When faced with a heavy workload and the demands of extracurricular activities, students turn to various resources in order to cope with these burdens. While some look to recreational activities and others seek out counseling, two athletes at Grinnell College have found both spiritual enrichment and a supportive community in the form of the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship.
A relatively new organization on campus, the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship was founded by Gregory Suryn ’11and Enoch Commey ’12 with the hopes of providing a tight-knit community in which student-athletes can participate in Bible studies and the practical application of religious texts while simultaneously connecting with their athletically-minded peers on a deeper level.
“Last year, we started talking about doing an athletes’ Bible study because there weren’t really many athletes going to community worship or to the Bible studies held by the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship,” Suryn said. “We got together and decided that we wanted to bridge that gap between athletics and the Christian community.”
After feeling “shy” and “singular” during his first few years, Suryn formed the group to connect Christian athletes together.
“My ultimate goal is to create a community and bring all of these athletes together so that we aren’t really alone and can support each other in both our athletic events and our academic studies,” Suryn said. “We are concerned about answering questions that [athletes] might have and applying this to our athletic life here.”
An extension of the Grinnell College Christian Fellowship, the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship provides an outlet for religious study in an environment that is inclusive, causal and open to debate and discussion. The structure of the weekly Bible study meetings, which occur on Thursdays in the PEC, give way to a collaborative learning experience, in which ideas can be voiced, shared and questioned.
“Instead of Enoch and I standing there and preaching what the passage means, we go through and note observations and questions,” Suryn said. “After that we go through it again and discuss it as a group. At the end we have an application. Like ‘Ok, so we have read all of this, now how can we apply it?’”
More than just a religious study group, the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship prides itself on their community in which student athletes can connect with one another and seek out support.
“I can relate and communicate with those who attend Bible studies who I formally did not know at all,” Commey said. “If it wasn’t for Bible study I don’t think that I would have met them in the first place.”
With several student-athletes and the Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach Andy Hamilton attending the weekly Bible studies, the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship has already established a foundation for themselves. It’s a small group of about 7 to 8 students that attend meetings, but as the year progresses, they hope to continue gaining support from Grinnell athletes, regardless of their spiritual orientation.
“It helps me get a peace of mind,” said Cody Weber ’13, a linebacker for the Pioneers’ football team. “To get away from the studies for a little bit, it just relaxes me. There some things that athletes have to do deal with that non-athletes don’t, there’s a certain pressure to compete and to do well and at the same time do well in school.”
Hamilton has advised Fellowship of Christian Athletes for two decades before this group was formed.
“The student leaders are doing a wonderful job of leading their classmates,” Hamilton said. “It’s been fun for me to sit and listen and to participate. But I think that it’s easier to connect in a spiritual situation when you’re connecting with peers and so the student led part is important.”
Hamilton who sees himself as a resource and a mentor to the student leaders and members, emphasizes the importance of a “sound spirit” in athletics.
“The Greek philosophers talked about a sound body, sound mind and sound spirit,” Hamilton said. “I think often times the sound spirit gets lost and at least for me personally, having a sound spirit is an important part of my makeup and so if they are students that want to explore that part of the triangle that’s what a Bible study group or any other spiritual group can do for them.”
Commey stresses that this group is for anybody exploring what a sound spirit means.
“There is no criteria, you don’t have to be a Christian to attend,” Commey said. “We don’t want someone to feel left out. It is more like a fellowship where we are all learning. There is no leader, we are all learning together.”
Like a strong sports team, the Grinnell College Christian Athlete’s Fellowship values community and the support of one another.
“No man is his or her own island,” Commey said. “You need people in order to survive and that is where the fellowship comes into play.”