(A few weeks ago in my blog post My Old Friend Bruce – I apologize for describing Bruce as “old” – I mentioned that my one-time seminary classmate would be guest blogging for me on faith and today’s college student … as soon as the semester was over. If you missed that earlier post, I mentioned that the university campus is a tough mission field these days, but that there are signs of hope. I think this post is a sign of hope.)
Thanks, Doug, for your “Guest Blog” invitation. I’ve enjoyed our reunion and affirm what your original blog states is our common call of “leading (people) to an openness to God’s presence in their lives.”
A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported, “The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.”
Today’s public university campus illustrates this trend. Here, where traditional religious practice is rare, religiously unaffiliated students abound. Paradoxically, however, student spirituality is a hot topic. I find students genuinely interested in transcendence, core values, morality, and ethics, for example. They are curious to discover life’s deeper aim, purpose, and meaning. Since my arrival at FSU in 1999, the “God Question” has been a constant one.
This is rich soil for sharing good news of joy from the Christian core. Our Presbyterian commitment to thinking faith and reason, among its other valuable qualities, holds great promise. Students steeped in today’s technological society so rich with choices (400 FSU student organization choices alone) deserve an opportunity to consider a Christian faith tradition like ours that conjoins heart and mind together in God’s service.
The Presbyterian University Center’s witness faces these dynamics head-on through its ministry of radical Christian hospitality. Results of this strategy are promising. Students express gratitude. They listen and ask, think and reflect. Many hold great promise for both church and community with boundless, untapped potential.
Scores of students view PUC as a sanctuary. They consider our Calvin’s coffee house, Bible and book studies, All-Out BBQ, Oldies but Goodies, Music Nites, Faculty Luncheon Series, Thanksgiving Feast, Listening Point, Study Break Breakfasts, retreats, worship visits with congregations, and other activities as refreshing alternatives that nurture and sustain them. It’s a spiritual thing, they say.
These realities speak to an exciting time for Presbyterian campus ministry! Indeed, this year PUC student leaders adopted two verses from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 3. Paul speaks not only to our students’ high aims, but more critically to our campus ministry mission field’s own: “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(The Reverend Bruce A. Chapman, D. Min., serves as Presbyterian University Minister at the Presbyterian University Center @Westminster House aka “PUC”, a PCUSA campus ministry at the Florida State University in Tallahassee. Contact Bruce at firstname.lastname@example.org. Photo credit: The photo above shows some of the students who participate in PUC on the FSU campus.)
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