“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”—Psalm 133:1
There is a lot of talk about “togetherness” today. A recent television series, aptly named “Togetherness,” attempted to define the word as its characters tried to work out their personal differences in humorous ways. Sometimes, the word is applied to an activity. At other times, it reflects a feeling of warmth, intimacy, and fellowship. In reality, “togetherness” can actually be a bit hard to define. Yet togetherness may be the best way to describe the experience that our Living Education–Charlotte students enjoyed this year, as we kicked off our new program.
Together in the Classroom
The Living Education experience is anchored in our Bible classes, as the students learn from God’s word together. The classes review and rehearse the basic doctrines of the Church, focusing on topics such as “Who and What Is God?,” “What Is the Destiny of Man?,” and “What Is the Gospel?” Other classes include topics concerning Christian living, such as “Biblical Health Laws,” “Family Finances,” and “Keys to Godly Success.” Yet others involve surveying the books of the Bible. Students learn about the themes, story flow, and background of each book of the Bible as they study it. As students listen in class and tackle their homework and projects, they learn about the Bible together.
And if they have questions, there is always someone to ask. “What did the instructor say about the Red Sea crossing?” “What was the date that Solomon built the temple at Jerusalem?” If you didn’t catch the answer in class, one of the other students is sure to have caught it! “When is that essay due?” “What topic are we supposed to focus our video project on?” When you are together in the classroom, someone has the answer and is there to help.
Spending a full nine months studying God’s word alongside other young people who are also passionate about learning God’s way of life is a special experience—and it certainly brings the group closer together.
Together in the Dormitories
This year’s students came from all corners of the United States. One student was from Florida, another from Mississippi, and yet another from Oregon. For one young man, California was home—and the best state of all! For one of the ladies, home would always be Texas. Yet for this year, they were all together in Charlotte, North Carolina, and glad to be here! Studying online is a great way for many of our students to be linked to a common program. However, living side-by-side enhanced the learning experience for these young men and women.
In the men’s accommodations, the guys share a kitchen, though most have their own bedrooms. They have to learn to live with one another’s peculiarities and get along. At first, living with a person you’ve never met can seem awkward, but as the year goes on, bonds of brotherhood form and cement. And did I say peculiarities? To a young man who savors the flavor of scrambled eggs with only salt and pepper, the habit of putting ketchup on everything, including scrambled eggs, seems pretty strange! Yet, learning to tolerate and even appreciate the different preferences and habits of those around you is a great step toward the patience, kindness, and forbearance required in marriage.
The girls also live in a beautiful home, sharing the kitchen and common spaces with one another. The opportunity to have six instant sisters can be overwhelming! But as the months go by, all the “sisters” develop a special place in the fabric of daily life with one another. They laugh together, cry together, share meals, and share challenges.
Such circumstances bring special meaning to “togetherness.”
Together in Student Life
At the end of each hectic week filled with classes, homework assignments, and work duties, the Sabbath provides an anchor. Students gather together on Friday evenings and enjoy a meal as the Sabbath begins. One of the young ladies has the special duty of creating the meal for everyone, and one of the men acts as the host for the evening. Each week, they invite a few of the local brethren to join the meal, extending the idea of “togetherness” by bringing others into the home. Together, everyone talks and fellowships—and together, the men wash the dishes! Other activities, both official and unofficial, fill the calendar, including trips to the seaport city of Charleston, the Columbia Zoo, and the Great Smoky Mountains. In our activities, an important emphasis is placed upon the need to avoid leaving people out. Since all the Living Education–Charlotte students are individuals, possessing varying mixes of interests and preferences, it would be easy to fall into cliques of like-minded students—but that would defeat the purpose of being together in the first place.
Learning to dwell together harmoniously is one of the most important lessons that our Living Education–Charlotte program teaches. It’s important that the students who come to Charlotte understand and desire that kind of experience. With that mindset, living together makes for an enjoyable learning experience.
Together in a Spirit of Fellowship
Living Education–Charlotte gives young adults in God’s Church an opportunity to experience a year of togetherness.
At the same time, God is giving all of us in His Church the same opportunity. In a very real and practical way, God is cementing us together into His body. In Ephesians 2, we read,
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (vv. 19–22).
As members of the Church of God, we are being fitted together, fashioned together, and built together into a body, a building, a team, and a family. We are learning to focus our efforts so that we work together in God’s own Work. We learn to work together harmoniously as we gather together each Sabbath to worship God. Just being acquainted with each other and interacting from time to time is not enough. Our challenge is to function together as one body, led by Jesus Christ and fulfilling the desire of Christ as reflected in His prayer to His Father in John 17:21. He prayed “that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.”