Campus groups have always served as research and development for the church. Throughout the years, they’ve been blessed with the freedom to experiment, and change comes easier to campus ministries than it does to most parishes. The transient nature of most students has led campus ministries to become adept at welcoming and involving new people within their communities. And the best campus ministries understand that they’re called to serve the entire campus community – undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff.
Higher Education is changing rapidly in the United States. The rise of online education means that there are new venues in which campus ministers are called to serve. The growth of student services has displaced some of the ways in which we used to serve the campus – there are now whole counseling departments to do the pastoral work we used to do, and student services mostly plan and provide service opportunities, an area which we used to excel in. Campus ministries are becoming even more innovative as we face these challenges. We understand that our role is to preserve the historic and vital link between the academy and the church. In the western world, higher education was a gift of the church, and then the gift was returned in the form of new ideas and a willingness to explore and learn that transformed who we are as Christians. We believe that the church would be greatly diminished if it lost its connection to the campus, just as the campus would suffer from the absence of the church’s prophetic voice.
The various campus ministries in the Diocese of Southern Ohio are responding to these challenges and innovating in many diverse ways. Together, we form a community that shares ideas, is honest about both successes and failures, and tries to find ways to address the questions that lay most heavily on the hearts of the students, professors, and staff members who make up our campuses. Each ministry is different, as the institutions that we serve are all different. We don’t expect that we’ll all fit the same template, or that there’s any one right way of doing ministry on campus. We do believe that we benefit from living in community together, and sharing our practices.
Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church at the Ohio State University
Saint Stephen’s is one of three parishes that were built to serve the large, land-grant campuses in our diocese. The parish is on the campus of the Ohio State University, one of the largest universities in the nation. In recent years, campus ministry at Saint Stephen’s has centered around outreach to the campus’s arts community. With the founding of EASE Gallery in 2013, the parish answered the expressed need of campus artists to have a place to show their work. Undergraduates, graduate students, and adjunct professors have all shown work there. In addition, the campus ministry is deeply engaged in an exploration of Christian spiritual practice. Sunday night services (6:00 PM in the sanctuary) focus on teaching types of prayer, and students are often the primary teachers. Our weekly Bible study is focused on spirituality as well. In addition, Saint Stephen’s is a founding member of the Ministerium of Ideas, a gathering of progressive faith leaders who engage with some of the biggest questions facing our communities by inviting university professors to speak on different topics throughout the academic year.
The Church of the Good Shepherd at Ohio University
The Church of the Good Shepherd is another of the three parishes that were built to serve a campus. The parish is located across the street from Ohio University, and has long been a place where the university and the local community come together. Their music program is among the best in the diocese, and engages professors and students with townspeople on a weekly basis. They provide a free lunch every Wednesday to students and residents alike. A few years ago, they became concerned with the wellbeing of adjunct professors, and started the Soul Biscuit’s program, the most innovating and exciting response to the needs of adjuncts in the diocese.
Holy Trinity at Miami University
Holy-T is the third parish built to serve a campus. The parish is located a few blocks from Miami University, and has been expanding its availability to the campus exponentially. The new wing of their building was built to serve the campus, and offers meeting and performance places to student and faculty groups. They have formed relationships and alliances with Greek organizations and singing groups, and are increasing their involvement in interfaith dialog. In past years, they’ve innovated by providing season-specific programming for undergraduates, running student-based Lenten series.
Calvary at University of Cincinnati
The Young Adults Group (YAG) at Calvary has engaged the music department at U of C and modeled a way of pairing campus ministries with intentional communities. Working in partnership with Brendan’s Bridge, YAG has sponsored Flash Compline services and Halloween parking lot eucharists. The monthly coffee house that they host draws artists and musicians from throughout the Clifton area. YAG found its genesis in the Calvary choir, where many young adults and college students were singing. They began meeting for dessert after choir rehearsals, and their community grew from there.
Edge House at University of Cincinnati
The Edge House describes itself as a place of spiritual wrestling, a place where students who are questioning their faith or re-articulating it in the midst of change can come and find and engaged and supportive community. Their weekly NOSH meetings allow for graceful, experimental worship, and their weekly discipleship meetings help them investigate the way that each person’s personality effects their interactions and faith development. The house itself is incredibly inviting, with space for games and an espresso service that feels, at times, like a true gift of grace. They take that grace, and that espresso, onto campus, setting up mobile coffee shops in the dorms and offering free cappuccinos to passersby.
Downtowners Campus Ministry (Serving Six Columbus Campuses)
The Downtowners sets out to do the impossible every week. It brings together students, faculty and staff from six different colleges and universities in Columbus for Bible study, interfaith dialog, retreats, and service projects. Working on a shoe-string budget, they manage to help students find service placements throughout the city, and visit with Ohio’s two senators in Washington D.C. every year. Most of their students work full-time jobs and attend school full-time. Many of them have families. They reflect the growing diversity of the American student body. Realizing that these commitments placed very significant time constraints on their students, they designed the Bible Pods, groups of two or three who meet together to study scripture, all studying the same book at the same time. They have been agile in their ability to innovate to serve the needs of a diverse and overtaxed student community.
Saint Andrew’s at Xavier University
Saint Andrew’s is our newest campus ministry, and will begin work on Xavier’s campus in the fall of 2015. Saint Andrew’s is deeply involved in the Evanston community, and will be a bridge between the campus and the neighborhood.