The Bird House: a new perspective on community living

Biblical studies professor opens up his home for undergraduate discipleship opportunity.

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The Bird House: a new perspective on community living

Macie Cummings, News Editor

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When choosing a housing option for the year, not many students consider living on the same property in a community with their professor. But that is exactly what seven bible students are doing this year.

Professor of New Testament Kenneth Berding and his wife Trudi have opened up their home and their lives to five undergraduate Bible majors, as well as two Talbot School of Theology graduate students. A nurse who is married to one of the Talbot students also lives on the property and takes part in the community.

The young couple lives in an upstairs attachment of the Berding home, while the rest of the students live in a separate house on the property. All of these structures make up what their occupants call the “Bird Houses.”

“[It] takes me outside of the strictly college student mindset,” said senior biblical studies major Alex Worthington. “Being in the house is like being part of their family in many ways.”

This community living style began as a dream over twenty years ago. The Berdings lived overseas in the Middle East for seven and a half years in a very communal type of setting, and before that in an Asian refugee community.

“We’re very community-oriented people,” Berding said. “I wanted to make a difference in the lives of students. My goal in life, more than anything else, is to help to fan into flame what God has already started in students. I consider my teaching to be discipleship and I’m doing everything I can to help students grow in their faith.”

The Berdings are doing just that as the community develops their close-knit relationship.

“When living on campus and even hypothetically living in another house, you kind of see there’s an individual kind of mindset,” said senior biblical studies major Matthew Garcia. “Just from what we’ve seen in two weeks, [we’re] not just a bunch of individuals, we’ve already seen the community aspect of it in just two weeks.”

The men get to spend time together as a house, growing in their relationships with each other and with God.

“I think this community will provide us all with a community in which to seek God together and inspire and challenge each other to love God and others with all that we are,” said Peter Brown, Talbot student.

The house functions like that of a standard rental experience. The boys pay rent, cook their own meals and live on their own apart from the Berdings.

The group comes together and participates in community dinners throughout the semester, as well as voluntary morning prayer meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“Having opportunities like [the morning prayer] two days a week [has] been a huge benefit, starting your day off like that praying for each other, and just hearing from each other,” said senior biblical studies major David Garcia.

Each member of the house also meets with Berding one on one, as well as in pairs, to receive mentoring.

“It is a safe space to talk about doubts in the faith,” said senior biblical studies major Jeremey Lupinacci. “But also, it is incredible and humbling to be able to receive wisdom from someone who is so mature in the faith. [Berding] encourages me as a mentor and brother in the faith.”

Berding and his wife’s desire to encourage the boys in their faith and help them grow in relationship with each other while in this community.

“My main hope is that their roots will go deep into God’s word,” Berding said. “They’ll know how to live life in the Holy Spirit, and that they’ll be prepared over the long run to really make an impact in the world for Jesus Christ. That’s what my goal is, and my prayer is.”