Catching the Ecumenical Spirit in 1968 by E. Thomas Miller

Catching the Ecumenical Spirit in 1968

By E. Thomas Miller

 

The several campus ministries at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia met together in 1968 and developed a covenantal relationship with one another, representing nine denominations, and endorsed by their several denominational local committees. These included Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, United Methodists, Presbyterians (PCUS and UPCUSA), Baptists (SBC and American Baptists), Disciples of Christ, and Lutheran (LCA and ALC). We agreed at that time that we would serve our own constituencies with our separate religious, worship, study and church relations. And at the same time we developed a division of labor for the University pastors and chaplains along with local pastors involved in ministry to and in the University. I was elected chair of the new ecumenical counsel to coordinate our strategy for ministry.

Several chaplains were deeply involved in relationship to those protesting the Viet Nam war as well as a team of chaplains and others who counseled students who were exploring conscientious objection,  some of whom completed their applications for 1-0 or 1-AO status for their draft boards

Another group, headed up by a campus pastor and joined by persons concerned about the use of drugs, developed the Drug Education and Crisis Intervention Hot Line (24/7), and provided seminars in several dormitories. The group of nine ordained clergy of our covenantal group divided up the residence halls and provided Chaplaincies in cooperation with the house parents and resident assistance.

 

Student Action for Appalachian Progress

Several outreach ministries were developed, including Student Action for Appalachian Progress, a tutorial program for school children in the coal camps in Monongalia County, which at the time was one of the largest coal producing counties in the nation. At the height of this SAAP program, students logged 30,000 hours of tutoring by 200 students who had been trained by university faculty in the best tutorial techniques. This program, supported by the Mountaineer Mining Mission, sponsored by the United Presbyterian Church, USA, Tutorial programs were conducted in the neighborhoods . Faculty and staff conducted training weekends before each semester. Each weekend was concluded with an “altar call” from yours truly to sign on for a semester and definitely not to poop out on their “tutees” which would be more disappointing than not at all.

 

Women’s Center

The first female campus minister (a United Methodist deacon) staffed the Women’s Center which provided rape counseling , problem pregnancy counseling and lively discussions for University coeds. A vigorous support group of 25 coeds functioned and a hot line was established.

 

Shared Program and Work Space

Another significant innovation was the sharing of office space for a number of the denominational campus ministers. The Newman Club shared their office space with a United Methodist and a Presbyterian campus pastor, renaming their center “Ecumenical Campus Center.” Another ecumenical center was established on the second campus of the University where three CM’s shared – Catholic, (Paulist Order) United Methodist, and Presbyterian. The Center was later renamed Bennett House in memory and in honor of the chair of the ecumenical student group on campus, who had become a CO and served as a non-combatant soldier, and who was mortally wounded while rescuing a fellow soldier from the battlefield. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, reportedly the second CO to be awarded such an honor in the USA. A third center was established near the main campus which was shared by CM’s: United Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic , and Episcopalian.

 

The Last Resort

A Coffee House Ministry, begun by the Presbyterians, was staffed by the campus ministers on Friday and Saturdays. The downtown facility was called “The Last Resort” which seated over 100, featured student folk singers, poets, comedians, and dramatists who staged three plays a year. The Resort was open to all students, faculty and staff of the University. A downtown basement seating 100, featuring, of course, coffee, grill, and tubs of peanuts on Friday and Saturdays during the school year. The outstanding Drama Department “adopted” the Resort for three dramatic productions each year, including musical reviews, plays. Folk music was standard as well as original poetry readings, and a hilarious comedy team, mimicking the Burns & Shriver duo. Tony and Rune later went on to star in Godspell in Washington DC. after their graduation. (Ironically, both were Jewish).

Other joint programs in Morgantown included a Telephone Reassurance Ministry (for shutins), MonVac (a voluntary action center), a Simulation Games program for students and faculty, a citywide campaign which was a referendum for a youth center with an ice skating rink which was passed by a 75% community election, and a local chapter of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU).

Our Ecumenical Campus Ministry was written up as an effective ministry by a national Episcopal newsletter published at the Episcopal Seminary in Cambridge, MA.

Following a decade of ministry in West Virginia, I was called to be the Minister to the Campus and Assistant Professor of Humanities at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. There I was campus chaplain to 1100 students and 250 faculty and staff. Following my earlier practice of ecumenical ministry, I conducted weekly chapel on Tuesday evening (during Coffee break @ 10:00 p.m. The college had hosted a summer high school Hillel conference on campus, and as a result several dozen Jewish students who had fallen in love with the campus matriculated at the College. We tried to get the national Hillel Foundation to form a Hillel and were turned down because there was not enough to form a group. Our response: We formed a Havarem (Friends), and the chaplain was nicknamed “Rabbi.” Episcopal eucharist was also offered in the Wynn Chapel as well as Catholic Mass and a Baptist Student Union. Due to our Jewish contacts we were able to host Elie Wiesel for a series of lectures. Other luminaries included in the endowed lectureships were Fr. Henri Nouwen, Fred Rogers of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and Dr. James Forbes, senior pastor of Riverside Church, NYC.

 

After retirement Tom also helped create a Presbyterian Higher Education non-profit organization in North Carolina which functioned for ten years (2003-2013) in support of and encouragement of 21 Higher Education Ministries in the five NC presbyteries. He is now retired and living in Davidson, NC, home of his alma mater, Davidson College, and has been appointed to the alumni Board.

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“Every Morning is Easter Morning” By Alice Riemer-McKee

“Every Morning is Easter Morning”

By Alice Riemer-McKee

My love for campus ministry started as a college student at Carroll University (then Carroll College) from 1957-1961. As college students, we met at First Methodist Church in Waukesha, Wisconsin with a member of the church as our leader.  He introduced us to the Methodist Student Movement in Wisconsin, and for me the rest is history.  I soon received a state leadership position and for the next three years, participated in jurisdictional events and national happenings.   I met Jamison Jones from Nashville and the Board of Higher Education and Campus ministry and traveled with him to events around the country. My senior year in college I served as president of the state MSM for Wisconsin.

After graduating from Carroll, I took a teaching position in Neenah, Wisconsin. Because I was lonely as a single woman in town, and with the blessings of two of the area pastors, I started an Ecumenical Adult group for singles like me. The group grew quickly and at the end of the year, one of the pastors called me in to talk about going to seminary. I was flabbergasted!  I didn’t know that women went to seminary, and I didn’t even know where the nearest one might be.  He walked me through the process, the conference gave me a scholarship named  Ideas Unlimited, and I broke my teaching contract for the next year.  Soon I boarded the train for Evanston, Illinois and then Garrett Biblical Institute (now Garrett Theological Seminary).  Thirteen women were enrolled at that time, and not one in the BD degree program (now Master of Divinity degree).  It was my dream to return to Wisconsin to work with students on one of the major university campuses as a Christian Educator.

Soon a young man named Doug McKee arrived at seminary from Meadville, Pennsylvania, having graduated from Penn State and serving as president of Inter Varsity. We met and were married several months later.  Doug finished Garrett and I was told by my bishop here in Wisconsin that they would give Doug an appointment as a pastor, but there was no place for me. It was something about couples not working in the same conference! I never asked what that meant, and I am sure he was glad I didn’t push it further.  So, instead of finishing Garrett, I taught second grade in the inner city of Chicago. Doug was later ordained in the East Wisconsin Conference where he served local churches for almost ten years and then was called by a senior pastor in Colorado Springs in 1975 to join his staff.  We moved west and lived there for over thirty years.  Doug joined the Rocky Mountain Conference.

In 1978, we moved to Laramie, Wyoming, where Doug was appointed to serve as Interim Senior Pastor, and I was asked if I was interested in exploring the idea of rebuilding the Wesley Foundation at the University of Wyoming, Laramie. It had been inactive for many years, and I was to get back to the conference in a year to tell them if it might be feasible. However, in less than two months, I had a group of students meeting with me at the church who wanted more than just talking about the future.  They made it clear that they were ready to move forward now.  Our funding at that time came from an oil well near Cody, Wyoming and five cents for every gallon of gas pumped at a local gas station in Laramie.  The Foundation owned the land on which the gas station stood.  The rest is history as there has been a campus minister appointed to the Wesley Foundation ever since.

In 1979, Bishop Melvin Wheatley called Doug and me, and asked if we would be interested in moving to Boulder, CO to serve as campus ministers at the Wesley Foundation there. We were thrilled to be asked and we spent eleven years serving the University of Colorado campus.  Doug was appointed and I was hired by the local board.  We defined the ministry as being a denominational ministry that worked ecumenically.  We were proud of our roots as a strong and historic Wesley Foundation, but we were also just as proud of our work with the ecumenical community on campus and in the wider Boulder community.

Since my love of campus ministry was birthed in the Methodist Student Movement and Doug’s was nurtured through Inter Varsity, it became obvious very quickly that we appealed to two very different groups of students. I always said that if a student walked in the door and was wearing Docker pants, an Izod shirt with the collar up, and was a B School or Econ major, they were coming to see Doug. If the student was an Arts and Science major or Civil Engineering student, and glad to be dressed—they were coming to see me.  I think this is one of the examples of why we were a good team.  Doug talked an evangelical “language” that was new to me.  I shared my love of a church beyond our walls with him, and it became a strong piece in how we did campus ministry.  Bishop Wheatley said that if we did not offer Sunday worship to the students, he would reappoint Doug somewhere else.  For the Bishop this piece was crucial.  In those days, this model worked, and worship meant fifty to sixty students on a Sunday morning and communion every Wednesday night at 10:00 p.m.  Maybe this is why during our time at Wesley, eight students entered full time ministry in the United Methodist Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church and the United Church of Christ — one is now a professor at Phillips Seminary in Oklahoma.  The United Methodist students are now serving churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, Montana and Georgia.  Today we also have students actively working in their local churches of many denominations here in the states and abroad.

Participating in local and national mission projects was part of our yearly schedules. As I write this, I am remembering sending students to Haiti, to projects within Boulder and throughout Colorado and beyond. We taught our students the fine points of protesting such things as the manufacturing of triggers for neutron bombs at Rocky Flats—located between Boulder and Golden, Colorado.  Sunday nights at 4:00 p.m. you could find us as a group sitting along the road across from the plant and having worship.  That plant finally closed.

A lot of energy and time went into monitoring the many cults and sects that found the Boulder/Denver area attractive. At one point, it was estimated that there were close to a hundred groups in the area. We documented such things as how large the group was, where they were located, who the leader was, the average length of stay for a person who joined, what they were eating and wearing as well as the daily routine.  Some were very small, others were known nationwide.  Names that come to me now include The Unification Church at 777 Broadway—a former sorority house on campus; the Church of Scientology which had a large office building right down town in Boulder; the Boston Church of Christ and their infamous chocolate chip cookies that they passed out during exam time in the dorms; and my favorite because of their very brightly painted bus—Jesus Christ Lighting Amen, who spent summers in Boulder and winters in Florida.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention fund- raising which was a major part of my position as director. In those days, I found it easy to raise money for campus ministry from the conference, the local churches, parents and alums.  I am sure I could not do it again today.  Doug and I also held very visible conference positions—I chaired COSROW and he chaired Board of Pensions and Health Benefits.  This put us in front of the conference in ways beyond campus ministry which I think was a plus.

The local ecumenical campus ministers were very active as an organization and we always presented a united front when approaching the university and other organizations for recognition or information.

Many of the students still write about the power of the retreats we held each semester as well as the classes taught, like Disciple 1 and 2. They also remember Easter Eve services that sometimes included a baptism of a student, Easter Sunrise Services up on Flagstaff Mountain and singing “Every Morning is Easter Morning” by Avery and Marsh as their theme song at many worship events throughout the year.

It was not all work and no play. Social activities were popular depending on the year.

Thanks to the UMC Board of Education and Don Shockley, we were able to secure grant money for an Ethnic Ministry Center. For at least five years we had three ethnic pastors doing part time work on campus working with students.

In the midst of serving the campus, Doug and I raised two sons in Boulder. They were as comfortable on campus as were the students.  They could dumpster dive at the end of the semester like pros, have summer jobs on campus, enjoy some special friendships with the students, live in a home located right across the street from campus that was open to students day and night, experience rock concerts in the football stadium which was almost in our front yard, watch Frank Shorter train for the Olympics as he ran by our home, get paid for being in a live segment of Mork and Mindy, and benefit from the excellent Boulder schools.

In 1990, I decided to complete my seminary education and work towards ordination. We both asked for local church appointments in the conference, and we were sent to western Colorado where we served separate local congregations. Obviously, it was no longer a problem for couples to work within a conference so I enrolled at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., and through a special summer program I finished and was ordained in the Rocky Mountain Conference.  We were asked in 1998 to serve together at Hilltop UMC in Salt Lake, and we retired from there.  Doug had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994 and his cancer returned while we were in Utah.  It was his wish to die in Colorado so we moved back again to Grand Junction, Colorado where he passed away in 2002.

I moved to Wisconsin in 2004 as I have a son and family here. And as life often goes full circle, I am now on an area committee looking at the possibility of bringing campus ministry back to the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh.  As I share some of my long ago experiences with campus ministry with the group, I wonder how I would serve the campus today.  This is what I am trying to discern as a committee member.

Doug and I made a strong commitment to participate in jurisdictional and NCMA organizations, where many of you reading this became our friends.  As I am enjoying your writings and stories, I am recalling some special times shared with many of you.  Thank you for all that you taught us and for your friendships.

Thanks be to God who called all of us to serve the campus then and now.

“Every morning is Easter morning, from now on. Every day is resurrection day, the past is over and gone!”  Amen.

Order of Sages Pages in WordPress –so you can find your piece as you scroll through the entries!

 

Order of Sages Pages in WordPress

(–so you can find yours; the most recent entry is first). Apologies for the crazy things WordPress does to the typeface and fonts!

Empowering Students Through a Center-Based Ministry: UT, Austin in the 50’s-70’s by Bob Breihan

Notes from the Higher Education Bureaucracy by David C. Rich

DREAM Catching by John Feagins

Campus Ministry and the University of the Earth by Ted Purcell

Called OUT of Campus Ministry to Motherhood by Debra Brazzel

NCMA: An Obvious Thing To Do! by David Burnight

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

Campus Ministry in the 60’s and 70’s: Context and Observations by Howard Daughenbaugh

Feisty Women Forging Lifetime Connections by Marna McKenzie

A Peculiar and Extraordinary Journey by Steven Darr

The Thing Itself: The Tapestry of A Ministry in Higher Ed by Thomas Mainor

The Work of the Spirit by Phil Harder

Using the Church’s Empty Spaces for Theater and the Arts by Jerry Miller

BACKING INTO A CALLING– and the Ripple Effect! by Susan Yarrow Morris

My Life Work by Delton Pickering

Change by Manuel Wortman

Our Life in Campus Ministry by Bob and Shirley Cooper

It’s Us or Them: Campus Ministry at Texas Tech by Roger Loyd

 

Places I’ve Loved…And Never Really Meant to Go by Helen R. Neinast
“For Such a Time as This” by Betsy Alden

Working for Racial Justice in the 60’s in the South by Harry Smith

A Memorial Service for JFK by Hugh Nevin

Reflections, Memories and “Burnt Offerings” by Jim Davis

What I Have Learned after 40 Years on the Same University Campus by Jim Pruyne

Becoming Portals of Love and Openers of Doors by Odette Lockwood-Stewart

Campus Ministry: A Space and Time for Holy Hospitality by Jan Rivero

Three by Thad by Thad Holcombe

Dateline: St. Louis MO / October 27, 1964: NCMA Launched” by George Gunn

An Examined Life by Don Shockley

An Introduction to the Sages Pages by George Gunn

“Ultimate Concerns: Prints and Drawings” by Thomas Niccols
Apartheid: Campus Ministry with the University Community by Bill Ng

Life/Work Planning: Its Origins in Campus Ministry by Verlyn Barker

“Getting the End of the Story” by Chad Boliek

God’s Earthen Vessel by Laura Lee (Wilson) Morgan

Two by Clyde: “The Duke Vigil” and “Walking to Work” by Clyde O. Robinson, Jr.

Creating Social Change by Jim Ray

Sage Report by Ruth Dunn

A Particular Career in Campus Ministry by Diane Kenney

New Jersey UMHE and Campus Ministry by Bernadine McRipley

A Memoir by Darrell Yeaney

Ministry with Blacks in Higher Education by Jim Wilson

Pioneering Campus Ministry for Women by Jan Griesinger

Reflections on the Origins of Ecumenical Campus Ministry at the University of Oklahoma byDon Gipson

Reflections on 40 Years in Campus Ministry by Verlyn I. Barker

Ministry in Higher Education: A Journey by Robert L. Epps

REFLECTIONS AND PROJECTIONS ON CAMPUS MINISTRY by Dick Bowyer

Recollections at Age 88 by J. Emmett Herndon

Tom McCormick, Health and Human Values: Reflections on a Ministry in Higher Education

What Fallout from the In-Between by Wayne Bryan

Out on a Limb by Hugh Nevin

40 Years and Going Strong by Tom Philipp

36 Years in One Place by Paul Walley

 A Life Work in and with Campus Ministry by George Gunn

Collecting the NCMA Sages’ Pages!  By BA changed to Preface

Having His Say by Robert Thomason

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

Obituary for Harold Wells, Drake University

A Lifetime of Advocacy for Campus Ministry. A tribute to Barry Cavaghan

Prayers for Hard Times by Walter Fishbaugh

Empowering Students Through a Center-Based Ministry: UT, Austin in the 50’s-70’s by Bob Breihan

Empowering Students Through a Center-Based Ministry:

The University of Texas at Austin in the 50’s-70’s

By Bob Breihan

 

At age 18 my career aspirations were simple: be an electrical engineer. I had no idea what a campus minister was, but was fortunate to arrive at the University of Texas where one of the best, Paul K. Deats, filled that role.  I quickly realized the strength of such a presence in student and campus life — Paul was simply there: smart, confident, personable and not afraid to speak his mind.   He made a lasting impression on me in a very short time. Later, after two more years in the Navy as an engineering officer, and a year to collect necessary credits to graduate, I would come to my “Jesus Moment:” shall I work with machines and electricity or with people? After thinking, praying and talking to almost anyone standing still (or even walking slowly), I chose seminary (over law) and so the journey began

In my senior year at Perkins Theological Seminary in 1952, I was asked by a Methodist Conference leader to lead a program of youth work and leadership education. He was eager to have me start and sent me to a conference in Michigan the next day!  A short 18 months later, the Wesley Foundation at the University of Texas asked me to follow Paul Deats, who was dismissed for being too “pink.” (Remember this is the early ‘50s.)  Again, I agreed, with no further instruction for my new task than: “Just don’t do what Deats did” (which was to attract all manner of criticism for his espousal of pacifism and liberal views in general). They added, “Since you were in the Navy we know we can trust you”  — I decided not to mention my own relatively recent conversation to pacifism and forged ahead.

As a newbie, I worked under this mantra: “Ask all the questions you can think of for one year – people will be glad to talk.” Just seek to understand the context – and keep a log privately. I reasoned that if you ask the same questions in the second year, folks will begin to question you and wonder. “Be interested but not persuaded by what you hear. Say ‘I hear you’ and ‘we’ll see’ as often as you can.”

The Wesley Foundation at that time had no set program, no structure — except a student council — so I spent a lot of time with those students, with Methodist faculty and administrators at the University, probing their thoughts and opinions

We had the traditional format of the time: several Sunday school classes on Sunday morning, taught by university faculty, church members, and state officials – all were well attended. Sunday night was the main event – dinner, followed by singing, then a speaker for 45 minutes, but always finishing up in time for evening service at the church!

One of my enduring concerns was to help students get connected with the issues of their time and their context in Austin. During the week, groups of students volunteered in city social service programs, many in East Austin, the traditionally African-American side of town. Staff from these agencies often gave presentations that helped students see both the potential and the challenge involved in such work. Then there were state and national Methodist Student conferences – I worked to get students there so they could realize the broad scope of student activities at that time.

Also, I made it a practice to talk with students about their studies and their professors – who pushed them to grow, by challenging their beliefs. In this way, I encouraged a bridge of conversation between the university setting and the students’ faith connection. One such example was a botany professor who regularly questioned their beliefs in God. Conversations with him and others in the sciences led to some special programs where high school kids were brought to the campus from all over the country. The purpose was to keep the dialogue going, opening the students to a new way to look at science.

My own values and my willingness to cross over into different areas of inquiry and action in this way repeatedly brought new commitments. For instance, my pacifism led me to Friends meetings and to the program work of the American Friends Service Committee. In addition to helping set up workshops in Austin, I became involved in strategic planning for a six-state region which included establishing the first integrated child care facility west of the Mississippi.

Another fruitful exploration came through my contact with Dean Page Keaton of the UT law school. An SMU law professor and a professor of ethics at Perkins School of Theology (both in Dallas) had been teaching a joint course focused on abortions. When I told this to Keaton, he readily took to the idea and for several years we ran a weekly seminary between the Presbyterian and Episcopal Seminaries in Austin and the students and faculty from the law school.

In the midst of these endeavors, in 1959, 25-30 campus ministers across Texas came together to press the Texas Methodist Student Movement to appoint me as interim (then permanent) director, replacing a strong nominee from the more conservative, church-centered part of that commission. This involved extensive travel within the state, attending to 25-27 campuses, meeting with school presidents or deans and sometimes mediating between a campus minister and an administration when the minister took a position on a controversial social issue.

It was heady work, often satisfying, but took me away from family more than I would have liked, so I was ready when the Wesley Foundation board requested me to drop this broader assignment and return to lead the local program in Austin. A Bible chair position was staffed for academic student courses and a creative colleague, Rev. Eddie Shaw, developed “The Guild of Lay Theologians,” in which about 100 participants each dedicated two hours a week to private study of a paper on a theological issue, then spent one hour of participation in a 12-member Guild group led by a local clergyperson. Those involved went through a 4-year program in this way and “graduated” with a certificate signed by the United Methodist bishop at the time.

About this time, I was elected president of a newly forming Citizens Commission on Human Relations. With others, I worked to integrate restaurantsdowntown and around the university campus. While students participated in sit-ins, I would go to the various managers and try to get their cooperation, but instead many downtown stores chose to close their lunch counters rather than integrate. One manager did agreed initially to welcome black students and their families; soon others were eager to come as well, so the Nighthawk Restaurant soon welcomed any and all black citizens. A list of those places that agreed to serve the students was then compiled and circulated in the black community.

The Citizens Commission pressed in other areas as well, demonstrating at a newly opened skating rink and making steady efforts to integrate Austin movie theaters also. Students were very active in all these efforts but success was very slow.  A meeting with a well-known civic leader and the managers of the downtown theaters resulted in one small victory:  allowing blacks to use the balcony of the Varsity Theater on the edge of the campus.

The location of the Methodist Student Center across the street from a large state university campus presented numerous possibilities, and some problems. The center was open until 10pm every night, often for outside groups to use the building.  We reasoned that students needed to have a safe space where they could freely discuss social issues important to them.  The Center became associated with open-minded approaches to all faiths as well; when an Islamic student association could find no other place to meet, we welcomed them once a week for quite some time.

A further expression of this kind of commitment was ICHTHUS Coffee House, open every Friday and Saturday night from 7-midnight, which served coffee, tea and bakery goods, and displayed the work of local artists. Students were recruited to oversee the Coffee House and were also informally coached to listen to students who came in and also to explain in purpose of the Coffee House in nontraditional language.

Each week, a speaker was invited to make brief remarks throughout the evening and engage in dialogue with anyone who wished. We also had singers (including Pete Seeger and Janice Joplin!), poets and occasionally a staged drama in a nearby auditorium. Another innovative use of the Center space itself was for major theatrical productions. At one time a group of African-American students had a small ‘company-in-residence,’ in cooperation with the coffee house.

The times they were “a-changin’” in the late 60’s, and the emphasis on dialogue and speaking one’s mind led to my participation in the Southwest Regional Draft Counselors. This group developed as the military draft had increasing presence in the life of program students. They cooperated to publish the regulations for local selective service boards, and we also made sure to have someone on stage whenever military personnel made a presentation at local high schools. I had many occasions to sit with young men as they struggled with the question of becoming a conscientious object to the deepening war in Vietnam.

Another issue arose from a different direction when the director of student health services approached me regarding the vexing frequency of ‘problem pregnancies’ among University students. Together we formed the Coalition for Sexual Understanding, to educate teachers, counselors, and social workers across the state who were involved with adolescents and young adults.  Guidelines were developed through this process for sex education and counseling in whatever context they might occur. Additionally, I joined the Clergy Consultation for Problem Pregnancies, a nationwide network which began to address the need for safe and legal abortions to be available for those who desired.

The students associated with the Wesley Center were themselves initiators of programs as well, including a work camp each year over Easter weekend (this was prior to the advent of longer spring breaks). Fifty to 75 students went in car loads to help with specific projects, such as building a summer camp for the Centro Sociale, a program of the Methodist Board of Missions. They were completely in charge, a source of great pride to them and center staff as well.

Community-building and providing hospitable space for students, who were often overwhelmed by a large university, was always a priority. Through my community involvement, I and several others established a volunteer-staffed all-night Hotline to Help for the larger city.  It was a natural extension to tend to students in a program called The Listening Ear, which took place at the Center.

We enlisted volunteers from one of the strongest churches, and each was asked to be at the center one evening a month, from 10pm to 6am, simply to listen, without judgment, offer coffee – and discourage those who came from trying to sleep overnight there! This program was very successful, with a consistent flow of folks sitting and talking through most of the night. Many years later, these same volunteers speak of all they learned by serving in this way and how grateful they were for the opportunity.

I look back on my experiences in campus ministry with wonder – that there were so many diverse opportunities for programming and services. Basically, the times were right for empowering students to think and act for themselves. The University and surrounding businesses were very responsive to student interests and needs. The Church itself was still a potent influence in communities across the nation, and as a result there was a great interest in tending to student needs when they left home for college.

But by the early 1960s, this cohesive set of interests began to come apart. Over the following years, careful listening and attention to ways that campus ministry could play a creative role, kept our programs going until the mid to late 1970s.

By the 1980s, the Church’s overall influence had steadily waned, large centers such as the Wesley Foundation were a thing of the past ( ours was taken down in 1981), and much smaller, often fragmented, campus ministry coalitions were left to respond to students’ spiritual needs. I  give thanks for those who have continued in this calling — shedding old ideas and structures and seeking to imagine new forms and styles of ministry that provide a solid, God-based presence for students today.  May their efforts be blessed!

Bob Breihan was active in student and campus ministry from 1951-81, after which he served as Associate Pastor at University UMC in Austin till 1986. From 1986-2001, he was the Founder/Director of the New Life Institute, a center for Counseling and spiritual Growth, then the senior therapist there till 2012. He and his wife Sarah Bentley are happily retired in Austin.

 

Notes from the Higher Education Bureaucracy by David C. Rich

Notes from the Higher Education Bureaucracy

by David C. Rich

It all began with a 3 by 5 card tacked to the Job Placement Bulletin Board at the Boston University School of Theology:

“Position as Protestant Chaplain, Maine Christian Association, University of Maine, Orono. ME. (for one year while the present Chaplain is on a one-year study leave.)”

I was an American Baptist student finishing my senior year at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts. I thought that it sounded intriguing and, at the least, would provide me with an opportunity to practice my interviewing skills. So I sent a resume. I received a phone call from the Chair of the Maine Christian Association (MCA) Board, inviting me to come to Orono for an interview, which included leading worship and preaching in the Little Theatre on campus, meeting the Board and meeting with students.  And then, four days after Ginny, my wife, and I visited the campus, I received another phone call telling that they wanted me to come for one year. (It eventually was extended to two years when the study leave of the Chaplain was extended for a second year.)

I never dreamed that applying for that position in 1961 would lead to 24 years of ministry in higher education at the local, regional and national levels of the Church.

  • Protestant Campus Minister, University of Maine. In the second year we developed an off-campus Coffee House. (1961-1963)
  • Eastern Regional Director for Campus Christian Life, American Baptist Board of Educational Ministries. (1966-1967). In 1968, American Baptists joined UMHE and I became a part of national UMHE staff along with my American Baptist colleagues, Haydn Ambrose, Dale Turner, Bill Shinto, and Dick Tappan.
  • Northeastern Regional Secretary, United Ministries in Higher Education, Valley Forge, PA. (1968 – 1975)
  • My first trip was to fly to Boulder, CO to meet with Wally Toevs, President of NCMA from 1967- 69 and to begin the discussion of ways to strengthen the relationship.   And then over several months I visited each of the 6 NCMA Regional representatives. We developed a plan that I like to think helped create increased communication and working relationships between NCMA and UMHE over the next few years.
  • In l969 conversations were held between NCMA and UMHE national leadership about strengthening the working relationships between UMHE and NCMA. Out of these conversations came the recommendation that, as a part of my responsibilities with the UMHE National Staff, one quarter of my time I would serve as the Executive Secretary of NCMA. The UMHE office in Valley Forge, with Audrey Lightbody, would coordinate membership and communication services for NCMA.  Someone described my position as a “go-between” and a link between ” labor and management.”  Perhaps.  I also saw it as a way to increase communication and understanding between the two organizations with a common commitment to ministry in higher education.
  • Executive Director for the PA Commission for United Ministries in Higher Education (1975 – 1990) It was a time of supporting on-going ecumenical ministries as well as developing additional models of ministries including ministries with African-American students on state university campuses in more rural PA communities, regional ministries with community colleges with J Springer as well as several models using persons to coordinate the ministry of congregations with state universities in their communities.

In 1990, I stepped down from my involvement with Pennsylvania UMHE Commission in higher education, changed my ordination affiliation from the American Baptist to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and concluded my last years of ministry serving as an interim Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Carlisle (1990 -1991) and as the Director of the Retirement Planning program of the Board of Pensions of the PCUSA (1991 – 1999). I retired in 2000.

Some Reflections

I still carry a strong commitment to Ecumenism – always exploring what we can do together, and to Vocational discernment as lifelong process.

Last Spring (2014), I was in Maine and I talked with Tom Chittick who was a student in the student group at the Maine Christian Association in 1961. Tom said to me: “You know, because of you, I went to seminary and became a Lutheran campus minister and I spent 30 years at three different campuses, and the last one was the Maine Christian Association at the University of Maine!”

A full circle! It has been a good ride. Thanks be to God.