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Christian Union
November 11, 2016

Christian Union's Engaging Lecture Series at Columbia

illumina2For more than two hundred years, Columbia University's motto has been: "In Thy light shall we see the light," based on Psalm 36:9. But according to Jim Black, Christian Union's director of undergraduate ministry at Columbia, each fall the university explains the motto and its true meaning incorrectly during freshmen orientation.

"Students are told that the meaning of the motto is 'by the light of you (incoming freshmen), we will all see the light.' That is a terrible misrepresentation of the biblical text," Black said.

At its weekly leadership lecture series, however, Black and Christian Union's ministry at Columbia are rightfully shining the light where it truly belongs—on Jesus Christ. The lecture series, known as Illumina (Latin for light), features biblical insight and teaching from a select array of scholars, pastors, and professionals.

For example, last semester Illumina featured a panel discussion on faith, work, and family with three distinguished couples: Adam (Princeton '09) and Amber Berry (Princeton '08), Allen (Cornell, BS '00 and MEng'01) and Angela Lamb (Cornell BA '99), and Greg (Princeton '92) and Ali Tsai (Northwestern). The panelists represented a range of sectors, including finance, medicine, education, and the non-profit arena. Adam Berry is a vice president at a leading global investment bank in New York City; Amber Berry is a French teacher and department chair at St. Luke's School in New Canaan, Connecticut. Allen Lamb works in finance at a small private equity firm; Angela Lamb is the director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology Faculty Practice and Director of Dermatology for the Institute of Family Health in New York City. Greg and Ali Tsai are both practicing physicians in New York City.

And the students enjoyed hearing from a wide range of professionals.

"What I liked most about the panel was that it allowed us to hear from people whose educational background was very similar to ours, and who lead the kind of lives that many of us may end up leading in ten to fifteen years," said McKenna Gilliland '17. "I think the six panelists gave us very valuable examples of how young Christians in New York City can continue to practice their faith after college."

Gilliland, a team leader for Illumina, said the leadership lecture series provides Columbia students with "the essential tools needed to approach the world around us."

"I am firmly of the opinion that Christians our age, no matter what leadership roles we occupy, still have a lot to learn," she said.

This fall, Illumina includes an eclectic mix of presenters, including Elias Poppe, an artist and curator on the Upper East Side of Manhattan; David Lamb, associate professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; and Rev. Charlie Drew (Harvard '72), senior pastor of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in New York.

As classes began in September, Christian Union ministry fellows and student leaders reached out to incoming freshmen and new students with a series of welcoming events, including Illumina. Black kicked off the lecture series by teaching on the Gospel of Mark, which will also be the focus of Christian Union Bible courses this semester. In addition to robust teaching, the lecture series also includes times for prayer and praise and worship.

"These kinds of lectures give us an inside look into the way faith shapes the lives of successful people," said Gilliland. "They help us to notice the differences between a life lived for God and a life lived in pursuit of other ends."