During the past 20 years the School of Theology has worked to foster a spirit of community, friendship, and discussion in a weekly Sabbath School class on the Walla Walla University campus. The group meets each Sabbath morning in the Kretschmar Hall Physics Lecture Hall for fellowship and lively discussion on biblical topics.
“Theology Sabbath School is an important ministry of the School of Theology. It gives us the opportunity to interact with people from our local church. With a church that is so large it is easy to feel disconnected, so our theology Sabbath School class plays an important role in developing and nurturing community for our members,” said Carl Cosaert, dean of the School of Theology.
Cosaert does much of the organizational work for the class while theology faculty take turns leading the discussion from week to week, matching areas of expertise with topics to be studied.
“I think there are two foundational principles that make our Sabbath School class what it is,” said Cosaert. “The first is solid biblical teaching. The main reason people come to our class is because they feel like they are fed biblically. We intentionally spend the majority of our time studying the Bible—usually 45 to 50 minutes. The second foundational principle is the sense of community our class has developed. We are really a church within a church. We are praying, studying, and eating together in wonderful Christian fellowship.”
Among regular class participants is Gary Rittenbach, WWU academic systems and support manager. One dynamic that Rittenbach believes makes the class special is “the strong biblical background and the sense of humor of the instructors. It’s okay to have a good laugh in Sabbath School,” said Rittenbach.
“I like that all of the teachers are Bible class teachers, and I enjoy the variety of personalities,” said Rittenbach. “The Sabbath School also appeals to a wide age group.”
The class follows a consistent structure each week beginning with singing, then a time for sharing and praying about joys and concerns, followed by the majority of the class time dedicated to Bible study and discussion. The class also meets once each month for a potluck lunch following the church service.
“Sharing your good times and bad times together creates a strong bond and sense of fellowship,” said Rittenbach.
“Our class also has an amazing missionary outreach,” said Cosaert. “Through the generosity of our members, we have been able to provide for all kinds of local and international needs. We have sponsored missionaries around the world, built churches in China, helped individuals in need, sponsored students, and all sorts of other projects. We’ve done so much more as a group than we could ever have done individually.”
In Hebrews 10:24-25, Paul reminded the early Christian church of the importance of community. He encouraged them to meet in fellowship in order to connect and uplift each other in discussion and friendship.
The community that has formed around the School of Theology Sabbath School class takes Paul’s words to heart: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Posted July 24, 2019