FAIRMONT - Evening Community Bible Study is now the third CBS class under way in Fairmont, an effort that has brought together hundreds of local Christians of varying denominations.
Since September 2001, the women's CBS group has been meeting Wednesday mornings at Grace Lutheran Church. Then came Teen CBS at Evangelical Covenant Church. The latest is the co-ed Evening Community Bible Study, which begins Monday at Grace Lutheran.
Part of what sets CBS programming apart from other Bible studies is its position - or lack thereof - on contentious issues that have historically torn Christians apart.
"One of the things that makes it different is we try to stand in the center of mainstream historic Christianity," said Dr. Jeff Fordice, teaching director for the Evening CBS. "In other words, we concentrate on the basic principles of the Christian faith. We want to focus in on what God's Word has to say and how we can apply it in our lives. ... We want to grow in our love and respect for other Christians and for non-Christians too."
The idea is to complement, not compete, with local churches.
"The goal of Community Bible Study is to glorify God. Is it going to glorify God by fighting with each other? It's just my personal opinion, but I don't think so," Fordice said.
That's not to say that the Bible study doesn't require a certain level of deep thought.
"We are not an academic seminary class, and we are not a light, quick and easy study. We are just about right for everyone," states the website, www.communitybiblestudy.org
In January, the Evening CBS group will begin dissecting the book of Mark. Participants are asked to devote seven days a week to the Bible study, for 18 weeks.
A booklet guides participants through daily Scripture reading and questions to the corresponding text, for five days a week. On the sixth day - Monday - they gather at Grace Lutheran, from 7-8:30 p.m. They quickly break off into small co-ed groups to talk about their responses to questions they answered the previous week. Then they meet as a large group for a 20-minute talk about that week's lesson, presented by Fordice, or co-teaching director Dr. Mark Anderson. On the seventh day, they read a commentary.
"It helps to pull everything together and help you understand more deeply," Fordice said.
Fordice is not a pastor, but a dentist who owns his own practice in Fairmont. Anderson is a psychologist with Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont.
"My qualification is, well, I'm not qualified," said Fordice, laughing humbly. "... I'm willing to do it."
In order to start the Evening CBS group, the leadership core was required by the organization to complete a study of Nehemiah and attend a training session in Colorado Springs.
"We study the book of Nehemiah, because he was given the task to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after the Jews were coming out of exile, and he did it in 52 days," Fordice said. "... In studying that, you get a vision of what is required for leadership."
Pre-registration is not required for Evening CBS. The materials for the class cost $12.50. Though the study of Mark starts Monday, participants can join at any time. The group is open to all ages, from high school and older