September 15, 2011
By Jennifer Willis
Loving to learn was the common ground Wednesday at the Chris Ridge Senior Living Community in Phoenix.
In partnership with Jewish Family and Children's Services, two GCU students met with a group of senior citizens for a discussion on world religions. The topic, "Building Bridges Between Faiths," is aimed at exploring Buddhism and its similarities with Judaism and Christianity.
Junior Ty Kieser and senior Micah Briscoe, supported by GCU instructor Sanjay Merchant, spent the first of 10 scheduled weekly meetings getting to know the group of about two dozen, introducing them to the beginnings of Buddhism and how it eventually grew to become the fourth-largest religion in the world.
"Religion isn't always good," Merchant told the group before handing the microphone over to Kieser. "We take the bad with the good in everything. But in exploring different religions, we can have healthy discussions when we disagree about something, like we are doing here."
Kieser and Briscoe were chosen to lead the discussions because they showed themselves to be exceptional students in their world religions course. They seemed to be the right ones for the job, getting along well with those in attendance and even joking with the elderly women about their relationship status.
They were able to engage the group with questions and stir participation.
"I love studying faith and religion," Kieser told the group. "I love how God has instilled different needs in all of us, and each religion picks up on those needs. Everyone seeks the basic life questions, and each religion seeks to answer those questions in their own way."
While the majority of participants were Jewish, there also were a few Christians in the crowd. Most said they wanted to participate out of a desire to continue learning and a belief that understanding other religions builds tolerance and contributes to peace.
As one GCU graduate said when Merchant taught the "'Lopes Up" sign, "You're never too old to learn something new."
Discussions will meet at the senior living community, near 19th Avenue and Bethany Home Road, each Wednesday for the next nine weeks. The group will discuss the concepts of suffering, loss, healing, comfort and meditation found in all religions. Writings focusing on those subjects are found in the Psalms and in Hebrew poetry.
Reach Jennifer Willis at 639.7383 or Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.