By Andrew Tsou
UPPER BURRELL, Pa. – The president of the Group Investigating God club at Penn State New Kensington has been leading the club in a new direction.
Trevor Beldham, a senior at PSNK, has been the president of GIG since the beginning of the school year. GIG is a nondenominational group that wrestles with questions pertaining to God and the Bible.
Beldham said that, as GIG president, he wanted to make the club more structured.
“Before I was president, there were tons of topics,” Beldham said, “Like, ‘Why is the world messed up?’ or ‘How do elections matter in regards to eternity?’ and ‘What does God think of this or that’ and ‘Is religion evil?’; kind of all over the place, and I wanted it to be more structured.”
Dave McGeary, GIG’s advisor, said that he approved of this new direction.
“What was exciting was that the GIG club is supposed to be about what students want it to be,” McGeary, said, “And Trevor had an idea and asked everybody if they wanted to do it. We actually proposed two ideas; one of them was [Trevor’s], and they chose his. It was the students who said, ‘Let’s have this Bible study,’ along with Trevor’s initial idea, and this is the way it’s supposed to operate anyway; students lead, students participate.”
Beldham’s idea was to study Philippians, a chapter in the Bible, and this is what GIG plans to do for the spring 2011 semester.
“[We’re] going through Philippians, one verse at a time,” Beldham said, “We spent the whole first meeting on just the first two verses. The reason behind [choosing Philippians] was Paul, who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament. [It] was also short enough that we could do it in one semester. I looked through it a couple of years ago, not with any structure like this, and it’s been on my heart to go through Philippians for quite a while.”
Shanna Williams, the vice-president and treasurer of the club, commented that “it’s a lot of responsibility, what [Beldham] does, holding the club together.”
“I think that he’s doing a really good job,” Williams added, “Sometimes we’ll have worksheets with fill-in-the-blanks and Q&A and actually get involved in the discussion so it’s less like a lecture, and I really enjoy it. Everyone else in the club seems to enjoy it too.”
McGeary stated that Beldham’s leadership is “exciting” for the club.
“[Beldham] is an idea person, just naturally,” McGeary said, “What was different was that this time he offered an idea and offered to actually lead it, whereas before he’d offer ideas and hope that somebody else would lead it. I mean, a lot of people do that, but in this case, he thought it was a cool idea and was willing to make it happen, if everyone else wanted it.”
Beldham said that GIG is open to anyone, regardless of individual religious preferences.
“You don’t have to be a Christian to join GIG,” Beldham said, “You could just come and check it out once. You can think of it as a history class. You get a lot out of it whether you’re a Christian or not … there’s definitely some moral stuff that you can get from it, but it’s a really open, friendly atmosphere…we have a lot of fun together, and it’s not just that we sit down and read the Bible; we have discussions and we bounce ideas off each other and we hang out together almost every day.”
Williams also noted the non-denominational nature of the club.
“It is not a club exclusively for Christians,” Williams added, “You don’t have to have any faith to come to GIG; all you need is to have an interest in what your role on Earth is and be willing to learn and be willing to come to an atmosphere full of people that will welcome you with no judgment, and we never would put anyone down for what they believe…we have discussions about totally different points of view, and that’s fine; there’s no right or wrong mindset to come to GIG with.”
McGeary agreed that GIG is open to all people and noted that differing opinions are healthy for the sake of discussion.
“I don’t know what perception people have of GIG, but it’s not like, ‘come to our meetings and we’ll tell you what we think,’” McGeary said, “The reality is that we come and discuss whatever you want to talk about; you don’t have to agree with everyone, and everyone doesn’t have to agree to have a discussion.”
Although the club focuses on Bible studies, Beldham commented that the lessons contain universal moral principles, using the story of Adam and Eve as an example.
“God gave us a choice, God gave [Adam and Eve] a choice,” Beldham said, “And maybe the real, the best part of that story is not that it happened, but that it happens, and we’re given a choice every day. And … more and more lately, I’ve been trying to orient my life in such a way that I make the right choice. It’s dynamic; you’ve got to make choices every minute of every day. It’s a way of life.”
Beldham said that this will likely be his last semester as president of GIG, given that he has formally declared his intent to graduate. Even though his role in the club has changed, he said that he still gets a lot out of it.
“I feel I’m growing just as much, even though I’m charged with leading the discussions,” Beldham said.
GIG generally meets every Wednesday at noon in the conference room in the PSNK cafeteria. For more information, please contact Trevor Beldham at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dave McGeary at email@example.com.