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September 30, 2021

Harvard Alumna Thankful for Cornerstone Partners Bible Study

By Alexandra Tartaglia, Harvard ’17

It was January of 2021, and I had been living at my parents’ house in my hometown of Rye, New York. I was completing my final semester of law school virtually, as the Fordham University School of Law campus was closed because of the pandemic.


Ever since the COVID-19 lockdowns had begun, I had been feeling lonely, as it was hard to keep in touch with my community of fellow believers as well as my law school classmates. The most difficult aspect of the pandemic was that I couldn’t visit my fiancée in California due to travel restrictions.


 

When I received an invitation to participate in an online Bible study for Cornerstone Partners of Christian Union, my spirit was lifted. I felt pure excitement for the first time in months. I recalled the fond memories I had of participating in Bible courses through Harvard College Faith and Action (now called CU Gloria) during my undergraduate years where I engaged in rich discussions of theology and faith that emboldened my beliefs and intellectually stimulated me. I longed to once again be part of a group that could help encourage me in my walk with Jesus at a time in my life where I felt spiritually dry. 

I believe God knows exactly what we need, precisely when we need it, as the Cornerstone Partners Bible study was truly the perfect medicine for my weary soul. Our study centered around Philippians, one of Paul’s epistles that recounts of the intense agony that the Apostle was called to endure. It also gives one a glimpse of the resounding joy that the Lord can impart onto the believer’s heart, even in the midst of extreme pain. It was the perfect study for Christians suffering through a difficult time. 

The brilliance of this Christian Union Bible study was its incorporation of historical context, including short biographies of other strong believers throughout history who endured great distress for the Kingdom of God. One such believer I learned about was Richard Wurmbrand, a formerly Jewish Christian martyr, who was tortured by Communists in Romania. Despite this, Wurmbrand continued to share the good news of the gospel throughout his life. My fiancée and I found his story so inspiring we went on to read one of his works, Marx and Satan, which opened our eyes to the evil that pervades societies that look to government for salvation instead of Jesus. The way that Christian Union designed the study of Philippians enriched my understanding of Paul’s account in new ways as it paralleled Paul’s account with those of other historical figures who sacrificed for God, and it gave me a background knowledge of the time period that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The other members of the study were also a delight to engage in discourse with regularly. The experience of participating in a Bible study with other Christian Union supporters who value exploring faith through an intellectual lens meant that each person had many enlightening perspectives to share. In addition, the study was multi-generational, which allowed me to gain wisdom from those who had far more life experiences than I did. The Bible study members consisted of mothers, teachers, lawyers, and graduate students. Julie Weber, a member of the Christian Union communications team, led our group with a grace and love that will stay with me. 

I hope I will be able to once again take part in a study as valuable as the one I participated in this past year with Christian Union. I began the study while going through a darker period in my life, yet God used Paul’s letter to the Philippians, historical biographies, and the experiences of the other believers to encourage my faith and help me to find joy once again. My ultimate reflection is that God can even use hardship for the good of those who love Him. The suffering I endured in the pandemic served to lead me to a Bible study that brought me closer to God and taught me that true happiness is found not in the world, but in Him. I am called to share this resonating joy in Christ with others.

As Paul himself states regarding his time under house arrest while in Rome, “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly….The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached and because of this I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:13-18a)

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