Lifelong scholarship through relationships

Some college graduates view graduation as the end of their formal education. The Timshel group, however, has taken ownership of learning and made scholarship a lifelong pursuit. The group's name comes from John Steinbeck's book, "East of Eden," and in Hebrew means "thou mayest," a phrase expressing that God has given people the ability to choose life and practice life together.

The Timshel group consists of Allie (Meriwether) Brown ('09), Leah (Olds) Doughty ('09-'10), Joey Spiegel ('06), Richard Strick ('05/'11), Hillary (House) Vaught ('11) and Mark Vincenti ('99).

The members of the Timshel group bring a variety of expertise and experiences to the table, but they share commonalities, too. All graduated from or attended Huntington University, all serve in ministry in Huntington, Ind., and all have a heart for the community. Rather than minimizing their differences, the group chooses to engage in them.

"We get into debates," Spiegel said. "It's unusual. We listen to each other and hear each other's perspectives. It's a good place where we learn and grow toward each other."

Doughty, the children's pastor at Life Church, brought the group together with a three-year grant opportunity she learned about through a denominational connection at her former church. She first contacted Spiegel, the executive director of the non-profit organization Love INC (In the Name of Christ) to see if he would join her on this endeavor. He agreed, and then Vincenti, the youth pastor at College Park Church of the United Brethren in Christ, joined. The Timshel group expanded to include Brown, a resident assistant at Huntington House, a homeless shelter; Strick, the pastor at St. Peter's First Community Church; and Vaught, the youth pastor at Life Church.

The group bonded together at a retreat in June 2011 in New Harmony, Ind., and gained a new sense of purpose.

"We learned that we didn't necessarily need to pursue a project for the grant," Brown explained. "There was more a focus on growth and what we wanted the group to be."

The mission of the group evolved into one of study as well as personal and collective growth through reading texts by church mothers and fathers and writing papers on these historical pieces.

In their nearly three years together, Timshel members have focused on the spiritual disciplines with an emphasis on the discipline of solitude. Through these academic endeavors, they have gained a greater understanding of the holistic nature of people.

"Mind and heart are connected," Vincenti said. "As we learn more, we can use what we learn to engage in a deeper relationship with God."

The ultimate goal for Timshel involves transformation of the Huntington community.

"The only thing we can bring to our ministry is our transforming self," Spiegel said. "Our goal is not to apply what we learn right away but to digest it fully and allow what we learn to transform us first."

"The surprise for me was realizing the work that needed to be done in myself before the vision for Timshel could be realized," Doughty added.

Although they have committed not to teach what they are learning for a period of time, the members of Timshel already have noticed positive changes in themselves and others.

"I have become less doing-centered and more focused on knowing God and allowing him to shape me in relationships with people together," Vincenti said.

"It all comes back to being in the presence of God and understanding the rhythm of work, play and ministry," Vaught expressed. "This group has helped me look for that rhythm and spend more time with students, which has been wonderful."

The final retreat for the Timshel group in January 2015 will serve as a sendoff so that the members can become what Spiegel calls "intentional agents of change, giving a hopeful alternative to the life most of us live."

Bonded by their shared experiences, the group plans to stay connected following the end of the grant.

"The end is truly the beginning," Strick said.