“Souldiers” Ministry held their second week of “TheJourney,” a non-denominational worship service, in the Edge Caf?e at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
The service is intended to help students questioning their faith to find God. Brian Pedraza, a Cornell student, initiated “TheJourney” on his campus and presented Sunday’s message. Sophomore Brian Haghighi leads the ministry at Colgate.
As Pedraza explained on Sunday, he began to question the world and his place in it at a young age when he experienced the death of a close personal friend. As the sermon went on, Pedraza shifted his focus to what Haghighi called “the serious questions,” dealing more with his faith.
Haghighi’s experience with religion was also transformative.
“What got me serious about faith and God was when it was put in a way I could relate to,” Haghighi said.
As a result of these leaders’ experiences, TheJourney was designed to be accessible to college students.
Stepping into the Edge on Sunday, it was instantly clear that this was no ordinary church service. Students sat relaxed around the circular tables, as opposed to the traditional straight rows of benches in the traditional Christian services held in the Memorial Chapel.
There were no priests or hymn books, though hymn lyrics did appear on a projection board, and the instrument of choice was a guitar, not an organ. There were bibles, but rather than having bible passages read to them, students were encouraged to flip through the bible at leisure.
“And by the way, if you don’t have a bible, it’s yours to keep. I just thought I’d throw that out,” Haghighi said.
The service began with a declaration by Pedraza.
“I’m going to be praising my heart out to God by singing,” he said. He went on to invite people to praise as they pleased during the service, whether through singing, thinking or flipping through the Bible.
“All that matters is that you worship,” he said. Even the singing was unusual. Pedraza gave off the distinct impression that he wasn’t only singing about God, he was singing to Him.
“We honestly feel God is alive and God is real,” Haghighi said.
The students responded to the music in a variety of ways. Some just listened, while others clapped, mouthed the words or even stood up and closed their eyes.
Singing was interspersed with prayer, but it was not recitation of traditional prayers. The beginning of Pedraza’s sermon, too, was unconventional.
“St. Paul is this crazy guy killing Christians,” he said, “And then he had an encounter with God that changed his life.” Pedraza shared a story about his own life and struggle to find faith.
The ministry emphasizes the idea that being a good Christian doesn’t mean never making mistakes.
“I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect,” Haghighi said. “God never insisted on perfection, but he insisted on a willingness to change.”
TheJourney is open to everyone; not only non-denominational, it is intended to include non-Christians as well as Christians. Yet the service challenges everyone in attendance to confront heavy topics about life, death and God.
Haghighi encourages students considering the service not to feel intimidated.
“You come as you are and soak it in,” he said. “No pressure. In the meantime, let it take root in you heart, so you can start grappling with these concepts.” The ministry aims to create a lifestyle of worship beyond the service itself.
“God’s too big for an hour and a half time slot on Sunday,” Haghighi said. “We’re redoing the way Church is done.”