April 13, 2024

California Baptist University’s theater program hosts a weekly community time for students and faculty. The event is an hour of spiritual formation that encourages students in the theater program to integrate faith with their art.

Community time consists of a worship service and meetings in small groups every Tuesday. The event is mandatory for all theater majors, minors and any students on scholarship with the theater program. The student-run community time features an outreach team, recreation team, prayer team, audiovisual team and worship team.

Sophia Oliveri, junior theater major, is the main student lead for community time and oversees the big picture of what community time is about.

“I develop the content that we are going over each week,” Oliveri said. “During our meetings, we have a time of worship and we look at something that has to do with faith integration and discuss it in small groups after. In that time, we are really hoping people can take their identity as an artist and their faith and merge them.”

Since taking over community time 10 years ago, Frank Mihelich, associate professor of theater and community time adviser, has worked to make CBU one of the premiere faith-based university theater programs in the country.

“We thought about not doing it during COVID-19, but we made the decision as staff and faculty that we have to be creative (and) we cannot just hide under a rock,” Mihelich said. “As theater majors, they have to spend a lot of time with each other, and sometimes that can be good because it creates community and sometimes that can be bad because they are with each other all the time. To actually have time to focus on community and spiritual life makes it lean towards the good. For staff and faculty, we want to take faith integration seriously and sometimes that is hard to do in class, so we have created a special time to celebrate Christianity that is represented in this school and this student body.”

Brianne Jackson, sophomore theater major, is one of the student leads for community time. This is Jackson’s first semester as a student leader, and she has already seen the benefits of community time in her art.

“Faith integration is a new concept for me,” Jackson said. “At community time we learn things about how God is working in the theater realm and how we can take that into our schoolwork and our shows. Community time helps shape your worldview towards Christ. At the end of the day, we are all just Christian artists coming together to learn more about Christ and theater.”

Since the onset of COVID-19, 40-50 students and faculty have been meeting over Zoom for community time. Mihelich credits community time with being the reason the members of the theater program are so close.

“Community time reminds us of our identity and relationship with God and, as a result, our relationships with one another,” Oliveri said. “The theater community is already so close and to be able to have a theater community that is not only doing art together but also rooted in Christ means a lot. It is an opportunity to be a witness and testimony to people in our program who do not have faith in God. There is a lot of openness about faith and conversations that would not have happened apart from community time.”

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