God’s Earthen Vessel
Campus Ministry is a vital mission ministry of the church. Why would I make such a bold statement? I was privileged to serve 18 years on campuses ministering to students, faculty, staff and administrators. God called me to be the earthen vessel assisting students to become the next generation of Christian leaders. I served four years part-time at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) as the Coordinator of Religious Life then was appointed full-time to the Wesley Foundation Campus Ministry at the University of Delaware for the next 14 years. Sharing some stories may help you understand why Campus Ministry is essential on our campuses.
“But he’s already made it plain how to live,
what to do, what God is looking for in men
and women. It’s quite simple:
Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
and don’t take yourself too seriously –
take God seriously” (Micah 6:8, The Message).
While many students spent their spring break partying, students connected with campus ministry spent their spring break on mission trips. For the Wesley Foundation at U of D, our spring break trip was to Lumberton, NC, to serve the Lumbee Nation and others in the community. Before our week of service began, we had a day of play at Myrtle Beach. One particular year, Holy Week was spring break week. On Palm Sunday we gathered on the beach to have worship. The service included a baptismal renewal liturgy. One student spoke up and said, “Wait! I have never been baptized.” I was surprised because of her faithfulness and her willingness to serve God in many ways. We had had many talks about God and God’s son. Before I could complete whatever I was saying, she enthusiastically asked, “Will you baptize me now?” “Of course I will with much joy!” Into the Atlantic Ocean we went. As I looked at her and she at me, the rest of the students followed into the water forming a circle around us. She was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit surrounded with the circle of love from her peers. Today, she is a leader in her local church.
A knock came on the office door. The door opened before I could acknowledge the knock. Before he sat down, he announced, “I have had it! God is pulling at me so strongly! What do I do to go into ordained ministry?” This student is currently serving in the Susquehanna Annual Conference as an elder in full connection.
“…for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing,
I was sick and you took care of me,
I was in prison and you visited me…”(Matthew 25:35, NRSV).
She sat in my office and told me of her stepfather’s verbal abuse. She started to cry, “I can’t go home and face that again. I only get peace when he is gone. I need help to find a place to live here for the summer. I have a summer job. Help me, please!” She and her husband are youth leaders in their local church.
The phone rang at 8:30 am. The assistant to the President of the University said, “The President wants a service at 1:00 pm today. Can you do it?” This was after the most horrific event our country had experienced, 9-11-2001. He had been present that September evening when over 4,000 students came quietly to the Vigil that I had organized along with my colleagues. More than 8, 000 on campus attended or watched on their computers or the TV screens in the student centers. That year the President’s Christmas card showed several pictures of the Vigil, including the campus spiritual leaders.
“…God plays no favorites! It makes no difference who you are or where you’re from –
if you want God and are ready to do as he says, the door is open. …” (Acts 10:34-35, The Message).
“Would you be willing to lead a Bible study for the opposing football team?” was the question. I said, “yes.” I went to where the visiting team was staying. I had a short Bible study, shared a few thoughts, and we held hands and prayed. That afternoon as I watched the game, I could not cheer against the visiting team. I could not cheer for U of D. I saw the visiting team as my brothers in the faith instead of the opponents.
“I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13,NRSV)
Over my tenure I was privileged to participate in local, national and international campus ministry/chaplain organizations. The connectedness of colleagues supported my faith and commitment. We would share leadership ideas and affirm one another. I was so humbled when I was asked to attend the European Students’ Chaplains’ Conference in 1995 in Modling, Austria. The United States delegation was invited to an after conference meeting with Johan Kijne, where I was asked to be the Chaplain to the Chaplains at the First International Conference for College and University Chaplains and Campus Ministers. The Conference would be held in Durham, England, in 1996. A The year was filled with joy as I met so many international colleagues while we worked on providing worship experiences. Each morning service was provided in the tradition from which the leader was a member. The larger services were ecumenical. Sharing on the Prep-Co was incredible. Leading the departing worship service was awesome. Having friends/colleagues remember the worship services unto this day is priceless.
Reflections/memories cannot be completed without a few words about Campus Ministry Women. Yes, there was a separate national organization for women serving in campus ministry/higher education. We planned a conference each year that would be held either before or after NCMA. The organization had to cease because of the all too often expression, “…not enough money in our budget.” Unfortunately many campus ministry units have ceased because of that reality. However, for the time of Campus Ministry Women, we would sing, dance, share liturgy, cry, laugh, and just be us for a few hours. It was what fed many women in their life’s journey. Food for the journey!
God’s earthen vessel
My experience of ministry in higher education was rootedin the teachings of Jesus the Christ, where all were invited and welcomed to be a part of the community of faith– and accepted unconditionally.
Campus ministry is the church in the midst of a secular community, and its spiritual leaders provide biblical hospitality through sharing the grace, love and forgiveness that God has freely given.
I was the catalyst empowering and enabling the campus community to search for God’s initiative in their lives. I was a teacher, mentor, a counselor and preacher. I was called to be a faithful learner while nurturing faithful minds for faithful service. I was called to set the example by leading and enabling others to bring their faith to life through serving our community, the community-at-large, and the global community by offering my gifts, my skills, my talents and my love for all God’s people.
I was called and I said “yes!” I served God, the church and the campus making disciples for Jesus the Christ as we shared in transforming the world in his Holy name.
And that my dear grandchildren, is a snapshot into my calling. If God calls you, answer quickly. The journey may not be smooth, but it is priceless.
With all my love to
Dereck, Mikayla, Alycia, Bryce, Carter, and Caleb
Nicholas, Michael, Heather, Brandon, Cole, and Claire
The Scripture texts quoted above fed me throughout my campus ministry days and beyond.