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TMCNet:  A community that prays together stays together

[January 05, 2013]

A community that prays together stays together

Jan 05, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Under the umbrella of Christianity, around 41,000 denominations exist, differing slightly in perspective and practice.

But within the Women's Community Bible Study, only one affiliation matters.

"The focus is just on the Bible and what's written in the Bible, coordinator Karen McCord said. "We don't get into denominational differences. Everyone is welcome." The Women's Community Bible Study, or CBS, began in Odessa last August, and was modeled after the national nonprofit program that promotes interdenominational communication and leadership conferences.

Each year, the Bible study group focuses on a singular section of the Bible, this year studying the Book of John.

Participants are given a study book with daily topics and questions to answer individually and later discuss in their small groups. At the end of the weekly study session, the director of the Bible study presents lectures to the entire class.

Without the focus placed on denominations, McCord said the group is able to discuss the Bible freely and as a community.

The approach proved popular in Odessa, with more than 150 women signed up in the first semester, McCord said.

"We were just pleasantly surprised, but everything we do is bathed in prayer," McCord said of the response. "We're really excited to see the community-minded folks that showed up. It's kind of overwhelming. It's really a community-centered Bible study." Because CBS is interdenominational, McCord said it's a great opportunity for those who attend small churches or don't have a church home.

"Of course there are a lot of churches that have their own Bible study, but the smaller churches don't necessarily have the Bible study opportunities. This kind of opens it up to people like that," McCord said. "You don't even have to belong to a church to do this. We open the doors to everyone." The Community Bible Study program is also a benefit to families, with the Children's CBS also starting up. The Men's CBS began four years ago.

All three study groups are assigned the same passages weekly, promoting discussion within the family.

Amy Jo Marshall said her husband began going to the Odessa Men's CBS four years ago and encouraged her to begin attending the women's group.

"We talk about it together from time to time. We often do our lessons independently and talk about the answers," Marshall said. "Sometimes the answers are the same and sometimes they're not. It strengthens our relationship. It's a good thing." Marshall said that unlike other Bible study groups, she can now participate in a class with friends of differing denominations.

The diversity of the Bible study enables all sorts of different viewpoints to be presented and discussed, Marshall said.

"You draw from different ages and you get different experiences and information. In our group, we have ages from college age up to about close to 80 years old," Marshall said. "If anyone is looking for a Bible study, this would be a good one to attend. It strengthens your beliefs. The more you study, the stronger your faith becomes." Contact Lyxan Toledanes on twitter @OAcitylife, on Facebook at OA Lyxan Toledanes, or call 432-333-7786.

___ (c)2013 the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) Visit the Odessa American (Odessa, Texas) at www.oaoa.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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