—positive outlooks on racism."

That final element is crucial, and it emerges in the students' projects, which can be anything from studying an organization's anti-racism efforts to mapping out a personal action plan to surmount the racism in their own lives.

And then there are those recipes, which Loyd-Paige especially likes because of ingredients such as "love" and "justice," and preparation times such as "as long as it takes."

"You can see that they're really getting it," she said.

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