At GRCC this semester we are offering a monthly “Faith and Culture” forum, each facilitated by one of the campus pastors. In February my topic was Science and Faith. As usual, we placed posters around campus and posted the event on Facebook and the campus event calendar. When the time for the forum arrived, so did exactly one student – who admitted as soon as we began to talk that he had actually just come to heckle the Christian students at the forum.
He had been raised Christian but “de-converted”.
As there were no students to heckle I, of course, invited him to have a cup of coffee with me.
What followed was 90 minutes of wide-ranging and very friendly conversation. Science, politics, LGBTQ issues, Biblical interpretation, and minimum wage were all covered. “I have never met a Christian like you!” he repeated several times in the course of our talk. I assured him that there were lots of Christians like me – at my downtown Presbyterian church, for instance. He asked how many people attend my church and I said, “Oh about 1400 or so.” His jaw dropped. “1400” he said, “I thought you were going to say ‘about 40’.” “Nope.” I replied, “I’m not the only one who thinks like this.”
Was our “Faith and Culture” forum a success that day? It certainly wasn’t if you are simply looking at numbers. But in terms of substantive discussion, I would say, yes,
I will likely never know if this student recovers his faith. But he now knows that faithful Christians can believe differently about a variety of topics. He knows it is possible and that he could find a community that would welcome him with all of his questions.
True North’s presence at GVSU is much more “behind the scenes” and collaborative. I am in regular attendance at Campus Ministry@ GVSU’s weekly student gathering, The Garden on Monday nights. This is a student and ministry intern led meal and conversation time.
I also regularly attend the Interfaith Advisers Luncheon meetings at GVSU where I have the opportunity to meet and get to know other ministry professionals and GVSU administrators.
I have had the opportunity to be a regular presence with the Wesley Fellowship trustees as both they and True North have similar work and challenges as progressive, denominationally affiliated campus ministries.
Off campus, I regularly attend Presbytery of Lake Michigan meetings and I regularly teach adult education classes at Grand Rapids Presbyterian Churches (and occasionally I preach).
Outside of west Michigan, I have been a member of the coordinating committee of the National Campus Ministry Association and attended our annual meeting in Boston this past summer. The NCMA has given me the opportunity to attend high quality continuing educational events and also the opportunity to meet and talk with colleagues from around the country. This year I began a three year term as membership secretary.
This year the student group at KCAD has experienced and dedicated leaders. My role has been one of encouragement and support. The students read and discussed, Erwin McManus’ book, The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art, which as you might imagine was of great interest to art students.
We continued our “Random Acts of Lunch” in September and November. We take food, this semester lasagna one time and pulled pork the other, to the student commons and invite any who wishes, to join us for lunch. Students sit together and get to know each other. It is a wonderful way for Kendall students to learn about our group and a wonderful way for our students to meet and serve their peers.
There were also two speakers this semester. Ryan VerWys, President and CEO of the Inner City Christian Federation came and spoke about his faith journey and also about the work of ICCF and their commitment to affordable and beautiful housing in Grand Rapids.
Adam Schuitema, An Associate Professor and published author spoke with students about his faith journey and how he balances his faith and his work at a secular university and as an author.
Kendall students also had a Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas Party.