Pioneering Campus Ministry for Women by Jan Griesinger

I worked for the World Student Christian Federation  (WSCF) from 1971-1975, specifically for the North American region on what was called a women’s project.  I edited a book, the first one as far as we know, with articles by women all across the world  – not things written by European travelers about what they saw but writing by actual women living in the country they wrote about and describing the status of women.

I helped form the group Campus Ministry Women in 1972 and much of my work was with that group – giving support to women working in their field, exchanging info, meeting nationally a few times. Women in Campus Ministry included women who served as office staff and wives of men working in campus ministry, as those women also often worked hard as volunteers. It continued until 1996.

From 1976 to 2004 I served as Co-Director for United Campus Ministry at Ohio University in Athens OH. I was privileged to work with students, faculty and staff on things like personal support and faith struggles but also on work for justice.

One of the best things was taking students on several spring break trips in several different years to the historic sites of the civil rights movement – Montgomery, Selma and Birmingham Alabama,  Memphis, TN, Jackson MS, Atlanta GA. We were all inspired to see museums that had been created, attend the church where MLK preached, the church in Selma where the famous march began to Montgomery. I also enjoyed fine trips I took students to in Puerto Rico and Cuba. And we did some hurricane relief work in New Orleans.

Here are some comments from student evaluations from the 2002 Civil rights trip:

–      “it gave me a renewed faith in black people, gave me a chance to put everything into perspective and filled in a lot of holes from previous information that I learned.”

–      “ I came to realize the role of non-violence in standing up for what we truly believe in. The movement was for all people and not just for African Americans as I believed earlier.  1955-1968 was a small phase of what was started earlier and something that needs to be carried on by our generation.”

–      “it changed me forever. There are so many books I want to read. I want to educate people about what I’ve learned. This trip changed me as a person.”

–      “the trip gave me a more clear idea of what still needs to be done in human rights issues. I also was able to get the perspectives of those who were not black (those who went on the trip.) It also gave me the sense of my history as an African American.

In addition there was the work on such things as divestment so the university would spend no funds in South Africa until after full liberation there, stopping US funds going to Central America to prop up bad rulers, working hard for LGBT justice, protesting the war in Iraq, during which a number of us were arrested sitting in the street at the main campus intersection.  The peace vigil we began in 1979, one hour a week at our county courthouse, is still going on to prevent future wars and to work for justice for the 99%.

I helped start the Women Take Back the Night march in 1979 and it still continues to this day. I worked hard to get a Women’s Center in the student union building, which finally happened in 2005. I helped start the battered women’s shelter in 1978 and it continues.

We did good interfaith work through a campus ministerial association.  I served on the statewide board of Ohio Campus Ministries from 1989 until the present.

I have a story written in Journeys That Opened Up the World, edited by Sara M. Evans, 2003 about our involvement in the WSCF and the connection between church-related experiences and the movements for justice.  Also my work appears quite a bit in Feminism in the Heartland by Judith Ezekiel, 2002, on the women’s liberation movement in Dayton OH, which I co-founded in 1969.



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