January 31, 2017 | By Alexa Brown — The Dean’s Bible Study began some 37 years ago, a humble beginning to what is now a cherished and celebrated staple at Pepperdine Law. It first began meeting in the 1980s and has been in continuous existence for most of the life of the law school. Every Wednesday evening, rain, shine, or looming exams, students flood over to the residence of Professor and Director of Global Programs Jim Gash and his wife Joline. Gash spoke about the student organized and student led gathering:
“My wife and I are privileged to provide the venue and some snacks. Each week, we sing a few songs, pray together, and get to hear from a student, professor, administrator, or other guest about a topic related to the speaker’s journey of faith. One goal with this gathering is to provide a sense of community for those looking to integrate their faith into their law school studies and career. Another goal is to bring an encouraging message each week from someone who has either walked the path ahead of them or from someone currently walking beside them. Law school can be overwhelming, so getting a reminder each week of the larger context of the journey the students are on provides much-needed perspective and grounding. My favorite part is the opportunity to connect more deeply with the hopes, dreams, and fears of the students who participate. They are a constant encouragement to me and a regular reminder of why I chose to dedicate my career to engaging with students.”
Former Professor of Law F. LaGard Smith, the original host before it was officially declared the Dean’s Bible Study, recalled, “Virtually every week except during exams, several of the students would stay long past the appointed time to continue the conversations. I was especially blessed that some of my closest and longest-lasting relationships with students centered around those who attended those early Bible studies.”
Following LaGard, the Wednesday night gathering switched hosts to Dean Emeritus and Senior Vice Chancellor Ron Phillips. He reflected:
When [LaGard] left his position as a full-time faculty member, [my wife] Jamie and I began hosting … [M]y late wife was a truly extraordinary cook and hostess–she made pies, cakes, cobblers, and all sorts of marvelous desserts each week. During the years we were hosts, we used a great many guest speakers, often law faculty and alumni. We were prayer warriors for each other and for our families, friends, fellow students, and the Law School itself.
I recall one fall where a 1L in our group shared with us during our prayer request time that her mother had terminal cancer; her mother’s dream was to live long enough to see her daughter graduate from law school. Her mother did live for those three years, even while it was not expected by her physicians. There were many answered prayers like these.
Although there was always more studying than one could manage, students often told me that the Lord somehow seemed to expand their time, because they had honored Him. Many of the students who met with us became close lifetime friends. Jamie and I hosted the Bible Study until the time of her last illness, and then Dan Martin, who was Dean of the Law Library, and his wife Kathi Stafford, hosted until Dean Martin left Pepperdine. [Then David Davenport hosted.] Then Vice Dean Tim Perrin, and his wife Lucy, served as hosts until they left for Vice Dean Perrin to become President of Lubbock Christian University. Professor Jim Gash, and his wife Joline, then took over, and they have now served as hosts for about six years. The Bible Study has been going on now for thirty some-odd years, and has impacted many lives in wonderful ways. It is my hope that it will continue as long as the Law School exists.
The Bible Study is currently run by host Jim Gash, Student Coordinator Alice Anderson (3L), and Student Worship Leader Luke Landers (3L). Anderson was kind enough to answer a few questions about her own experience with the Dean’s Bible study during her time at Pepperdine Law:
Can you explain what the Dean’s Bible Study consists of?
The students who attend Dean’s Bible Study recognize that leaders at Pepperdine have a wealth of wisdom and life experience as lawyers who strive to live as followers of Christ. To that end, students from all over the law school gather every week for a night of worship and prayer, with a message from a member of the Pepperdine community. It is a space for connection and rejuvenation in the middle of an otherwise full week of work.
How has the Dean’s Bible Study been an opportunity for you here at Pepperdine Law?
Attending Dean’s Bible Study initially familiarized me with some of Pepperdine’s vibrant leadership and students, and it served as a place to refocus on what really mattered amidst a trying first year of law school. As a 3L, I look forward to Dean’s Bible Study as a place to stay connected to students in each class at Pepperdine, while investing in my faith as a foundation from which to launch my future career.
Do you have a particularly favorite speaker, sermon, or lesson from the studies?
Each semester, speakers are invited to respond to a different theme. During my first semester, each guest spoke on Micah 6:8. I was humbled by the simplicity of the message and the different ways that each speaker breathed life into the call “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.”
Would you encourage other students to attend?
Dean’s Bible Study has been one of the most welcoming spaces in my experience at Pepperdine. I would recommend Dean’s Bible Study to students of any faith background who are interested in making friends, meeting Pepperdine’s leadership, and exploring more of the Christian faith.