Women's Bible study promotes community and takes on difficult issues
The desire for a community in reckless pursuit of God has led Professor of Psychology and Human Development Susan Ashcraft to create a women’s Bible study called Beloved.
Starting back in fall of 2017, the study has grown from 10 women to over 50, as they desire to create a welcoming atmosphere where women are free to be open and ask difficult questions. Ashcraft began developing Beloved in summer of 2017 as she felt a calling placed on her heart to develop a community for women to discuss topics that are usually overlooked.
“I felt God telling me that I need to do this, so I started writing the lesson plans. Each semester, we have a different theme. This semester, it is ‘we are his beloved’ from Song of Songs,” Ashcraft said. “We are not afraid to talk about anything, and we dive deep with topics, such as ‘Am I beautiful?’ ‘Did God gift me with my sexuality just to sin?’ I want to ask and answer the hard questions women have.”
The openness of Beloved has led junior communications major Sarah Hinton into a sisterhood of women from all over Lee who come together to be vulnerable and talk about stigmatized issues.
“[Beloved] is different from other studies I have been to because Ashcraft is not afraid to talk about issues that are difficult,” Hinton said. “One week, she compared Christians to atheists in that if you don’t believe God can change your life, you are living as an atheist. It has given me a lot to think about, and as I take notes, I can use that during my own quiet time.”
Ashcraft opens her home each Thursday, and women enter into a sisterhood consisting of women from all across Lee’s campus. Ashcraft also brings in maternal figures who come each week to assist in leading the small group and provide a family for these women.
Senior psychology major Asia Harmon explained that this community provides the support and encouragement of a family while students are away from home.
“Ashcraft is like a mom, and I love that at Beloved we have friends that are intentionally pouring into us,” Harmon said. “It is nice to have this family, because my mom is hours away, and it is a safe place where you can go and be deep, but also have fun.”
Ashcraft said she combines her psychology background into her lessons, as she understands how the brain works and gives practical advice along with Scripture for issues that women face.
“I do faith integration in my own classes, but through this, I can take my background and incorporate it with our studies,” Ashcraft said. “For example, we have talked about how the brain works in certain scenarios, making it more understandable.”
Since its beginning, Beloved strives to be a place where anyone can feel like they belong.
“We have new and returning girls each week,” Ashcraft said. “You will find your place there, and you find girls that are similar to you there, as well as girls that are very different from you. We want you there.”
As she finishes out her senior year and looks forward to spending her final few months of school with Beloved, Harmon knows that her time in the group has made an impact on her faith.
“If it were not for Ashcraft inviting me to come one week, I would not have been connected to it otherwise,” Harmon said. “After I came that first week, I couldn’t stop going because it was a safe place where I could grow in my faith and community.”
Beloved takes place every Thursday. For women interested in joining, contact Dr. Susan Ashcraft at firstname.lastname@example.org.