Debbie Reynolds Shares Her Greenwich Bible Study Phenomenon

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Debbie Reynolds recently stood in the entrance to the Greenwich Country Club dining room, inspecting the stage of over 300 people. The Wednesday noon event that filled the almost standing room was the 22nd Annual Greenwich (GBS) Bible Study Luncheon, which included two speakers who would prove to be motivating: Gretchen Carlson, a FOX News host, and Carla Harris, a dynamo Morgan Stanley CEO and gospel singer, named by Fortune magazine as one of the “50 Most Powerful Black Executives in American Business”.

As long-time GBS president, Debbie had a smile on her face as she noticed that most of the attendees were women from Greenwich in their 30s, 40s and 50s. thirds of the crowd were 50 and under, ”she said.

Debbie started the first Greenwich Bible study group at Christ Church 28 years ago with approximately 50 women. This, she says, led to the creation of what are now 60 to 70 ecumenical Bible study groups across the city, all from her first GBS group which still meets weekly at Christ Church.

“GBS planted the seed,” says Debbie. “Over the years, as people learned about GBS, they were given the tools to start their own groups with their friends in their own homes. A recently formed group she knows has 30 women.

Debbie’s initial idea for GBS came from a visit to her native California. A friend in Los Angeles took her to a community Bible study group (a national organization of Bible study groups) where she saw a church “full of friendly, happy, lovely women.” She decided on the spot to set up her own group.

Her concept for a Bible study group was different from what she had experienced in her married and religious life in Greenwich. Instead of discussing “a paragraph of scripture or a religious book,” she says, “I wanted people to understand the Bible as a whole. Hebrew Bible until Revelation. It is God who reveals himself. I wanted others to be excited about this. “


During that first year, Debbie formed a committee of a dozen or more people to help start her Greenwich Bible study group. “We were 50 to 60 – we were between 40 and 50,” she said. “We have met every Wednesday, fall, winter and spring. The church that accepted us with open arms was Christ Church Greenwich.”

Her group recruited various ministers to teach them specific Bible topics, Debbie says. The group’s workforce rose to 80, then to 100 over the following years. To further develop GBS, she created an annual high-level GBS luncheon with inspiring speakers. The first lunch drew over 200 people, says Debbie.

One of the speakers at the group’s first lunches was Reverend Neely Towe, the now retired pastor of the Stanwich Congregational Church. She ended up teaming up with Debbie at GBS early on. “She was a mentor and a partner with me in GBS,” Debbie said. She remembers Towe speaking of “Esther in the Bible, living in her society, finding similarities to her in our rich world,” she says. She adds: “Neely had the ability to bring young people in. They bonded with her.”

Debbie wanted to involve more young people in the GBS. “So I thought, ‘Let’s do a lecture series,’” she said. The theme would be “Becoming a Woman of Excellence”. It was aimed at women under 50, women between 30 and 40 years old. Young people who knew Neely from the church also brought their friends. someone young. “

Debbie cited what she considers to be the three “biggest hits” of GBS. “The first is to find such spiritually hungry people coming to GBS. The second is to have young people come. And the third,” she says, “helped start a Catholic Bible study group.”

“Studying the Bible is not something the Catholic Church has done,” she said. But one day, Debbie was wanted by the Catholic daughter of a member of Debbie’s Bible group – Julie Ricciardi – who wanted to start a Bible study group. “Ricciardi was able to get permission to do this,” Debbie says, “at St. Mary’s Church.” She called her group “Walking with Purpose”.

“It was huge,” says Debbie, “The first year there were 100 people. It’s been going on now for four or five years with 100 people – with totally young people. And now, she says,“ There’s 21 branches of `The Walking with Purpose Bible Study Group across the country. ‘

“It’s a phenomenon,” says Debbie. “We all think,” she says, “that our Bible study groups have completely changed our lives for the better.

“There is a community that we found in GBS that is different from any other community. You can be completely open and safe. It’s about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not taking the Bible aside, but having the Bible speaking to you in a personal way. “

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During this final lunch, the motivational speakers spoke in person.

Carlson was proud, she said, to reveal her Christianity to the camera. “I am totally comfortable being a Christian in my own skin,” she said. Wall Street leader Carla Harris spoke of her “Pearls of Wisdom” for those in the workplace. “I am authentically His,” she said, “and you will know it if you know me.”

Looking across the room filled with well-dressed young women, Harris had said of the 22nd GBS Luncheon, “That’s a big deal,” and again, “It’s a big deal.”

Debbie agrees. “I don’t think there is another place like Greenwich, Connecticut for Bible study. These people who bring people to Bible study are real leaders. These women are Christian role models in the world.”

Debbie adds, “It doesn’t matter how much you have – people tend to have the same issues: jealousy, bitterness, feeling of betrayal, all that insecurity. People are the same no matter how rich they are.”

In Greenwich, she says: “It’s even more difficult for people because they seem to have their game together. Greenwich can be a lonely place. You don’t feel like you can share things. But, “It’s a whole different thing in studying the Bible,” she said, “It’s about loving, not judging and supporting.”

People have been coming to Debbie’s Bible study group for a long time. “We come from different places and we love each other,” she said. It’s the best day of our week. “


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