Sometimes things don’t happen the way you expect them to happen. This week I am in Decatur for 2 days of study leave – -to do some planning and use the library. Plans were made to stay with some friends from seminary (after 3 years of living in the dorms, I’m still not quite ready to go back to the dining hall for breakfast!). About 3:30 yesterday, my hostess (the PC(USA) Campus Minister for Emory University) called to finalize what time I was going to arrive at their house. As we were talking, she said “plans for after supper have changed. Bruce Reyes-Chow is going to meet with the local campus ministers and some seminary students and the Emory Campus Ministry group – -I’d love to have you come – -do you want to?” Um… let’s see, do I want to meet the Moderator of the PC(USA) and hear what he has to say about Young Adults? It only took me about 2 seconds to decide to go along for the evening.
The conversation was really interesting to me – -I can honestly say that I went into the ministry partly because of my experiences with Campus Ministry at the University of South Carolina (and 2 others who graduated in the year behind me are now also ordained or almost ordained PC(USA) ministers, but I digress). Bruce had some really interesting things to say about the future of the denomination, about where he sees the future of institutions in general, and about his time as moderator. However, it was hearing the students talk about how they are being shaped and nurtured by their experiences with Campus Ministry, and hearing their Campus Ministers and Chaplains advocate for them that caught my attention. I heard 2 things:
First, for these students, PC(USA) Campus Ministry provides a place where it is OK to be unsure of your faith, to be unsure of your path, to be on a faith journey and be accompanied on that journey. You are not expected to know all the answers, but you will have a safe space to look for them and to discern where God is calling you while you look for them. Many other programs “try to beat us over the head with the Bible – that’s not what we want. We want a place where we can have a real conversation about it,” said one young woman.”
Second, these safe spaces are church for many of these students. It is in these settings they are learning to care for one another in crisis, to serve together in the mission field, to plan and lead worship, to govern themselves (if a council model is used), to develop and grow in their faith, and to be connected to one another. While many of these students have church homes and worship in local congregations, it is with their campus ministry groups where they eat their Wednesday night supers, and with these groups where they go on their mission trips. These are the communities with whom they go to Montreat and have Bible study. This is church for them.
I have no idea what God may be telling us about this right now. But given that it has been tugging at my brain this afternoon, it seems worth paying attention to, and that part of what this blog is for.