Grappling with Doubt and Faith

recent CRC article highlights the work of campus ministry, a lot of which is pastoral care, justice, as well as walking alongside in the midst of their questions related to faith (doubt) and/or sexuality (especially connected to LGBT+).

The following are a few quotes:

Verhoef: “We used to live with a strong sense of transcendence . . . [but] faith is under pressure. And living out our faith with doubt is so common today on university campuses (and elsewhere of course). How can we as chaplains make space for doubts, support faith, welcome questions, and be hospitable to those to whom the doubts have turned towards unbelief?” . . .

Every CRC campus pastor is “trying to figure out how to get good at campus ministry in this day and age …. [and that means] addressing the needs of persons who are LGBT is front and center and very much in the life and work of campus ministry,” said Mark Wallace.

Campus pastors always keep in mind that they are bringing the entirety of the gospel, its full message of loving your neighbor, to every aspect of the campuses they serve, said Wallace.

Verhoef said that making a place for persons who identify as LGBT is important, but it can present challenges: “How do we stand as pastors in the CRC with one foot in the CRC moral theology and also one foot on a university campus that has a dynamically different perspective?” . . .

“I have a lot of conversations about what to do when they do begin to question — even to the point where they’re not sure what or if they believe. I see this as a movement forward, but it’s hard to figure out how to describe as positive to churches such an apparent movement away from [certain] faith,” said Kronemeijer-Heyink.

In the end, said Verhoef, a core value of CRC campus ministry is to create communities in which students of many faiths or of none at all feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging. In this kind of community, students can let down their guard, get know one another — and hopefully — find God, he said.

Being present on campus

My being (more) present on campus is part of Campus Edge’s strategic goals, as this seems an obvious way for me to connect with more people on campus (both students and faculty and staff). However, having a small child has made it more complicated, as it’s harder for me to be on campus evenings and/or weekends.

At the same time, having a child has also opened up different opportunities for me to be on campus: one of the more esoteric ways has been through taking a breastfeeding class that the university offered to staff, faculty and students (and spouses of students).

Last month, Michigan State University was honored to receive a Michigan Breastfeeding friendly workplace award. As both the little and I had benefited from MSU’s hospitality in this area, we showed up at the award ceremony and managed to get our picture with Sparty in the MSU Today news briefing.

Reflections on “Campus Making” – Austin Dreyer

It was my honor to attend the Campus Making ministry conference, May 7-9 in Guelph, Canada.  There were many facets of the three-day retreat that will leave a lasting impression on me, not the least of which was the fact it fell on my first consecutive days above 70 degrees Fahrenheit in 2013!  The purpose of the retreat was for people invested in campus ministries from campuses across Canada and the United States to gather and experience God in community.  This included worshiping together, attending workshops tackling controversial topics, eating meals together, swapping stories around a campfire and several keynote addresses by the author, Andy Crouch. For me, the conference proved to be a much-needed break from my regular schedule as a graduate student in addition to a spiritual renewal for my dedication to the Campus Edge ministry at Michigan State University.

The specific location of the conference was the Crieff Hills Conference Center, where their tagline is, “A place apart.”  I was struck by how easily the center lived up to this promise, primarily by having miles (or kilometers perhaps, we were in Canada after all) of trails to roam, and extremely limited Internet access.  Technology in general is often demonized for constructing barriers between people in this world of personalized entertainment and the constant barrage of e-mails that demand our attention over the people sitting in the same room as us. Having those links intentionally severed was very liberating.  And having the opportunity to run over some trails through the forest combined with freedom from my electronic leash did much to clear my head.

Given a wonderful setting to encounter the glory of God’s creation, the only other ingredient for a conference is filling the space with awesome people.  And the people that gathered with us at Crieff Hills fit that bill to a ‘T’. It was a mix of graduate students, undergraduates, campus ministers, retired ministers, spouses, old, young, Pentecostal, Christian Reformed, the list goes on and on. I was really blown away by the variety of people in attendance. It was thoroughly refreshing to spend time with people outside of my typical departmental and even institutional bubble.  In fact, Americans were in the minority at this conference, and I can’t remember the last time I attended a meeting where that was the case! The real value of that diversity, for me, came in conversations with people from so many miles away, both geographically and spiritually in terms of faith journeys. To hear all of us discuss the same topics and be able to offer guidance to one another was a very satisfying experience. I know it will also be a source of courage the next time we face a challenge at MSU, knowing full well that so many brothers and sisters on campuses across North America are facing the same struggles with us. 

The actual title for the conference was “Campus Making:  Playing with Power.” Our unifying theme was that we all felt called to share the gospel with those around us on our respective campuses, a powerful mandate indeed. To that end, there were keynote addresses by the author, Andy Crouch, and many workshops focusing on issues that are highly relevant to a body of believers reaching out to the campus community structure.  Both of these activities gave me abundant food for thought, and while I did not agree with everything that was said, I took my discomfort as an indicator that I was plugged in and actively participating in what was going on around me.  And for anyone that knows me and my potent sweet-tooth, the candy the organizers provided at each keynote was quite literally the icing on the cake for those times we gathered together to engage with what Andy had to say.

In the end, the conference boiled down to just a few key components for me.  It was a time for me to experience community with other individuals who, like me, desire to grow campus ministry.  It was also a time for me to worship with, and get to know better, the people that lead my campus ministry with me.  As we participate in different worship bodies back at MSU, I enjoyed having time together with my comrades at Campus Edge and simply praising God. I am very thankful for the opportunity I had to set aside a few days to focus solely on our creator and how he can use us in his good works.  And ultimately, as a result of the conference, I am more eagerly than ever anticipating another year of ministering to graduate students at Michigan State University.