Brown Spirit: A Christian Perspective

Cia Mathew, who will be sharing about faith and Brown
Cia Mathew, who will be sharing about faith and Brown

Welcome to the conversation about religion and spirituality at Brown! Religion is a key facet of the identity of many students on campus. Supporting a vast array of religious groups and promoting various inter-faith activities, Brown offers plenty of opportunities to both nurture your own faith and to understand the faith of others.  Come join Mitch Akutsu in his column Brown Spirit to be immersed in the soul of Brown.

Hey all! So I think you’ve heard enough about what I think about religion at Brown. Today, and for the weeks coming up, I’ve decided to introduce you to some of my peers who have done an excellent job weaving their faith into their Brown experience. I’ve decided to start with an amazing Christian friend of mine- Cia Mathew. Hope you enjoy!

Quick intro- Year, Concentration, Where you’re from, what religion do you identify with?

Hi, I’m Cia Mathew! I am a Literary Arts concentrator and a part of the PLME program (Program in Liberal Medical Education). I’m from Chicago (Mid-West!) and I identify as a Protestant Christian.

How active is the Christian community at Brown? How are you active in the community? Any particular activities?

The Christian community at Brown is very active. There are several fellowships and most of them have 30-60 people that are active in some way or another. At least twice a week there are student-run prayer meetings open to anyone on campus. I’ve attended these regularly in the past. We also have a chapel on campus, that gets filled every Sunday for the Protestant and Catholic worship services. Off-campus, the churches in Providence are filled with students from Brown and various other colleges in the area. I would say the Christian community at Brown is “small and mighty.” I am also on the leadership team for Brown Christian Fellowship (BCF). I usually lead a weekly Bible study group. Also, I am an editor for Cornerstone, Brown’s Christian Literary Arts magazine.

Is there a church nearby that you attend? What other churches are there in the area?

I am a part of Sanctuary Church in downtown Providence. It’s part of the evangelical covenant denomination. It’s about a 15 minute walk from campus, right down from college hill. It’s a church that is super relevant for young people and college students. And, for me, it’s been a great way to connect to the Providence community of Jesus followers. The Pastor Andrew Mook is friendly and has even come up to Brown to give a talk for BCF. Also, Sanctuary has a great music and worship team that really gets me into the spirit every week. There are plenty of other churches close to Brown. There is Renaissance Church which has an awesome congregation of young professionals, artists, and college students. There is Providence Presbyterian Church, which is a 10 min walk from campus. Also there’s the Chinese Christian Church of Rhode Island (CCCRI), which has a great community. All of the fellowships organize transportation or group walks to get to any and all of the churches in the area!

How has your faith grown or changed since coming to Brown?

My faith has grown so much since I’ve come to Brown, because I was put into a position where I had to seek Jesus on my own, without my parents or high school youth group.  Also, I have become more intellectually confident in my faith. Being on such a liberal campus really forced me to wrestle through all the nuances of my faith. Before I felt like my faith was based mostly on emotions. But since coming to Brown my faith has become more than a source of emotional satisfaction, it became actual truth to me and that has been very empowering.

How has your faith been challenged since coming to Brown?

Being in a hyper-intellectual place like Brown, a lot of people think it’s foolish to believe in something like God. If anything, people believe that the Bible is just a book of metaphors and that God was made up by man. Brown teaches a lot about self-sufficiency and independence, but practicing Christianity is all about dependence on God. People are doing fantastic things here and becoming very successful so it’s easy to get carried away with your ego. However, I believe that the credit for all this success, and even the privilege to go to a school like Brown in the first place, is due to God. While it has been intense sifting through all these thoughts, I have come to be so much stronger in my faith.

For most, Brown offers a pretty rigorous course load. How have you been able to balance your academics with your life of faith/relationship with God?

The Christian faith teaches a lot about rest and stillness with God. I feel that my relationship with God has been able to fill me with the energy to do all of my other various activities. Of course, this requires time-management skills. What I have found, however, is that the time I spend in stillness with God, through prayer and Bible reading, has emerged as one of my top priorities. So now, implementing my life of faith has become natural in a busy schedule.

What resources have you used to help you with any spiritual aspects of your life?

Sanctuary Church and the ministry team there have given me incredible support in my life of faith. Hope Muller, who is the leader of BCF, is literally the most caring person I know. She devotes so much time and energy to making BCF a great community where Brown students can take care of each other on our walk with God. My fellow Christian classmates have also given me so much support. Talking to people who are in the same place as me and going forward together with them has been uplifting and empowering.

Any last comments about Faith and God and Brown? Words of encouragement or discouragement?

The Christian community at Brown is super welcoming. I met most of my best friends through BCF and Christian activities on campus. The Christians here were more than excited to support me on my faith journey. I will say if faith isn’t a priority it will fall by the wayside. But there are a plenty of resources to help make faith a priority in your life as a college student. Being a Christian at Brown has definitely been difficult at times, but I’m coming out of Brown the strongest Christian I’ve been yet!

Thank you again for sharing Cia! See you guys next week!

Thanks for reading!  Have any questions at all about religion, spiritual life, or Brown in general? Feel free to shoot me an email at Takamichi_Akutsu@brown.edu with any of your questions or comments!

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