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Faith & Friendship: Nigel Wallace Returns to Bluefield University for Interfaith Panel

by | May 15, 2023

Nigel Wallace is a Christian poet, author, and podcaster who is well-known on the Bluefield University campus. He was the main speaker for Duremdes Christian Emphasis Week in 2020 and most recently, the host of the Faith & Friendship panel on Wednesday, April 26.

“I wonder how many of us lead with our faith first before we lead with our humanity,” Wallace said at the panel. “It’s not to say that our faith is not important because it’s the most important thing that we possess, but our humanity is utterly important, too. Humanity is so important, in fact, that Jesus chose to step down from glory into human flesh to live among us and show us the way that humanity ought to be utilized.”

Wallace discussed his friendships with people from other faiths and collaboration on charitable causes with individuals from different religious backgrounds. He began the conversation by reading from John 5. In this passage, a man who had been disabled for thirty-eight years was sitting by the Pool of Bethesda, believing that, if he was the first to enter the pool after an angel came and stirred the waters, he would be healed. Even though the man believed in superstitious folklore, Jesus offered him relational love, and through that came healing. Wallace encouraged attendees to build relationships with non-Christians and extend Jesus’ invitation to them.

“We’ll be praying for another person like, ‘Lord, I just pray that you would work and move in their life,’ and maybe He wants to use you to work and move in their life,” Wallace said. “We’ll be praying for another person because of the way that we’re experiencing them outwardly, but we won’t spend time enough to listen to them and love on them to understand why they are the way that they are—what culture they were brought up in, what experiences they have, what trauma they have—because we all bring something to the table.”

The panel emphasized the importance of recognizing each person’s humanity and what he or she brings to the table. Wallace admitted that, as a Christian, he was initially skeptical about having a Muslim roommate, who was unable to join him for the panel, but by investing in his roommate’s interests and learning more about his beliefs, Wallace has opened a door for faith-based conversations.

“He’s one of my best friends on planet Earth because I removed those preconceived notions from my heart and created an avenue of vulnerability for him to be able to connect with me, and now, we talk about God all the time! His experience and expression are different from mine, but it’s a conversation that we still have,” he shared.

Wallace proceeded to start a dialogue with BU students, faculty, and staff by addressing five commonalities that hinder people from connecting with one another, especially those with different beliefs:

  1. “Normalized abnormalities have perverted our perspectives.”
  2. “When we misunderstand a message, we have to put things back within their proper context.”
  3. “The way that we perceive relationships will predicate how we receive reality.”
  4. “We weaponize beautiful things when we refuse to process our pain.”
  5. “Our lack of healing can create massive hurdles for others.”

This panel was the latest opportunity funded by a grant from Interfaith America. This academic year, BU students have participated in several events to increase their interfaith awareness, including film presentations at The Granada Theater in Bluefield, West Virginia, field trips to The Greenbrier County Historical Society and North House Museum, on-campus panel discussions on interfaith relationships, and a visit to the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) as well as museums in Washington D.C.

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