An Ecumenical Journey: Remembering the Story of Campus Christian Ministry at the University of Washington by David Royer

An Ecumenical Journey:  Remembering the story of Campus Christian Ministry at the University of Washington

by David B. Royer

I tell this story as a participant in events that ran from the mid- sixties into the early nineties. I came in touch with campus ministry in my first weeks as an associate minister in South Pasadena, CA.  The senior pastor and I had just arrived there and on our desks was an announcement of a meeting where the campus minister at Los Angeles State would be asked to defend himself against charges of being a radical if not a communist.  When I arrived at my job as associate minister at University Congregational (UCC) church in Seattle, I was told my first meeting was across the street for a board meeting of Koinonia Center (the Baptist, Disciples, UCC campus ministry). So I’ve been involved with campus ministry from my first job in 1965 until I left  CCM in 1991.

While I once had stacks of documents that detailed the history at the U.W, I long ago turned them over to those who followed me in that ministry at the University. What was stored on my computer disappeared with a hard drive crash and I saw no reason to try to resurrect that mass of documents.  I have found a couple of newsletters and a ministry review from 1989 some of which I have used and adapted for this story.  It is well over twenty years since I left CCM and at seventy five, some memories come more slowly.  I share here in broad brush strokes my recollections, reflections and musings on how a unique ministry was established and lasted for nearly a quarter century. Throughout the life of CCM there was always some pressure to return to a denominational “foundation” style of ministry or to move toward a campus chaplaincy model like the ministries at our denominationally related colleges and private universities.  But, CCM found another way to journey for quite a while.

The roots of Campus Christian Ministry at the University of Washington were nurtured from several sources.  By the mid sixties the American Baptists, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the UCC were funding a common ministry at Koinonia Center with two staff.  About this time the Methodist Wesley Foundation hired a new staff person very dedicated to ecumenical conversation and programming and a new Presbyterian staff member of the same bent came to the Westminster Foundation.  These two immediately joined in weekly conversation with the staff members at Koinonia, the Priest at the Newman Center, and two staff representing the Lutherans.  So ecumenical conversation was alive and well.

Add to this mixture several associate ministers from the churches in the University District who met weekly to plan joint adult education ventures and youth retreats. I sat with this group as a staff member at University Congregational (UCC) responsible for youth and adult education.  We also met with the campus ministers from time to time.  Conversation often turned to mission, and the seeds of joint ventures and collaborative ministries to serve the U. District community and the University began to grow.  There were also two Senior Pastors (a protestant pastor and elderly Catholic priest) who truly enjoyed conversations

with the “young Turks” and met with this group with some regularity.  The Dominican priest said he needed a place to “explore contemporary theology” with these recent seminary graduates.  Through this group we influenced some of the speakers at the University District Lectures sponsored by several congregations.  Amongst speakers during the mid-sixties were Samuel Miller, Harvey Cox, William Stringfellow, and Krister Stendahl.  We lobbied for these and others who were Christian educators and scholars, policy makers, folks in governance, and who were involved in prophetic inquiry.  This stew pot was almost ready for a banquet, and conversation moved toward further action.

Another voice in the late sixties was The Danforth Foundation. They published a study “The Church, the University, and Social Policy” authored by Kenneth Underwood which advocated  ministry to the University which went well beyond the pastoral and priestly modes of ministry – the ministry to individuals and the proclamation of faith. He said the other modes of ministry were those of the prophet and king.  We were called to prophetic inquiry, studying and judging the level of humaneness of the social order moving it toward change required for approximate justice in our world.  The kingly role takes up governance and the expression of neighbor love through responsible corporate action in the shaping of social policy.  He also strongly advocated an ecumenical approach to ministry in higher education.  The national higher education staff of our denominations brought this study to our attention.  They widely distributed copies of “New Wine,” a summary of the Study, and encouraged campus ministers to share it with parish colleagues as an opportunity for continuing dialogue about the nature of ministry.  The seeds from “New Wine” also fell on fertile ground in the U. District of Seattle.

I believe the next event that nurtured the possibility of establishing an ecumenical campus ministry was a convocation co-sponsored by Koinonia Center and University Congregational Church. The convocation was designed by the Christian Faith and Higher Education institute and staffed by H. Lynn Jondahl (some may recognize him as the campus minister at LA State).  This event brought together all possible participating denominational executives, campus ministers, students, and faculty and representatives of local congregations to consider issues of ministry.  It was three days of exercises, discussions, and brain storming, ending on Sunday morning where Jondahl was the preacher at University Congregational Church.

Soon after, there were a series of self- studies and reviews of the existing ministries and the visit of a national review team. All ministries agreed to participate, including some participation of the Newman Center although they weren’t represented on the review team.  I believe the team included Sam Kirk (Methodist), Verlyn Smith (NLCM), William Hallman (Presbyterian) Richard Bolles (Episcopalian), Bill Shinto (American Baptist) and Verlyn Barker (UCC).  Perhaps the convocation was in 1967 and self studies and reviews were 1968.  They reviewed the self study documents, interviewed denominational executives and bishops, talked to faculty and students, and had individual conversations with all staff.

The review teams recommended that the ministries explore a common mission, board and staff. They believed that “a shared vision, a shared ministry, allowing still for diversity can best find strength and focus within the bonds of ecumenicity, lived out under the same roof.”  The review team pointed out areas that needed the attention of the ministry at the University of Washington:  a) the Med School and Law School (their faculty and student needs and ethical explorations in those fields)  b) more creative involvement with minority students,  c) the street scene in the University community with its homelessness, drug issues, conflicts between businesses and the counter culture. d) addressing the needs of the gay and lesbian communities and their isolation. e) exploring the issues of career, life work planning and vocation  and f) marriage preparation and counseling.  This was to my mind very exciting, and within the year I resigned my positions at University Congregational and Koinonia Board, applied for the open position at Koinonia, said “yes” to a call and moved across the street to Koinonia Center.

The year was 1969 when a new ministry at the University of Washington meant to give expression to the prayer for the community of faith, “that they may all be one” came to fruition.  Nine denominations including Roman Catholics (as represented by the Dominican Order with the approval of the Archbishop), Episcopal, Lutheran (ALC/LCA), the United Church of Christ, Christian Church (Disciples), American Baptist, Presbyterian, and United Methodist joined together in a common ministry.  The effort was spearheaded by local campus ministers, district clergy, faculty board members, student participants, several denominational executives.  Final decisions about staff were to be retained by denominations or UMHE .  CCM was to have a common personnel committee with which denominations were to consult about the needs of the ministry.  In practice personnel decisions were always made with broad ecumenical participation and at least on one occasion as coordinator I was asked by a Bishop to interview a candidate on the East coast.

At the beginning our staff included four clergy representing the UMHE denominations, three Catholic staff of two Dominican priests and one Dominican sister, one Lutheran pastor, and one Episcopal priest. And we operated out of three centers –Koinonia, Newman Center and the Lutheran Center.  The new board was committed to a single location where staff, students, faculty and board members could share life together. The process was hurried along when the ancient Wesley Foundation building was in such bad shape that its board made a decision to demolish the building and not rebuild at present.  The Westminster Foundation building was in a very poor location.  Under the leadership of their new staff member a decision was made to try to rent out that space. The Methodist staff member moved into Koinonia.  There was little more room available in that building.

We continued to discuss the possibilities for common space. Buy? Expand the Westminster facility?  Build on the Wesley lot?  Then the University YMCA building became available to share with the Y Director.  We decided to lease the space with the agreement if we decided to purchase that building, the lease money would apply to the purchase.  So we all moved into that building in steps.  I believe it was in the 1972/73 school year just as I was asked to become Staff Coordinator.  This architect designed building was very beautiful and a wonderfully humane space.  There were office space for all staff, a common room for worship, and two lounge rooms for classes and meetings.  There were a few changes that had to be made, dividing two larger spaces into two office each.  We finished the ceiling in the worship space as per the architects original design.

We finally purchased the facility and celebrated the purchase of the building in October of 1977. In an address at the dedication I enumerated what had taken place over the prior twenty four months.  We had been through a wilderness to get ourselves to the place we wanted to be.  “Our denominations, our families, truly put us through their hoops, through seventeen boards  and thirty three decision making processes by Bishops and Denominational Executives, commission, committees, lawyers and bankers. (That is by actual count and doesn’t include the hours of debate, informal meetings, discussions, arguments, meeting to rewrite our bylaws, and going over architect’s drawings, walking the district to look over properties.)”

We figured and negotiated the appropriate denominational capital investments in the facility and buy-back arrangements were written with agonizing care from the very beginning. Many details had to be fussed over.  Several staff and board members wanted data about program support and costs for building and support expenses.  Our wonderful administrative assistant offered to keep track of such information for a while. She kept counts to build a common budget.  After much counting – of participants, of paper use, of demands on secretarial help, of use of paper clips, toilet flushes, flips of light switches,  etc, etc, etc., we gave up that task and she was quite relieved.  After discussion and careful review of every financial resource available, we agreed that we would use for program costs the same percentages used for investment in the building.  Basic support of program for UNHE and the Roman Catholics would be one third each, the Lutherans and Episcopalians one sixth each.  Program monies were supplemented for UMHE from the sale of Koinonia Center, Westminster Foundation and from the parking lot where Wesley House was torn down.  The sale of the Newman Center and rental of the Lutheran Center also provided income.

What did all this mean in terms of mission focus and program development? Immediately after the formation of CCM some staff specialization began to take place and staff diversity increased. Over the next twenty years these new inquiries and programs took shape.  Below are departments at the University we addressed , issues and constituencies of special concern and programs established with special attention from CCM staff.  I can only briefly address each.  You can finds fuller explanation by Thomas McCormick and Susan Y. Morris of their program involvement in what they have written for this project.

  1. The Medical School –inquiry into needs and issues. Established discussion groups with medical students. That led to counseling med students which led to the Med School realization  of the need for a new student counseling program.  The new program hired our staff part time for counseling.  Medical ethics issues were engaged and over time a new Department of Bioethics and Humanities was established, and again our staff became part of the faculty.  Cancer Life/Line cancer support group established with its roots in the medical school and our staff.  The ministry supported the staff salary for this work in the early years.  As his work became established he moved from part-time to full salary and became adjunct staff  without pay at CCM.   He is still busy at the Med School.  (see article by Tom McCormick)

2. Inquiry into university governance and issues related to religious studies and the establishment of an environmental program were both carried by one staff. These were two thorny issues. Religious studies was in trouble because of a law suit against the University by conservative religious groups for the “Bible As Literature” course.  They believed the University was teaching religion and that violated the separation of Church and State. The suit was slowly moving to the State Supreme Court.  Once settled in favor of the U., our staff became an advocate not only the course but for a Department of Comparative Religion.  Working with the professor of the Bible as Lit course, the two of them gathered support for the department, which was established.  The environment issue was thorny because there was jealousy and competition among departments as to which was the appropriate department to recommend a Department of Environmental Studies be established.  It is now a College of the Environment with co-opted faculty from several departments.  Work in this area also led to a foundation grant to CCM to aid student establishment of the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WASHPIRG).  It was one of the early PIRGs and is still a major factor in the environmental field in our area.

  1. Exploration of Campus/U. District scene — In 1969, I was the newest staff without any defined portfolio . In light of unrest and violence in the district, toxic relationships between activist and the police, the board asked that I get on the street to investigate possibilities dealing with homelessness, hunger, drug abuse, student unrest and demonstration, relationship between businesses, the U., students, and churches. I established relationships with the two most recent ASUW presidents, a local attorney, several shop owners, the editor of the Helix (underground newspaper), several faculty, two or three clergy. This group became a coalition that incorporated the U District Center ,which established programs including, a meal program and health clinic,  encouraged a Community Service Bureau (attached to the office of the mayor), emergency housing for minors, etc.  Funded by church and business donations and a Federal Law and Justice grant, the Center became a neutral ground where diverse constituencies could meet to talk and negotiate.  The weekly feeding program has been taken over by a new non- profit and, in cooperation with U District churches, has support for a daily meal.  Housing and health organizations in the area trace their roots back to our effort.

4.  Ministry with International Students –staff continued support for English Conversation Class which had a long history in the ministry. This served wives of international students who needed help with language skills and also needed a community of support. The class was taught by the 50 volunteers and childcare was provided.  While originally formed by Baptist church women, the CCM Guild took on the volunteer task and owned it as an ecumenical program.  Later we received a Presbyterian grant for a 1/2 staff position to expand programs with international students, which led to gathering students for meals, discussion and support.  Our staff person became an advocate for international students on the campus and in the community and also helped students and families with visa and other immigration difficulties.

  1. Peace and Justice Issues, Native American and Prison Ministry – The weekly program for inmates at the Monroe Correctional Center was begun by Lutheran staff. A group of students and church volunteers met with up to forty prisoners each week for discussion and support. Several education classes were established and continuing education and training was encouraged.  The prison program continues to exist today carried out independently by volunteers.  This staff member was also our contact with anti-nuclear and anti-war activists, gave leadership to the Peace Action Coalition (with roots in the Lutheran and Methodist ministries), Washington Association of Churches.  In solidarity with the Roman Catholic Archbishop, he was involved with the anti-Trident demonstrations.  Both he and the Archbishop were involved in civil disobedience.  A core group of students were active in this work.  The staff member was also our contact with the Native America students and communities and garnered support for Treaty Rights.  The U.S. Supreme Court Decision upholding the Boldt decision granted the tribes access to half the available fish quoted almost verbatim an AMICUS brief written at CCM under his staff leadership with students and faculty from the Law School, School of Fisheries and participants from the Native American community.

6.  Marriage Preparation — This priority in ministry came about first by the demands on staff time in counseling couples approaching marriage and the Protestant interaction with Catholic priests who were leading Pre- Cana classes at the Center. The priests began to consult married staff and ask Protestant staff to lead sessions on marriage communication skills, issues of dealing with anger management, and other relational issues. Thus, marriage preparation became a matter of discussion, with the hope to develop a program useful to all denominations in the ministry.  We soon hired a 1/2 time staff to lead in developing a marriage preparation program.  She, working with other staff and lay volunteers, developed a full blown program.  The program authored its own curriculum, and once it got fully going it served more than 250 participants a year in weekend retreats for marriage preparation.  Many area congregations sent their members to our program.  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese approved the program for Pre- Cana requirements if a priest would follow up with a session on Catholic theology.  The program also made available couples enrichment events for local congregations.  The curriculum has been used as an ecumenical and interfaith model at other universities and churches across the nation.  We also adapted the materials for gay and lesbian couples.  (see article by Susan Y. Morris)

  1. Work with Minority Students — Expanded involvement started with international students and expanded more when we hired two new staff who were minorities. Work with the Black Student Union and the Associated Students resulted in further new programs with indigent and disenfranchised students at the U. and broader community. One staff became involved in the national UMHE committee on Community Colleges Ministry.  He worked with Central Area pastors to encourage their involvement with community colleges in their neighborhood, was involved with a Seattle Housing Authority low income housing project, and helped students gain access to that resource.  Both staff became informal advisors to the BSU and provided stability to its efforts.

8.   Career, Life/work Planning — After implementing the street ministry, I was assigned to inquire and explore what was happening on the campus related to vocation, choosing a major, and career choice. I discovered a very small staff for a student body of over 30,000 at the career center used more by graduates looking for work rather than students seeking help with vocational choice.  Ninety percent of its effort was job placement, with a limited testing regimen for those seeking career advice. Our son was entering North Seattle Community College at this time and I was interested that students entering a degree track were required to take a Career Center course which focused on choice of major and future career.  The same was true for all community colleges in the Seattle system.  In response, the Board decided to begin a program in Life/work planning and I was supported to attend an extensive workshop led Richard N. Bolles of What Color is Your Parachute renown.  I began a program modeled on that experience using the resources authored by Bolles then partnered with our marriage prep coordinator to develop a specialized program for couples, for use in local congregations, for those planning for retirement etc.  The Career Center began to take notice and some progress could be seen in programs there to help students with future choices.


  1. Ministry to Women– As staff came and went, more women entered our mix; at times there were as many as four women on the staff. Several Catholic women religious were present along with as many as three women representing other denominations.  Programs were developed to attend to special interest and needs of women, and realtionships were established with the Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence.  The Marriage Prep program addressed more clearly the need for anger and conflict management skills and other areas dealing with violence.  In response to this effort there was also a men’s group established for conversation and support.

10. Pastoral and Liturgical Ministry — Of course, pastoral care for students and faculty continued as before. All staff carried responsibility in this area. There were weddings and funerals, personal crises, couple facing possible divorce, and all other manner of human need.

We began the ecumenical ministry with three opportunities for weekly worship. There was Sunday Catholic Mass, The Table of the Lord led by Protestant staff on Thursday (meal, discussion, & liturgy), and an Episcopal Eucharist each week.  There were also great ecumenical moments in worship:  the celebration of the building purchase, the consecration of the Roman Catholic altar, the celebration when the anti-Trident demonstrators were released from jail to name just three.  In planning this last event, I said to the Archbishop that it was too bad we couldn’t have a Eucharistic service.  He suggested having the service including all the words of institution, but without the bread and wine present.  He said everyone would understand our meaning.

We were dedicated throughout the ministry for the development of inclusive language for all our liturgies and even wrote a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer which was used in common worship.  For six years we held a common Catholic/Protestant liturgy (inclusive in language but with separate stations for the Eucharist), which was a focal point for the ministry, but it could not be sustained– even after months of study of our different traditions.  Students were pained by the separation caused by one exclusive rubric or another which we attempted, with occasional exceptions being made so we could come together.  So we took a step back to our original style of worship.

An Afterword

This ministry is now a shadow of its former self. In the late 80’s’s and early 90’s two denominations terminated their membership in CCM.  The Dominican Order faced a Province-wide financial crisis.  The withdrawal was followed by a decision of the Episcopal Bishop to discontinue funding of all chaplaincies in the diocese.  At the very same time, the Roman Catholic Bishop had been under investigation by the Vatican, some of it from questions about inclusive language or other issues at CCM.  The investigation began in 1983 and in 1986 the Pope appointed an auxiliary bishop who was given authority above the present Bishop in five liturgical and administrative functions.  That status lasted about three years.  The two withdrawals and the changes in the Archdiocese were devastating financially and ecumenically.  I know little about the details of the present campus ministry at the University other than it is once again going through change.  The Lutherans are purchasing Covenant House and the Dominicans have established an independent ministry.  There is a one Methodist staff member operating out of a Wesley facility.  The one UMHE staff is operating out of donated space at University Congregational Church.

Corita Kent in her book Footnotes and Headline, A play-pray book, which was written just about the time of our early conversations about ministry, affirms the need to celebrate together and to recite our history, our stories, our crises and successes.  To paraphrase her:  If we are unable to express or remember together whence we’ve come, we will do the opposite of remembering.  We will dismember and dissolve in confusion.

Those who were around at the beginning are no longer around to recite the history and the covenants and promises made. The denominational staff, executives and bishops have gone in a passing parade.  The clergy in the district have moved on or retired.  A significant number of those committed to the ministry have died.  Of staff who served in the first ten years of CCM, at least six are now deceased;  others are spread coast to coast.  But we celebrate the growth of the seeds planted in fertile soil over the years.

Since CCM I worked with a national non-profit organization and became the Regional Director for Joint Action in Community Service or JACS which partnered with the Dept. of Labor, Job Corps to provide volunteers to mentor the students returning home after leaving a Job Corps Center. JACS also had counselors on Job Corps Centers, so I traveled Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska to recruit individual, churches and agencies to follow students coming home. The task was to support students and encourage them in the job search until they found work. I also supervised counselors on eight Job Corps Centers in this Region. I loved the travel. I got to see the whole NW. Most of the work was fun and the salary was much better that campus minister salary.

Marcia and I are living near Olympia, WA in a retirement community on a little lake. By luck we are living next door to Susan and David Morris, friends for fifty years. Susan was a colleague at CCM and I hired David to work with me at JACS. We are enjoying life here very much.



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