Evolving Trends in Campus Ministry on Eight Campuses Over 52 Years by Mark Rutledge

Evolving Trends in Campus Ministry on Eight Campuses Over 52 Years.

By Mark Rutledge

June, 2013

IntroductionAs one of the NCMA “Sages” who is contributing to this Retrospective on the trajectory of campus ministry, I have attempted to distill my 52 years as a still-active, paid (now very part time) campus minister into some brief episodes for each of my eight campus ministry settings.  I hope these reflections illustrate how changes in higher education, society, the church, and the world affect all our work.  These interacting social contexts, interwoven with some individual personalities of my mentors friends, students, and colleagues, offer fragments of my continuing vision for ministry.   At the best, I hope it will be suggestive and instructive.  At the least, I hope it will amuse.  We know the tricks memory plays and how one thing leads improbably to another, in the formation of who we are ever becoming as persons and professionals in ministry in higher education.

1. University of California at Berkeley: Stiles Hall (1956-57).  After three years at Oberlin College I transferred for my senior undergraduate year to UC Berkeley, where I was involved in Stiles Hall, the Campus YMCA, known for its advocacy of civil rights, free speech, and social justice.  After graduating in 1956 I worked part time at Stiles with Pierre Delattre, a Presbyterian minister later famous as the “Beatnik Priest” of a coffee house in San Francisco’s North Beach.  Our project was to develop a Religious Awareness Week with the University.  The “Religious Emphasis Week” was a significant model being developed on many campuses across the country at that time in order to make churches’ resources and presence more widely known among students.

Setting: At that time Berkeley was a sleepy little college town with book stores, pizza restaurants, and small businesses along Telegraph Avenue.  Many of the students were WWII vets on the GI Bill, who took their studies seriously.  But even then, in the midst of this conventional atmosphere, there were signs of liberal ethos.  I would walk along the streets with Pierre, who was constantly looking for any magazines that might have just published one of his stories he had submitted.  These stories were humorous, creative fantasies with characters whose loving-kindness flowed from universal religious grace.  Once when he was perusing the stacks, he burst out: “Here’s one!”  It was a girlie magazine featuring the usual fare of nudes interspersed with short “literary” stories.  When I was a bit surprised to see his gentle, spiritual fiction in “this kind” of magazine, he said, “Well, right now these are the only places that will publish my stories.”  Pierre has gone on to publish many articles and books, one of which, “Tales of a Dali Lama,” has become a cult classic.

2.  Pacific School of Religion (1957-1961).   I entered seminary as an agnostic, on a personal religious quest, without any idea of becoming a minister.  My experience with professors there showed me it was possible to have a deep faith and a sharp critical mind without sacrificing either.  I had no intention of becoming a parish minister and no idea what form my ministry might take, although my experience with Pierre showed that there were many creative possibilities and a variety of non-parish settings that might provide salaries.  On weekends I hung out in San Francisco, often going to the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples where Howard Thurman was minister of a fully racially-integrated church.  At some point during my first year, I had a kind of mini-conversion while studying the Old Testament prophets, whose first-hand overwhelming God-experience of what my teacher called a “divine-human encounter” flowed into a passion for social justice. In other courses, such as church history and pastoral psychology, I learned that such profound epiphanies occur for many people across times and cultures and are a universal part of human experience no matter how they are described.   I was no longer an agnostic.  I decided to complete seminary and see what came of it.

During my 2nd year I took a course with Clarence Shedd, national student YMCA leader who had just retired from Yale, whose book “The Church Follows Its Students” was our text.   He was succeeded by Charles McCoy who offered courses in ministry in higher education, and who later was involved in the major Underwood Report for campus ministry, and I realized this was a field that was meant for me.  {Note: the Underwood Report saw the mission of campus ministry to be the development of centers of “prophetic inquiry”—a vision which was implemented only sketchily across the country and was never sufficiently supported by the churches).  I did an internship in campus ministry with John Hadsell at Westminster House, which further encouraged me in the directions of a traditional campus ministry, and also one that was oriented toward the total university.

Setting: The context for my internship was to work with a college age/young adult group based in a local church.  I enjoyed the people with whom I developed relationships.  For some reason the group never grew to the large size the lead pastor had envisioned, and he started calling John to complain.  John carefully explained the dynamics of such groups in the context of small congregations near large universities, defended my work, and eventually became exasperated with what he called this “neurotic” minister.  Thus I was able to see some of the dynamics and tensions of town-gown, church-university, and campus-based versus congregation-based ministries which have been persistent in many campus ministries.

3.  San Jose State (1961-1967). I graduated from PSR in 1961, a year that saw the field of campus ministry expanding.  We were to have a famous graduation speaker (name not revealed at the time) and when the ceremony began, Georgia Harkness, our theology professor, took the stage to say that unfortunately our anticipated speaker, Martin Luther King, could not be present because he was in jail in Mississippi for advocating civil rights.  Her charge to our graduating class was “Go and do thou likewise.”

I was shortly ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ and accepted a call from United Campus Christian Ministry, an ecumenical campus ministry at San Jose State University, as an associate campus minister on a two person staff.    I was there six years and was part of many changes.  At first we organized Bible studies, worship, service and fellowship opportunities with students.  Then an ecumenical consortium, Lutheran, Episcopal, along with UCCM (Presbyterian, UCC, Disciples of Christ), were able to raise funds to construct a modern chapel next door to the old house which served as our center.  Shortly after the Chapel was dedicated funds became available to build a new ecumenical campus ministry center where the old house had been.  These were expansive years for campus ministry when mainline churches could still fund it.  We had weekly Sunday morning worship services in the chapel and continued to engage in traditional “student work.”  On my own time, apart from campus ministry, I remember my first experience on a protest picket line sponsored by CORE, a black civil rights organization demanding better jobs and pay for the bank’s minority employees.   This was also the era when ministries were starting coffee houses on campus to encourage dialogue and attract a wider clientele, as well as supporting civil rights activities and movements questioning the war in Viet Nam.  Our coffee house, Jonah’s Wail, became a popular center and rallying point for some of these initiatives. But budgets began diminishing and our staff of two was reduced to one, and my associate position was ended.

Setting:  San Jose State was an urban university, with some residence halls and many commuting students who were relatively conventional.  In 1961 many responded to our Bible studies, theology-oriented programs, and worship services, but as the decade commenced, and the Viet Nam War pervaded more and more of our lives, civil rights took front and center along with the emerging rock music scene and our ministry changed.  Two examples:  1) we received an invitation from Cesar Chavez,  who was organizing the farm workers in Delano, to bring a group down to help picket in the grape fields and assist in painting one of their offices.   A number of students in our ministries responded and were transformed by what they saw, especially meeting the founders of the United Farm Workers, which included Dolores Huerta.  2) Every Saturday night we sponsored an “open mike” forum at the coffee house, where students and faculty took the podium to offer thoughts, rants, poems, and personal views on topics of the day.  One of our student speakers used what is today called the “F-Bomb” in the context of making the point that the real obscenity of the day was violence and war.  This event made the student newspaper, and created a firestorm of objection from some of our supporting churches.  We wrote responses to the churches, along with editorials in the campus newspaper, defending not only free speech but the context in which real obscenity can be defined. We survived what we later called our great “F…Flap,” but it was a lesson for me to be prepared for blow-back if certain boundaries are crossed–a perpetual theme for campus ministry which repeated itself in many other settings-to-come.

4. Iowa State University, Ames (1967-71).  Being jobless (another recurrent theme), I circulated my dossier through our national campus ministry personnel offices (yes, those were the days when the churches provided such a service!), and accepted a call to join an ecumenical campus ministry of four: the head of staff worked with faculty and administration; a more conservative staffer worked with traditional students; a young staffer worked with non-traditional students; and I was to work with the activist students.  One of the groups that interviewed me for the position, and had a vote, was the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  With the full support of the staff and our ecumenical board, I helped organize and/or support anti-war actions including the March on Washington in the fall of 1967.  I helped form the Ames Draft Counseling Center and worked with many students considering their options, ranging from military service to conscientious objection.  Frisbie House, the center which was my office and which was the oldest building in the country dedicated specifically for campus ministry, was referred to by some as a “staging ground for peaceful revolution.”  The University administration gave some credit to our campus ministry for avoiding the violence that consumed many campuses at this time.  I earned my FBI file for accepting the draft cards of three students in a public ceremony (a parabolic action), and representing the church standing by those students who protested the war.  We also supported the students who chose military service, as well as conscientious objectors.

But funding cuts were beginning to affect campus ministries in more and more settings around the country, and we were told by our supporting denominations to reduce our staff by one. In light of shrinking finances for our ministry, it was natural for me to soon be that one selected to move on, cutting staff from 4 to 3.

I anticipated this and began circulating my dossier again, this time not only for campus ministry positions, but because I had just earned my master’s degree in counseling from ISU, for jobs in college counseling centers.  I was delighted to receive an offer to join the counseling staff at the University of Victoria in British Columbia.  I told our Board of my decision, set a time for my resignation, and set a date for a moving van to take me to Canada.  Two weeks before I was to depart, I got a late night call from the Director of the Counseling Center who told me the startling news that the President of the University of Victoria had personally intervened, in what she called an “unprecedented action,” and cancelled my appointment.  His stated reason: he didn’t want any “troublemakers” on his campus.  Letters of recommendation from my board had obviously emphasized my activist work!

Setting:  Iowa State University of Science and Technology was a largely residential campus and it earned the title of “Moo U” in a magazine feature the year I took up residence.

The town of Ames was remarkably cosmopolitan in spite of its being surrounded by prairie and corn fields, its television station WOI being a model of contemporary public broadcasting.  I experienced all the controversy that my activist position elicited, while garnering support from the University, our Board, and the judicatories of our five supporting denomination, yet this  was not enough to forestall the inevitable financial realities.

My wife and I divorced in 1969-70, which did not cause as great a stir as I had anticipated, partly because we modeled a process which earned the respect of many.  We co-wrote a religious ceremony for the dissolution of a marriage which was celebrated by a local UCC minister; we sent out divorce announcements which looked like marriage announcements, saying that we were announcing an “Amicable Divorce,” and requesting our friends and families not to take sides but to stay in touch with both of us.  (Iowa had just passed a “no fault” divorce law, and the judge who granted the divorce said he was doing so only because the law compelled him to.)  We hosted a divorce party where we cut the couple on top of the cake in two.  We developed other rituals involving friends and families and we lived together for several months following the court decree.  Our process was reported in a detailed article in the Christian Century, and our ceremony was later included in a book of contemporary worship services of the United Methodist Church, Rituals for a New Day.

5. Monterey Peninsula College (1971-73). 

Being jobless (again), I traded on my shiny new master’s degree in counseling from ISU and was hired by Monterey Peninsula College as a drug abuse education and treatment counselor at a salary twice that of my previous jobs.  I was back in California.  MPC was a community college which offered two year degrees guaranteeing transfer to a California university and others in many technical and professional fields leading to direct employment.  My job was funded by a short term grant from the California Criminal Justice Division to respond to increasing drug and alcohol problems.  The second year I was at the college, I worked as a counselor with physically handicapped students.  Fort Ord was nearby, where many returning Viet Nam veterans began their civilian lives, one day in the field in ‘Nam and the next in sunny California, so the college initiated a major program to help veterans begin to make the difficult transition from war to college life.  Drugs were an issue with many students.  Even though I was not an “expert” in drug abuse counseling, I was learning that a helpful ministry could consist of developing relationships and helping people find a different kind of “connection” where they could discover positive life and work alternatives to drugs.

Setting.  The California Community College system was a model for state of the art education at the two-year college level.  Having spent my life thus far in university settings, I was impressed with the community colleges’ commitments to serving the local community of which it was a part, as well as to preparing students equally for vocational employment and/or transfer to four year universities.  And it was exciting to work with “older students,” –returning housewives, unemployed men who had been in successful careers,  people seeking second careers, and others who had never been to college before.  I taught courses in psychology and orientation to college life.  Newly divorced, I rented a small house two blocks from Monterey Bay, bought a motorcycle; spent weekends cruising the Big Sur coast, and reveled in the freedom of the days.  I was granted ministerial standing as a chaplain laboring “beyond the local parish” by the Northern California Conference of the United Church of Christ.  I was “learning-by-doing” within a whole new form of ministry in higher education, which would occupy me for several years after I left MPC.

I attended our 1972 Annual Conference where the big decision was whether or not to approve the ordination of Bill Johnson, the first openly gay ministerial candidate to seek such a call to full time ministry–first not only in our denomination but, to my knowledge, in any mainline Christian denomination at that time.  His photograph was on the cover of Time Magazine under the heading, “Better Than Lying.”  There was a lengthy debate on the Conference floor, where Bill answered such questions as: “What ethical criteria will you follow in deciding how to exercise your sexuality?”  His reply was: “Why, the very same ones you do in exercising yours—and we all know what those are, don’t we?”   Another question I remember was, “If we ordain you, do you plan to practice your sexuality?”  He replied, “Well, I didn’t know that celibacy was a requirement for ordination in the United Church of Christ.”  After this kind of Q&A for a while the question was called for a vote which was overwhelmingly positive in favor of ordination.  I left that meeting exuberant that the issue of “gays in the ministry” was now fortunately behind us.  How naïve I was.

In the spring of 1973 the grant which funded my position expired and once again I found myself looking for work.  At the same time I married a woman I had met after my divorce as a colleague at Iowa State. where she was director of the campus YWCA.  And once again I availed myself of the national campus ministry personnel and job hunting network, through which I received a call to United Campus Ministry in DeKalb, Illinois.  Back to the Midwest.

6. Northern Illinois University (1973-1980).  NIU was a “suitcase” school, a large commuter university which catered to students from Chicago and the Northern tier of Illinois.  Students did not respond to traditional appeals to “join our Christian group.”  I recognized this environment as mirroring, at a university level, a similar kind of social context and dynamic as the community college I had just come from.  Several members of our ecumenical board were faculty or administrators at the local community college, and they told me that there were six community colleges within the NIU “service area.”  At the same time a national campus ministry consortium of seven denominations came together as “United Ministries in Education” (UME) to develop and support networks of ministries around the country.  One of the process models they promoted was described as “Live Wires,” created by campus minister J Springer and Earl Lowell in Pennsylvania and New York, where an itinerating organizer enabled local colleges and councils of churches to unite to jointly serve the people and communities in which they resided.  This was a vision to which I resonated. With the support of our board my job description evolved to include exploring how ministries might be mutually developed using the resources of both local churches and community colleges

While developing this model, I also enrolled in a doctoral program in counseling psychology at NIU, with secondary emphases on career counseling and community college administration.  With my board’s support, I was able to merge my doctoral thesis with our campus ministry to focus on the effects of counseling on college women with unintended pregnancies who choose abortion.  I conducted my research at the student health service, seeing 78 students over the course of a year who agreed to participate in the study.  I counseled the women pre-abortion, referred those who chose abortion to a nearby clinic, conducted controlled measurements pre-and post test on several psychological variables, and included follow up post-abortion counseling.  A major finding of the study was that the women decreased in anxiety, increased in  internal locus of control, and increased in positive self concept.  Many said that their experience in decision-making helped them feel stronger.  No one regretted making the decision they did. Many expressed natural feelings of sadness while acknowledging it was the “best” decision they could have made under the circumstances.  No one made their decision lightly.

Setting:  These were challenging new forms of ministry for me and pushed my natural introverted personality to the limits.  After receiving my doctorate I took the national exam and was licensed as a clinical psychologist, so I decided to see a few paying clients on the side and make a little extra money, (Our salaries being what they are!)  I think my experience doing abortion referral must have spread to others because I will never forget one day when an older woman came to my office asking for an abortion referral for her daughter, and asked if I would see her, which I did.  I recognized the mother as one of the leaders of the pro-life, anti-abortion advocacy groups who was frequently quoted in the newspaper as opposing all abortions.  When I mentioned this to her (non-judgmentally of course) she said, “Well when it comes to your own daughter…”

Most of my work at NIU was focused on developing campus ministry with community colleges, but though my experience on staff at Monterey Peninsula College provided background for the “college” half of that, I had no models for how to begin to relate that to the church’s ministries.  In 1974 I started with the help of my board members who were faculty at the nearby CC, and arranged a meeting with a couple of local pastors and the director of community services at the college to explore possibilities.  We discussed our mutual interests in becoming allies, including a religious “presence” on campus (undefined), using church facilities and/or other resources to augment college offerings, and potential courses in common.  There was definitely interest from all parties, and I was clearly on a quest in new and uncharted territory.

Right at this time (providentially?), I got wind of a major conference to be held in 1975 at Cedar Falls, Iowa on emerging models for the church’s ministry with community colleges, sponsored by United Ministries in Education (UME).   I knew on national staff from previous relationships (Bill Hallman, Earl Lowell, Clyde Robinson, and Bob Mayo) who were forming a new task force on this novel approach to campus ministry, so I immediately registered.  The centerpiece of the conference was to engage in a simulation game, “Juco,” developed by Wayne Bryan, campus minister at Drake University.  The game was designed to acquaint the “players” with both the community colleges and the churches’ stake in creating ministry with them.  It was here that I learned more about the LiveWires model from J Springer’s ministry in Pennsylvania.  I was inspired to make that model the basis for my new job, and I returned to DeKalb to propose that I become the “organizer” of ministries with six community colleges scattered around the northern tier of Illinois in partnerships with local councils of churches and ministerial associations in those communities.

After doing this for a couple of years, with mixed results, I was invited to become adjunct staff to that same national UME Task Force on Community College Ministry.  This was an exciting adventure, and one of my assigned projects was to convene a number of practitioners in this emerging field and write an article describing their theories and best practices, which was published as a UME monograph with the title “The Community Colleges: An Opportunity for the Church to Develop New Staffing Patterns for Campus Ministry.”  In 1980 it became a chapter in the book, “The Challenge of the Community College to the Church, edited by Bill Hallman.  Of course a major cause for creating different staffing patterns was the increasing concern of providing funding for full time campus ministers placed on university campuses.  Our models were one attempt to address these problems creatively.

7. The University of New Mexico (1980-1996).  After receiving my doctorate I decided to make a move that was entirely of my own choosing (for the first time in my career!), so I again made use of the national campus ministry personnel service and received an invitation to interview for a position at the University of New Mexico. This was a newly organized ecumenical ministry which included four denominations: Presbyterian (USA), United Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Disciples of Christ.  I was offered and accepted the position as the first (and only) director of United Campus Ministries–a reality mirroring conditions affecting trends in campus ministry nationally.

UNM was an urban, regional, commuter university catering to both traditional undergraduates and older returning students—the average age of students was about 27.   Very early, I realized that trying to start up a “traditional” model of campus ministry based on attracting and maintaining a “student group” offering Bible study, worship, service, and fellowship would not be feasible.  So I sought to develop a ministry to and with the wider university community, partnering with both academic and student activities sectors of the campus itself, rather than to “hustle on the sidelines” creating our own little Christian enclave.  This decision affected the following 16 years, and included many successes, some failures, and ongoing negotiations with our four supporting denominational governing and funding bodies. The Disciples, UCC, and Presbyterians mostly supported my preferred model, while the United Methodists, in the main, did not.  That I was able to sustain it for 16 years is still a wonder to me, and included many ups and downs and continuing political and ecclesiastical maneuvering.

Setting.  Overall I had a grand time.  The ministry operated out of a center, an older house, right across the street from UNM.  I experimented with new and creative ways to develop a variety of ministry initiatives to and with the university.  I published a bi-semester newspaper, “The UCM Prophet,” which eventually had a circulation of around 2,000, nationally as well as locally to churches, students, faculty and administrators.  I either started our solo programs, worked with other community organizations, or partnered with campus units on programs such as: The Last Lecture Series; Theology for Lunch; a Peace Studies academic minor through the philosophy department.  We were also involved in various social justice efforts such as the Sanctuary Movement related to central American wars of oppression; sponsored campus-wide speakers; supported and implemented a grant to showcase the art work of a Holocaust survivor; and solicited and published articles written by students, faculty and town leaders in our newspaper.  I served on the Medical Ethics Committee of UNM Hospital.  I taught courses in the UNM Honors Program, the Human Services Department, the Family Studies Department, and Psychology of Religion.  We offered workshops and support groups on vocational planning, nuclear disarmament, gay and lesbian issues, and almost any current topic.  We offered free lunches every week at our center, which was served by people from local churches, and which attracted a mix of students and homeless people.  We sponsored a student to lead mission trips to Guatemala. We started a peer ministry program staffed by two or three students who lived in small apartments in our center.  I offered non-credit classes on the findings of the Jesus Seminar, the latest incarnation of the scholarly “Quest for the Historical Jesus.”  –These all in the first 8 years or so of my “tenure.”  Needless to say, there was controversy over some of these things, which we weathered due to major support from a lot of people and many church agencies.

A shift in priorities began in 1987 and evolved to become the signature program of UCM, involving most of my time and energy.  This was the year I married Betsy Alden, who had developed a nationally recognized ministry model of Service-Learning with 7 community colleges in Dallas.  Soon after our marriage she persuaded me to try out this approach at UNM.  At first I was reluctant because I saw how much time and energy it would take to mount a new service-learning initiative at the same time I was involved in so many other programs.  Service- Learning entails recruiting faculty who will offer credit for students in their regular courses to do community service projects related to course content, and simultaneously require that they engage in structured, small-group reflection on their experiences.  I agreed to try it out on a small scale and recruited 3 faculty members, 6 community human service agencies that agreed to train and place student volunteers, and I decided to be the reflection group facilitator myself.  The response from every participant was positive and overwhelming!  I immediately saw the power of this model to engage faculty, provide support for community-based partners, and facilitate student reflection on their lives, faith or spiritual understandings, and vocational aspirations.  I also saw that if I expanded the program it would take over much of our entire campus ministry.  And that this might be a good thing!   Nine years later we had over 30 faculty members from many different academic sectors, over 70 community agencies, hundreds of students participating each semester, and many reflection  group leaders– other campus ministers and student peer facilitators.  It was about 75% of what our campus ministry was doing.  Before I left UNM in 1996, the Vice President for Student Affairs had offered me a position at UNM as Coordinator of Service-Learning, but another fortuitous occasion intervened.

8. Duke University (1996 to 1997).  In 1995 Betsy and I negotiated a never-before-tried experiment, a one-year “campus ministry exchange” with the Director of the Wesley Foundation at Duke, during which he would take over my ministry at UNM and we would serve together as co-campus ministers of Wesley during the 1996-97 school year.  We wondered if we would be modeling an initiative which might benefit other campus ministers.

This move was a culture shock for me as most of my experience had been with public, mostly commuter, urban colleges and universities, the main exception being Iowa State University.  Duke is a major residential, private research University, with elite status and prestige, where we found (unlike any other campus where I worked) that students wanted to gather, often, as communities and groups of worship, service, study, fellowship, and mission trips—traditional programs sounding like my first full time campus ministry at San Jose State, almost like coming full  circle.  But the Wesley Foundation was grounded in spiritual and theological formation of exceptional students. When something was scheduled, students showed up and expected us to take leadership, mentoring and pastoral roles.  The year was a steep learning curve for me, as I tried to keep up, learn from, and contribute my gifts to and with a remarkable community of student leaders.  This was also the first time I discovered we needed to learn how to use email because this was often the only way to be in touch with students.

Duke (1997 to ?).  As the end of our “exchange” drew near in spring semester, 1996, Betsy was offered a full time position as the founding Director of Service-Learning through the Kenan Institute for Ethics, a free-standing institute at Duke, which she happily accepted.  We returned to Albuquerque to sell our house, celebrate my “UCC retirement” at age 63, pack up and move to Durham, North Carolina, where we simultaneously built our new house and she started her new job in fall semester 1997.

Duke is home to a large and intricate complex of over 24 denominational, interdenominational, interfaith and para-church campus ministries which reflects the diversity of the world’s religious traditions.  In addition, Duke Chapel is one of the country’s largest University Churches, with a full panoply of Christian leadership, worship, and community outreach, including as part of its larger worshipping campus community an active Sunday congregation of 600 members.

One of the denominational campus ministries is Westminster Fellowship, supported by the Presbyterian churches of the area.  During our exchange we had become colleagues with the Presbyterian Campus Minister, and when I proposed to her that the ministry become ecumenical to include the United Church of Christ, and appoint me as a part-time (volunteer!) Staff Associate, she readily agreed, and I became the first UCC campus minister at Duke.  All campus ministers receive a small, $65 monthly “stipend” through Duke Chapel’s Religious Life Staff, so in 1997 I was able to be “paid” in my retirement!

In 1998 Betsy and I convened a team of University people to attend a major conference at Wellesley College on developing interfaith initiatives on campuses, and returned to help organize Duke’s first official Interfaith Dialogue Project funded by the Chapel and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.  So then I had two retirement “jobs.”

In 2006-07 I invited Eboo Patel, who founded the Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, and is currently on President Obama’s interfaith council, to come to Duke to help jump start the university’s interest in funding and staffing a more university-wide and centralized approach to interfaith ministry.  Sam Wells, the Dean of Duke Chapel responded by creating an interfaith council of existing campus ministry staff from different religious traditions.  Duke was among the first major private research universities to hire a full time Muslim Chaplain and support a Center for Muslim Life to parallel our already well funded Center for Jewish Life.  At the same time the university dedicated a prayer and meeting space for the Buddhist and Hindu campus ministries.  The Chapel hired a full time Associate Dean to (in the words of Dean Wells), “help make Duke as well known and respected for its interfaith work as it has been for its Christian ministries.”

In 2011 I left my position with Westminster Fellowship and became the advisor to the student Interfaith Dialogue Project, which is now my only work on the Religious Life Staff.  We sponsor a credit course each year on interfaith dialogue, taught by students, and initiate other programs as appropriate.   One of my other interests at Duke has been the dialogue of science and religion, and I helped convene a group of faculty and students who met informally for lunch over several years and engaged in discussions led by those who came on a rotating basis.  I wrote a paper which I gave at my 50th reunion of Oberlin College on “Science, Religion and Evolution” which helped me crystallize some of my own thoughts on the subject.

As early as 1998 I had started teaching regular courses in progressive religious studies through Duke’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute, introducing findings of the Jesus Seminar along with other liberal theologians and biblical scholars.  My most recent course was “A Conservative and A Liberal in Religious Dialogue,” which I co-taught with an evangelical minister, in which we modeled a civil, friendly dialogue across different viewpoints which are often infected with hostility and negativity.

In 2009-2010 I was one of the initial “subjects” in a research project sponsored by Daniel Dennett, one of the superstars of the “New Atheist” movements, in which I was featured under a pseudonym in his article which came out under the title “Preachers Who Do Not Believe.”

Link to local news article about my involvement: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/08/02/609889/pastor-sticks-up-for-modern-view.html

This has led to many interesting spin-offs in what I have come to call my “adventures among the atheists.”  I have been interviewed for some documentary films, featured in newspaper articles, and appeared on religious radio broadcasting shows.  Although I have never called myself an atheist, I do see myself as a Christian freethinker and a post-super naturalist, which gives me some credentials to dialogue with folks who see themselves both as “non-believers” as well as “believers.”  This has sparked some controversy which spices up my life in my elder years as a “Sage” in NCMA.

Reflections on Campus Ministry.  Who we are (our identity as persons, our values, how we live) is formed in large part by the people we hang out with.  I’ve been lucky to be around campus ministers all my professional life.

For a summary reflection on all our ministries, I can’t say it better than Bob Dylan:

“The times they are [always and still] a-changin’.”

NCMA (1962-63-?).  Early in my first ministry at San Jose State I was mentored by several veteran campus ministers in Northern California who introduced me to NCMA.  I have been a member ever since with the possible exception of a year of two when I failed to pay my dues!  This Association has been important in helping me better understand what it means to be a campus minister, and to find mutual support among colleagues in what can be a lonely profession.

I participated in the NCMA Partnership Program, which pairs a veteran with a new campus minister to encourage supportive relationships and to provide ways to share resources.  I assisted George and Sally Gunn, Betsy and others who developed the annual GNOME Awards which recognizes selected campus ministers for (having) “Gained Notoriety for Outstanding Ministry in Education” (and was honored to receive this award myself in 1988).  I have attended many of our annual conferences over the years and been inspired by colleagues who keep our vision alive.  Ministry in higher education is a vocation worthy of our best energy and continuing commitment.  In this I am a believer.