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Fellowship group Iron Sharpens Iron fosters interfaith community

| Friday, November 1, 2019

Inspired by the Bible verse Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” the group Iron Sharpens Iron (ISI) was established at Notre Dame over 20 years ago to bring Christians of all denominations together in worship. Initially a weekly men’s bible study held in a dorm room, it has since grown to one of the largest faith-based groups on campus, meeting every Thursday night at 10 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Center Lounge. ISI logistics officer, senior Whitney Lim, said these meetings regularly attract 80 to 100 attendees.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Members of Iron Sharpens Iron gather for a meeting on Thursday night. The organization began as a men’s Bible study group but is now an interdenominational Christian group that discusses many faith-based matters.

“Iron Sharpens Iron is an interdenominational Christian fellowship here on campus, student-run, and we try to do events and outreach and community building and ministries for people who are curious about Christianity or want to go deeper into Christianity,” Lim said. “We welcome any denomination, Catholics, Orthodox [Christians] … anyone who wants to come is welcome.”

Lim said the Thursday night meetings, at which members deliver talks on a variety of faith-based topics, are the group’s primary event, but that ISI hosts a wide array of other events, including several weekly small groups, potlucks, game nights and a day-long retreat once a semester. In addition to these established activities, ISI has also introduced new events in the past few years, including a grill-out on South Quad — followed by an outdoor worship meeting — and an ISI formal dance.

While many other faith groups exist on campus, ISI provides an important community for Christians of all denominations, Lim said.

“I think it’s good that at a Catholic university, there are options for the non-Catholics,” she said.

As a freshman, Lim said she was initially worried about coming to a Catholic school as a Presbyterian, but ISI helped her find a community.

“When I saw the ISI poster, it seemed like it was very established and like it would be a good community for me,” she said. “I went the first Thursday and it was definitely a bit overwhelming because of how big it was, but I met such good people, and there was a really good talk that night and I was really impressed that this was all student-led … I think the biggest part is the community. I’ve met my closest friends there, and I’ve gotten connected with other resources and other people through it.”

ISI is supervised by Campus Ministry, but all programming and planning is led by the students.

Senior Irla Atanda is a member and former outreach officer for ISI. As a member of ISI for her entire undergraduate year, she said that ISI helped her find a community at Notre Dame, and, true to its name, “sharpened” her.

“I think it is a very fitting name,” Atanda said. “At least my first year, that’s where I found a lot of my closer friends who I feel like have sharpened me, per se, throughout my career undergraduate career here at Notre Dame. Just having those friendships [meant] that I could be a lot more real with my struggles and faith or my excitement about different things in life, and for them to continue to sharpen me and love me for who I am — I think the name itself has a lot of significance for the club and for the friendships that were made within the community.”

Atanda said she encourages anyone to come to the meetings, regardless of their faith background.

“I think it’s important for anybody to feel comfortable or who wants to come to just come and check it out,” she said. “If it doesn’t end up being your thing, that’s totally fine. There are so many cool people in different communities within Notre Dame, but [I’m] just encouraging anyone who even has thought about it to come and just experience ISI for what it is and to feel open.”

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About Andrew Cameron

Andrew is a senior from Orange County, California. He is an associate news editor at the Observer, and is majoring in Biological Sciences and English. While he has greatly enjoyed his time at Notre Dame, during the winter months he often wonders why he ever left the perennial warmth of Southern California.

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