Author Feature: Matt Black


Hello all,

My name is Matt Black.  I have been a part of the leadership of Smoky Row Brethren Church since 2008, but my involvement with the denomination goes much further back.  In fact, I was born into it.  My grandfather, Jim R Black was a pastor in the denomination for many years.  And my dad, Jim F. Black is still currently preaching in the denomination at Milledgeville Brethren Church in the state of Illinois.  So this denomination has been my life.

mattBeing raised as a pastor’s kid sent me on a journey that may seem somewhat familiar to many of the same cloth.  I was seen as the “perfect kid” by many adults.  I had my rebellious moments and struggles, but for the most part I did the right thing.  Then I went to college at Ashland University and had to find my own path.  I loved sports and always have.  In fact I have my own baseball blog here:  I didn’t want to really be a pastor so I went into a communication and sports broadcasting degree.

Yet, God has some funny plans sometimes.  Through a great friend and roommate in college, Jason Barnhart, I was drawn back into ministry.  I went to Ashland Theological Seminary, got my M-Div degree, and thought this is what God wants me to do.

Over the years since coming here to Smoky Row I have learned that ministry is so much more than just being a pastor.  It took me awhile to see that, but I am thrilled with where God has placed me.  I am involved in so many different roles at Smoky Row and I love it.

I currently work at United Collection Bureau in Upper Arlington.  I have met so many people in all walks of life and it has been such a blessing!  I love people.  That is it.  That is the basics of who God has made me to be.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Outside of my love for being around people, I love coffee, a good book, and sports.


Author Feature: Bob Trube


I came to Columbus 24 years ago as statewide director of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Almost immediately, our family joined Smoky Row. Ben has shared that story so I won’t. Over the years, I’ve taught Adult Ed, served on the Board of Directors (now the Governance Team) and had a stint as moderator, as well as occasionally shared in our preaching.

Bob Trube2

My day job is serving as the Senior Area Director for InterVarsity’s Graduate and Faculty Ministry in the Ohio Valley. I lead a team of six staff covering an area stretching from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh and from Morgantown, WV to Cleveland. I also serve as the staff member for the graduate fellowship of InterVarsity at Ohio State, the Christian Graduate Student Alliance. I would describe my passion as helping bring the love of God and the love of learning together in the lives of graduate students and faculty.  I love a line from a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that says, “For Christ plays in ten thousand places.” One of the things I love is to see all the different places Christ is at play across campus in different areas of research and the quiet faithfulness of so many of his people from janitorial staff to college presidents.

Through the influence of my blogging son and the encouragement of some colleagues, I launched a blog in this past year, “Bob on Books” that now has been viewed more than 5,000 times. I post on a nearly daily basis reviews of books, thoughts about reading, and wider reflections on life that come out of both what I read and observe. I’ve always thought I communicated better in writing and I think maybe I’ve discovered where my son got the writing bug from!

My artist wife Marilyn helps me slow down and see what is in front of me, whether it is a still life that I am helping her set up and photograph or a plein air outing with the Worthington Area Arts League. I take a sketch pad along and “doodle” while my wife creates real art. I also sing with Capriccio Columbus and Marilyn graciously endures listening to me practice music. We both enjoy gardening, indoors and out, and going for walks in local Metroparks as well as through used bookstores and art supply stores.

Author Feature: Ben Trube


Ben Trube is a writer and blogger who blogs three times a week on [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer on writing, technology, or whatever strikes him at the moment. He’s been a member Ben Trubeof Smoky Row Brethren Church on and off since he was five. His first memory of the church is a group of church people taking his parents and him bowling right after they moved to Columbus. He stepped over the line, did the splits which he was not designed for, and broke his thigh and was in a cast for 10 weeks during which he got to experience the warmth and generosity of the congregation first hand. He didn’t bowl for 11 years, but has since come to love the sport, and his company bowling tournament is a yearly treat.

Ben has been married for five years to his wife Hannah who he affectionately refers to as “The Little Red Haired Girl”. Ben and Hannah were the first couple Rich married, a wedding our pastor is unlikely to forget. They live in Columbus with their dog Simon and cat Dax.

Ben attended The Ohio State University, earning a degree in Computer Science and works as a programmer professionally. At OSU Ben sang in the Ohio State Men’s Glee club as a Baritone and has from time to time participated in the community choir led by his high-school director, Cappriccio.

Ben has self-published one book, with another due in summer 2014. The first is a book on fractal art and programming, Fractals: A Programmer’s Approach, and the second is a noir/technological mystery set in Columbus.

Ben is really excited about where this blog can go. We’ve got a lot of great writers here, and have already received some great feedback. Ben would like to thank everyone who’s signed up so far and encourages anyone to like, comment or share any of these posts!

Author Feature: Brenda Colijn


Brenda Colijn is ordained in the Brethren Church.  She serves on the pastoral staff at Smoky Row Brethren Church and teaches theology at Ashland Theological Seminary.  Her spiritual journey took her through several different denominations and independent churches before she found her home in the Anabaptist/Brethren tradition.  She has been involved in Smoky Row Brethren Church since 1983, when the congregation was just three years old.

Brenda Colijn photo smallBrenda is married to Henk Colijn, and they have two grown children.  Although she grew up near Pittsburgh, PA, Brenda moved to Columbus, Ohio with Henk in the fall of 1982.  So she’s now a Buckeye, having lived in Columbus longer than she’s lived anywhere else.  This conversion was cemented through her husband’s employment at Ohio State University and her daughter’s graduation from OSU.

In her professional development, Brenda studied English at the undergraduate and graduate level, which left her with an abiding love of great literature, an appreciation for ambiguity, and a nagging perfectionism about writing.  Her later graduate degree in theology taught her the importance of asking questions, thinking carefully, and coming to nuanced conclusions that are open to revision.  She has been influenced by writers as diverse as C. S. Lewis, Jurgen Moltmann, N. T. Wright, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, C. J. Cherryh, and Terry Pratchett.

Brenda enjoys reading, writing, walking, riding her recumbent bike, talking about theology, engaging with science fiction in any format, and playing the occasional video game.  She has published a book with InterVarsity Press called Images of Salvation in the New Testament.  She is new to blogging.

Author Feature: Jeff Whiteside


Every week we’ll be getting to know each of our blog contributors. Today is Jeff Whiteside. Check out Jeff’s most recent post Assessing Our Gifts.


Hello.  I’m Jeff Whiteside and I’ll be teaching social studies at Berkshire this year. It’s my favorite subject and I can’t wait to begin teaching it to the awesome kids that we’ll have on team 602. 

I caught the teaching bug early. Believe it or not, rather than hire substitutes to cover an afternoon teacher meeting, my home school district put high school juniors and seniors in charge of elementary school classrooms. I’ve always liked working with kids. Since graduating from Ashland University in 1979, I’ve taught, coached, and directed school plays in rural Ashland County and in Delaware City. Between each teaching assignment, I’ve been employed by my church and held responsibilities for youth, outreach, and education programs. This will be my seventh year teaching in Olentangy middle schools.

Tracy, my wife of nearly 20 years, is a mental health counselor and works for WellSpring in Columbus. Both of our kids are now out of high school. Cara graduated from Olentangy Liberty in 2005 and is now studying to become an art teacher. Her younger brother, David, recently finished culinary school and moved to Cleveland.

I’m Just Not Feelin’ It


Participating in the Eucharist can be stressful, particularly if you’re not a Sunday morning person.

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NIV)

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.

So much of faith seems to be about our inner life “our thought life.” Certainly as a guy growing up in late 90s Christian circles, our sexual thought life was something we had to think very carefully about. And a lot of faiths, Christian or not, are focused on the idea of centering oneself, of finding an inner piece and serenity through meditation or prayer. When participating in ceremony, be it Sunday morning in general, or communion in specific, we are to reverent, selfless and faithful.

Well, maybe after my first cup of coffee.

Ben TrubeI don’t get a lot of sleep during the week since I wake up pretty early for work or early morning writing sessions. Even though our service is later (10:30), it’s not always my most reverent or even focused period of time. I can fake it with the best of them of course: stay quiet, stare at the cup. I try to tear of a piece of the bread that isn’t too tiny but doesn’t look greedy either. I kneed it in my fingers while listening to Paul’s other verses about communion, and I try to hold the tiny cup in my big fingers without crushing it.

And then I hear verses 27-29 and I’m uncomfortable. I believe in Jesus, and his sacrifice for humanity, for my sin and the sin of everybody else. But these verses sound an awful lot like I’m gonna get screwed if I’m not thinking about this the right way. It’s even enough to make me feel awkward about taking communion in other churches. They’re Christians, I’m a Christian, but are we really in the same place on this?

I think Rich rightly points out that we may be focusing too much on our inner life, as well as ignoring the larger role the whole Lord’s supper is supposed to play in our lives. It’s less that the Corinthians weren’t being right with God internally, and more that they weren’t being right with each other.

But let’s talk more about feelings for a second.

I definitely don’t want my relationship with God to be swayed by my emotions, much in the same way that my marriage isn’t governed solely by how in love I’m feeling that particular day. Thinking myself spiritual would certainly be easier than actually doing anything, or at least it would be if I wasn’t so internally distracted by ideas.

It’s a bit why I like the idea of this blog. God’s catching me at my better moments, and I’m actually drawn to reading and thinking about his word rather than passively trying to take it in by osmosis. I engage with scripture from a literary perspective, from a critical thinking perspective, sometimes from awe at creation, science or math, but rarely out of a particularly “spiritual” feeling.

Here’s how I know something is important to me: do I think about it, especially at random times? My writing can pop into my head at all times of the night or day. My wife is never far from my mind, even on days that I seem distracted and unfocused. And God’s there too, but maybe not in the same unconscious way. The real reason I sometimes feel awkward about the bread and cup is that I don’t always feel I’ve been thinking about God much, except on Sunday morning, and maybe not even then. It’s kinda like being asked to make a toast at the wedding of a friend you haven’t really seen in a while. You’re still friends, and you have a lot of stories about when you were kids, but life’s gotten in the way.

So, if we’re gonna think about anything when we take the bread and the cup, I think it should be less about a specific feeling of “spiritual reverence” and more about where we stand with God. But that said, if we want God to be more a part of our lives, and if taking the Eucharist reminds us of that, then we have nothing to worry about.

Have these verses been a stumbling block for you? What about communion in general?

Watch This Space


Welcome to”Going Deeper”!

The purpose of this blog is to continue the conversation we start each Sunday morning, to take the word of God into the work week and our everyday lives. Scripture can sometimes seem very disconnected from life as we experience it today. This blog is one small effort to change that perception.

Ben TrubeWe’ll be posting three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays (or sometimes Wednesday) and Fridays. Our contributors are all part of the congregation at Smoky Row Brethren Church, some of whom you may also know from other blogs on WordPress. Ben Trube (pictured) writes about writing, technology and fractals over at [BTW] Ben Trube, Writer as well as working as the new administrator of this blog. Matthew Black writes about sports and the gifts of God over at The South Side story. Bob Trube blogs about books and whatever else is on his mind over at Bob on Books. Brenda Colijn is a professor at Ashland Theological Seminary and author of the book Images of Salvation in the New Testament. Jeff Whiteside is an associate pastor, worship leader and teacher in Olentangy Schools.

We’re looking forward to this opportunity to reflect on God throughout the week. We hope you’ll join the conversation by liking, commenting or following this blog.