Well. . . it began when my phone rang in the Fall of 1961 and my friend Pat said, “I thought you would like to know that the Pastoral Search Committee here in Nacogdoches has your name on their list… and I, for one, am encouraging them to choose you!”
“Oh, tell them to forget it.” I replied. “I’m very happy where I am. Besides I’ve been here for less than three years. And the other thing is that I don’t have any desire to live in East Texas.”
Four months later I was installed as the Pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Nacogdoches, Texas and Pat was the church secretary. We were quite a pair!
And. . . it ended in the late Fall of 1989 when Mimi and I packed our car and preceded the moving van on its trip from Austin, Texas eastward to Columbia, South Carolina. Or, I guess to be really truthful, it ended several months earlier when my supportive board members in United Campus Ministry of Austin counseled kindly with me to say that we were not going to have enough money to continue our enterprise and they would advise me to start looking for a new job.
A geographer and an historian surveying the “in-between” of that beginning and that ending would present extremely different reports.
The geographer would survey what appeared to be relevant street addresses and discover no evidence of campus ministry programs in Nacogdoches, Texas; Des Moines, Iowa; Gainesville, Florida; and Austin, Texas with my name attached. The easy conclusion would be that, if they ever existed, they are all gone. Vanished. Closed. And such is the truth!
The historian would search differently, probing the “files of impact, the venues of effect” in the lives of people now scattered around the world, and say something dramatic, like: “Oh, my!”
I can’t do anything about the elements of the geographer’s report. But I can speak some words about what the historian discovered. So let’s talk about the pieces of the in-between.
1962-1966 Stephen F. Austin State University
When I arrived in Nacogdoches it was to be the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church. There was no history of ministry in relation to SFASU except an occasional faculty member or student who came to worship. But I did not allow this vacuum to continue. Within a very few weeks I was “hanging out” at the student union and the faculty club. I had arrived in March and by the beginning of the Fall Semester of 1962 enough contacts had been made that I started a Sunday School Class for students. And shortly after that I had put posters out on campus for United Campus Christian Fellowship which was organized and meeting on Sunday evenings for dinner, study, and fellowship.
Quick fall-outs from this were students appearing for worship services and volunteering to be part of our music program. And, as one might expect, my office at the church (and the tables in the Student Union on campus) became the site of counseling and advising for students.
This relationship with students on campus, in classes for which I enrolled, and at the church was pretty well matched with similar experiences with faculty and staff. In the faculty club and in private homes where we were frequent guests, my pastoral relationship and personal friendships expanded.
For the last two years I was in Nacogdoches, the campus ministry also included The Exit, a coffee house which we organized for Friday nights using the fellowship hall at the church. This program drew lots of students and faculty who were not participants in UCCF or in the worship and congregational life of the church. Some of my best relationships with students were those which I developed here at The Exit.
And remember, I was still full-time pastor of the church, director of my Presbytery’s camp and conference program, and writing Sunday School curriculum for our national church to be used all across the country.
All of this continued at a healthy pace until I took the next step of filing my vita with United Ministries in Higher Education. In the summer of 1966 there was that second phone call! This time the call was not from a friend but from the chairman of the board of United Campus Christian Ministry at Drake University. The move came in October!
1966-1975 Drake University
Des Moines, Iowa
The Iowa United Campus Christian Ministries Commission (later named the Iowa Commission for United Ministries in Higher Education) was the parent organization for ministries at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa, and Drake University. It was the joint ministry of the Presbyterians, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, American Baptists, and Church of the Brethren. That state commission employed the staff for the four universities and provided the funding as contributed by the five statewide denominational judicatories. There were a total of nine staff members when I began.
In my position at Drake, the diversity of the job and the breadth of personal interests were as broad as in my previous positions. A local board, as the representative of the state agency, oversaw and directed the ministry. The basic part of the job was teaching short term courses on issues related to the emphases of the local board, counseling students, directing worship, publishing a newspaper related to the religious and social issues of our concern, developing personal and professional relationships with faculty and staff, and managing all the structures of the board, the student association, finances, and communications.
Much of that sounds like a list which almost every campus minister would make about his/her job. What I think I will do is to point to some of the unique tasks, opportunities, and responsibilities of those nine years. I will try to keep this as short as possible.
- Serving as a liaison to the Office of the Vice-President for Student Affairs, nourishing the great working relationship between Student Affairs and campus ministry. Much later, in 2010, Dr. Donald Adams, our VP for Student Affairs, said to me in an email: You were the one, along with Nick, Harold (campus ministers) who made my first year much better than it would have been without you!! You were an important colleague. (After naming about ten students, all who were active in our ministry and student leaders on campus) he ended his note with: “A great group of people, a wonderful time for all of us to be together at Drake in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Thanks so much for keeping in touch.
- Organizing and leading semester long study groups (generally called “Covenant Communities”) for students on a variety of topics which included contemporary theological issues, cultural issues, human sexuality, the nature of the human, creative educational designs, etc.
- Sharing management of the Coffee House (named “The Cellar”) with the United Methodist campus minister with whom we also shared a building. This had a number of purposes – social gathering, venue for displaying musical and artistic talents, discussing social justice issues, outreach to recruit participants in other parts of the campus ministry program.
- Participating in unique counseling assignments including draft counseling and problem pregnancy counseling (this latter was in a national organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood).
- Producing arts weeks at the ministry center for three or four years. This featured student art from Drake and other Iowa colleges/universities as well as art produced by people in the community.
6. Serving as a strong force for the university in the lives of its freshmen. This included: creating and leading a simulation named “Freshman Year” and a slide show introducing the Office of Student Affairs, both of which opened the university’s Freshman Orientation Summer Program for 4 years (and the simulation was published and used by more than 100 other universities); and creating and directing “Freshman? Freshman!”, a semester-long orientation and support program in which about 50% of the freshman class participated and which had a dramatic impact on student retention.
- Serving as an adjunct faculty to college of education on creative teaching. I began an independent company called: “The Creative Educator” where I wrote and published a whole series of simulation games.
- Writing and publishing articles, reports, interpretation, etc. on campus ministry programs, structure, and governance for the national publications of United Ministry in Higher Education.
- Creating teams of students who interpreted student activism and campus unrest at presentations before church groups, civic clubs, etc. and developing the “40-Hour Weekend Program” introducing the public at large to college life and issues of the 60’s and 70’s. These developed many good community relationships for campus ministry.
10. Acting as a resource on leadership and service to Pan-Hellenic and the Inter-Fraternity Council. Their generous response was electing me to Gamma Gamma (the Greek national honorary fraternity).
11. Speaking in local churches and national conferences on the role, purpose, and content of campus ministry and serving (very often) as a visiting preacher in churches around the state.
- Attending Presbyterian General Assembly (the national governing body) meeting in Omaha where I chaired the Family Life committee.
- Continuing to write Sunday School curriculum for the national Presbyterian Office of Education for use in congregations around the country.
- Serving, in the summer of 1969, as director of a 40-student summer staff at Ghost Ranch (a national Presbyterian conference center) in New Mexico.
- Hosting, in 1975, a national conference on community college ministry under the auspices of United Ministries in Higher Education. The major agenda was a 2-day long simulation which I had created.
16. Accepting the position as State Executive for Iowa UMHE, overseeing a 2-year restructure of Iowa UMHE and its four Centers – Drake, Iowa State, University of Iowa, and University of Northern Iowa. This was a part time assignment while my regular ministry at Drake continued.
And . . . it was in this period of restructure (and reduction of the Iowa UMHE staff from 9 to 5) that I looked around and, although I was encouraged to stay on at Drake, accepted the call to become the campus minister at the Disciples-Presbyterian Center at the University of Florida.
1975-78 University of Florida and Santa Fe Community College
This was a different world!
The Disciples-Presbyterian Center was a cooperative ministry of the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the Presbyterian Church U.S., and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). It was housed in a building which it owned across the street from the College of Business and between the Methodist Student Center and the Episcopal Student Center.
As at Drake University, the basic part of the job was developing and maintaining a student association with weekly meetings, teaching short-term courses on issues related to the emphases of the local board, counseling students, directing worship, developing personal and professional relationships with faculty and staff, and managing all the structures of the board, the student association, finances, and communications
Programmatically, I tried to find my way in some of the same areas that had been successful at Drake. First I tried to build on the basic student group who participated in study sessions and social events at the campus ministry center. This was always a small group, supported by the fact that four male students lived in the apartment at the center and provided much of the contact and leadership for the student group.
Because the Vice-President for Student Affairs, the Dean of Students, and four or five other student affairs staff people had been on the staff at Iowa State University just before coming here and knew Don Adams and the staff at Drake, building relationships with this group of professionals was very easy. Because of that relationship and my rather rapid rise in leadership with the campus ministers, I was soon meeting with the Dean of Students staff weekly as the representative of campus ministry. This gave me a visibility on campus and a wider awareness of life at the university.
One of the helpful structures that came from this relationship was a response network for emergencies and needs. We formed about 7 or 8 teams, each composed of a campus minister, a student life professional, a counselor, a campus police member, and a faculty leader. Those teams were available to be the “first responders” whenever there were emergencies on campus. They also were the ones to analyze situations and organize larger responses when needed.
As would be expected, I was also soon engaged in freshman orientation and its larger system of development. Although this never grew to the size we had developed at Drake, I was able to bring some of the same insights and dynamics from my earlier experience and my doctoral program research into the structure here.
One new and successful part of the ministry was campus ministry at Santa Fe Community College, which was located on the west side of Gainesville. The first steps were getting acquainted with the student services staff and faculty of the college. Since the college was outside the city, a large number of students rode the city bus to campus and the transfer point on that bus line was just in front of our campus ministry building and students sat on our porch while they waited for the next bus.
I took advantage of that bus stop by hanging around the porch and engaging in conversations with the students. Then I started having Breakfast at the Bus Stop on Thursday mornings. This meant providing coffee and donuts, conversation and information about the college, friendships and, eventually, counseling sessions that developed.
In my usual community building style, I started introducing campus ministers and local pastors to the faculty and staff of the community college. This group became a strong resource for counseling, advocacy, and support for the students. Because students were all day students with few expressions of community and social life on campus, most of our work was done one-to-one with the students. Those conversations ranged from personal growth and plans for a profession to very strong religious and life questions.
Building on these experiences with the community college, I developed and led a state-wide conference on ministry in community colleges utilizing a simulation I created to reflect the structure in Florida. The fallout from this was indeed felt across the state.
A unique program that I created at the university built on my concern for freshmen and their development. I got acquainted with many faculty members who taught the beginning courses in departments which would become majors for the students. Then I invited a faculty person, a professional in the field, and a dozen or so students who thought they would major in and become professionals in that field to come to my home for dinner and discussion. This was very successful and helpful. Students got to look at themselves, talk about their dreams and plans, and ask questions about their future academic life and eventual careers.
Note: While I was writing this piece of my report I discovered that the Alban Institute weekly newsletter for January 20, 2014 contained an article titled “The Congregation as Resource Center” which said: . . congregational leaders could play a mediating role in connecting members with others who share their interests or linking college students with professionals in their area of study. Hmmm! Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
And, finally, I completed the Doctor of Ministry Degree which I had been working on at San Francisco Theological Seminary. This had included two years of weekly class work, one summer on the seminary campus, and a dissertation/project. My dissertation/project was on life, support, and adjustment of university freshmen with emphasis on the particular role that campus ministry played.
As I said, this was a different world. Following the great community and personal relations at Drake and in the Iowa UMHE, I was faced here with a troubled (and troubling) board and support system. Sadly I found myself following the experience of several predecessors and staying only for a brief period of less than three years.
1978-81 The Creative Educator
Columbia, South Carolina
I guess the best name for this period is An Unexpected Interim. Or maybe Telling Others About Campus Ministry (Are publicists still considered professionals is their field?)
I left Gainesville, Florida and joined my wife in Columbia, South Carolina just in time to start the fall semester of 1978 in the Department of Media Arts at the University of South Carolina. For some strange reason I thought I was taking some time out to be a student but in actuality I was only a month into the semester when I got drafted to also be an Interim Professor in the department. Even with both jobs operative I managed to complete a Master’s in Media Arts degree within twelve months.
With this credential, I was able to open an office as The Creative Educator and expand on my experiences in media production, communications, and creative education. Not surprisingly, my major client was the national office of United Ministries in Higher education for whom I produced an extended series of simulation games, many slide-tape shows interpreting campus ministry at a number of sites across the U. S., and articles in their publications. This was a wonderful education for me as I got such a close-up view of a huge variety of programs in campus ministries around the country.
Now a confession: working for UMHE (and a few local clients) did not keep my table with enough food so I also worked as an interim minister in churches in the state and had a job as a Kelly Girl. In case you don’t remember Kelly Girls, it was a company providing temporary office workers (mostly women). But I guess I did something right in that work because in my first year I was named “Employee of the Year” by the Columbia office of Kelly Services!!!
I guess all this montage of activity kept me adequately “in the loop” because in the spring of 1981 I was hired by the board of United Campus Ministry of Austin to be their head of staff and director of ministries.
1981 – 1989 University of Texas and Austin Community College
United Campus Ministry of Austin was the local expression of Texas United Campus Christian Life Committee – the statewide agency formed by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church U.S., and the United Presbyterian Church U.S.A. Here in Austin much of our life and programming was also in tandem with the campus ministry program of the United Methodist Church.
The Tower and Fountain at the University of Texas
As at my other venues, the basic part of the job was staff supervision, developing and teaching short-term courses on issues related to the emphases of the local board, counseling students, directing worship, developing personal and professional relationships with faculty and staff, and managing all the structures of the board, student-oriented programs and groups, finances, and communications.
Our office was in the Congregational Church of Austin (United Church of Christ). Since we did not have a campus ministry center in the usual sense, all of our programming was done on campus, in churches, and in other venues. Pat Russell, a UCC minister, was our associate with special attention to ministry with students and relations with local churches. Claudia Highbaugh, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) minister worked part time for UCMA with African-American students at the university and part time as the chaplain at Huston-Tillotson College (a traditional African-American college related to the United Methodists and two black denominations).
Along with programs related to traditional students, we put great emphasis upon work with student families, international students and students preparing for international experiences. Within a year or so, we developed the University of Texas Student Parent Association, a ministry directed toward the university’s more than 5,000 student families.
The initial ministry was a child care center, a service not provided by the university and greatly appreciated by the student families. It was housed first in University Methodist Church and later in a facility owned by and rented to us by the university. The child care program had a full-time director, James Fisher, and seven staff members. This added to my schedule through administration and personal counseling.
New to the life of UCMA, we developed a program in conjunction with the office of the Dean of Students at Austin Community College. As had been the program in Florida, the structure at ACC was related to faculty, participation in classes, and personal counseling. All of the students lived in the city and just appeared for classes on campus, thus traditional campus ministry structures were not able to function here.
At UT, we created an international program through which the University of Texas became a sister university with Irkutsk State University in Siberia, USSR – a program which I directed. And we helped form the group in Austin who became the local expression of Christmas International House, a program of the national Presbyterian Church and which brought international students from colleges all over the U.S. to Austin for two weeks at Christmas.
I accepted an invitation from a member of the University’s counseling center to join him in establishing a service project in Jamaica and to recruit and train students for the project. This was a two week experience in which the students lived and worked in a small village there. We sent about 15-20 students to this program each year.
Expanding on the international touches, I became the local director and national board member of USA-USSR Citizens’ Dialogue, promoting peace by bringing groups of Americans and Soviets to each others’ country. These were professional people from all walks of life and generally stayed two to three weeks on each visit to the other country.
Not wanting to let any grass grow under my feet, I still continued writing curriculum and magazine articles for the Presbyterian Church – including a regular monthly magazine column of games and puzzles related to the teaching curriculum for junior highs. And I continued producing media for United Ministries in Higher Education and other groups.
Finally in this list of unique features, I received a grant from Texas United Campus Christian Life Committee to monitor legislation on higher education underway in the Texas Legislature and report on this to the TUCCLC parent denominational bodies. And, again, I was a commissioner to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) where I chaired the committee on peacemaking.
Reflection on the In-Between
As I said at the beginning of this report, the campus ministry phase of my life ended when the funding for the work in Austin died in 1989. And, as I noted, that “death through the departure of dollars” came to all four of my venues. But I want to say a few words about what I can see in the reflection provided by the rearview mirror of years.
That mirror lets me identify a healthily-large number of ministers, church administrators, and counselors. It shows me people with productive educations who were dropout-bound when I first met them. There are many, many educators in public schools, colleges and universities all the way across this country. I see professional and service-oriented citizens around the world who went back home after their education in the U.S. I cannot see but can easily imagine people in many countries whose lives are changed by the ministries of students who came to them to serve. Business people, public officials, artists, musicians, peacemakers, social service providers, and so many more!!
I cannot claim responsibility for who and what they are. I can only kneel in prayer to say “Thank you, Lord, for calling me to this ministry and allowing me to be part of all these lives!”