News • March 18, 2021

CBU theatre students learn about faith integration

CBU theatre students learn about faith integration

CBU students Ramah Shirey (on guitar) and Brianne Jackson lead worship during community time for theatre students.

Riverside, Calif. (March 18, 2021) – At California Baptist University, every theatre major, minor and scholarship student can be found participating in community time on Tuesday nights.

Community time is a unique, and mandatory, feature of the theatre program, said Frank Mihelich, associate professor of theatre and community time advisor. It teaches students how to integrate faith into theatre.

“It’s important because the students have been encouraged by the mainstream culture to silo everything. Math is over there, theatre is over here and humanities is over here and none of these things mix,” Mihelich said. “You want to be an actor or a director or a mathematician or a lawyer? Great. How does your faith influence that?”

Community time is also student-led.

“I get to encourage my friends in the theatre community as they pursue being disciples of Christ,” said Sophia Oliveri, a theatre junior and one of the co-organizers. “It is my job to cultivate an environment for artists to commune with other artists as they pursue Christ and find what it means to integrate their art with their faith.”

Tuesday evenings include worship and Bible study. During the pandemic, the theatre department kept community time going. The worship team performed in Wallace Theatre while the rest of the students joined via Zoom. In years past, the group has read books on faith integration and art. This year, the students are studying “Celebration of Discipline” by Richard Foster.

Along with the spiritual aspect, community time includes recreation and outreach. During a normal year, recreation means going to a movie or a play or celebrating a holiday together. For outreach, they may serve dinner at a homeless shelter or make dinner at Operation Safehouse. Additionally, Mihelich brings in guest speakers, such as CBU professors, Christian playwrights or directors.

Oliveri and Brianne Jackson, a theatre sophomore, are the student co-organizers of community time. They create weekly content and oversee the logistics and the teams of student leaders for areas such as worship, prayer and small group discussion.

Jackson, who started in the role this semester, is learning organizational skills and time management.

“Being a leader, it allows me to really dig deep into the Bible to see what His word says about specific topics,” Jackson said. “It helps our community because it helps us to remember that God is at the center of everything that we do. We get to worship Him with the gifts that He has given us.” 

Oliveri said the experience has taught her that being a leader is not about being perfect. Community time also helps her and the other students grow in their faith, she said.

“We're asking ourselves, ‘What does it mean to make and cultivate art from a place wholly grounded in Christ?’” Oliveri said. “For those who have yet to commit their lives to Christ, it's encouraging to hear them willing to participate in conversations about faith in a safe place.”

Mihelich said other universities have contacted him about community time and how to implement it.

“The hope is that we can become a model for other schools,” Mihelich said. “There are a lot of faith-based theatre programs that are starting faith integration. Our program was built on that.”

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