Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Campus Ministry While at Montreat College

Some time ago, I was informed by PC(USA) Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow about a Presbyterian "Bloggers Unite" event on Campus Ministry, scheduled for April 1st. I didn't think ahead properly to realize that April 1st is April Fool's Day, the day when anyone with any sense knows better than to believe anything one reads on the Internet. I can only give you my assurances that I'm going to play this straight, and not pull any tricks or deceit when talking about my experience at Montreat College.

Before I get to that, though, I really should provide a link to this site, which provides links to a great many ministry opportunities for PC(USA) college students. I was in college when the Internet wasn't remotely this readily available. AOL was still the portal of choice, and the World Wide Web was still in figurative diapers. I would have loved to have had access to this kind of information back then.

What I did have were the student organizations on campus, especially the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) and the Student Christian Association (SCA). Having pretty much never considered myself an "athlete," I probably wouldn't have gotten attached to the FCA on my own, but one of my friends/roommates was the person almost always called upon to play worship music at campus events, and the FCA folks were never too particular about whether or not the people who came to their worship events happened to be "athletes," so I was usually around on Monday nights when they met for praise and worship. Likewise, the SCA often met for worship on either Wednesday or Sunday nights (my memory's not clear on that one. Perhaps it was different in different years?), and I was usually there.

Both groups' worship times tended to combine a time of singing with a speaker. In the case of FCA, the message was usually focused on dealing with the complexities of life (especially in a college context) in a way that honors God. In SCA, as often as not the speaker would give his/her "testimony." Non-evangelicals may need to have that term unpacked more than others, but in the evangelical context, "testimony" almost always refers to a personal story of what kind of a life a person lived before he/she "knew" Christ, and how God through Christ changed all that for the better. I'm a bit more critical of such "testimonies" now, partly because there's a danger of actually highlighting the sins committed in a person's pre-Christian life, and I don't think that's healthy. I'm also a little sour on "testimonies" because I frankly came to see them as growing more than a little stale each and every week for months on end.

Both groups engaged in various ministry opportunities, as well, although I confess that I'm not particularly qualified to write about what the FCA did. In the case of SCA, one mainstay of the four years I was there was the weekly collection of an offering to be given to the well-being of a child in a third-world country. There are lots of these organizations around, of course, and my current church does something similar in our Sunday School program. Other projects were done on a more occasional basis: some folks would work on Habitat for Humanity houses, others would serve in soup kitchens, and so on. On one occasion, I joined a group that traveled up to Pittsburgh for three days to attend the annual Jubilee Conference, which I'm happy to see still happens every year. Jubilee inspires Christians to be a part of changing the world through volunteerism and civic involvement, seeking ways to change structures toward greater justice in the name of Christ.

A common theme that I heard throughout the years of my college experience, and which I expect is almost cliché elsewhere, as well, was that a person shouldn't wait until after one is "established" to become involved in volunteerism and ministry. In fact, despite the pressures of classwork, I would argue that I had more time for those kinds of activities then than I do now. Maybe I just had more energy then, I don't know. But I'm glad I took part in the activities that I did, and found that they influenced my attitudes (hopefully for the better!) on a great many matters of Christian life as I left college and entered seminary. I definitely recommend taking advantage of whatever opportunities are available in your own context.

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