December report from the Pastor

This past semester, my prayer has been that God would lead to Campus Edge those for whom it would be a blessing and who would be a blessing to Campus Edge. As a ministry that serves a transient population, numbers tend to be a concern for us. This has been especially true this last year as several people were active in Campus Edge for a shorter time period or left earlier than expected. Yet, God has been gracious, and we’ve been blessed by new people who strongly desire to understand faith better. Join us in giving thanks for these new people and pray with me that they might experience Campus Edge as a welcoming community and might know God’s grace. Please also pray for those who are nearing the end of their programs: that they might continue to stay motivated and that they might be hopeful during the challenging experience of job searching.

We’ve spent significant time in our studies looking at biblical texts that encourage and challenge us in our living faithfully for God: the book of Isaiah and the texts for the chapel services witness to God’s concern for the natural world and justice. The books of Daniel and Acts encourage us as we engage with the culture around us and remind us of how the Spirit works in and through people like us. To hear more about our studies and other events Campus Edge, I encourage you to read the rest of this blog.

– Brenda Kronemeijer-Heyink, Campus Pastor

Loneliness, Meaning, and Hope

The Los Angeles times recently published an article by Varun Soni, who is dean of religious life at USC, highlights some of the changes that he’s seen among students during the eleven years he’s been in that role. In the beginning, the conversations he had with students centered on “quests for meaning and purpose. [Students] were striving to translate values into action, cultivate joy and gratitude, live extraordinary lives.”

However, more recently the conversation has shifted more often from “how should I live?” to “why should I live?” As Soni, notes that students today are more likely to “grapple with hopelessness and meaninglessness. Every year, it seems, I encounter more stress, anxiety, and depression, and more students in crisis on campus.” He goes on to present the research that has also noticed this shift on campus.

Soni notes that students are often overwhelmed and lonely, and they find it difficult to know how to make friends, a trend that Jean M. Twenge, who has done a significant amount of research on the generation entering college, has also noticed.

Soni further notes that, while we sometimes consider this generation to be coddled,

the reality is they face unprecedented challenges and circumstances. They are entering a world in which many of the career paths of their parents’ generation no longer exist or have changed drastically. They face escalating tuition costs with little sense of whether their future opportunities justify the outlay. They have participated in active shooter trainings and campus lockdown drills for most of their lives.”

In this challenging context, Campus Edge and other religious communities strive to provide community and support for people who are struggling, as well as speaking hope into people’s lives. Please pray that we might do that well, as well as praying for all those who are struggling.

Walking and Praying for Campus

Emerging Scholars Network recently published an article by Jamie Noyd which provided suggestions for how walking can be a means for praying for one’s campus. She envisions the campus as a crossroads, “a place of intersection where the church and academia meet.”

Noyd has walked the campus weekly this past year, praying that she would see the university campus as God does. She notes that “the discipline of being present on campus and looking has slowly been changing [her] heart and helping [her] to recognize the presence of God’s kingdom in this place.”

Noyd gives the following suggestions for how others might also walk through campus and pray for the university:

  • “Look at the buildings – old and new – and pray for the work going on in them.
  • Look at posters of upcoming lectures and events. Are you drawn to attend any of them?  How can you pray for them?
  • Ask for compassion for the students, faculty, and staff walking past – and pray that they may be blessed.
  • Ask God to show you the good way to live out the good news on campus and the courage to walk in it.”

For more suggestions for how to grow spiritually while being connected to academia, I encourage you to read more of the series.

Hoping for Change at MSU

Satish Udpa, the new interim president at Michigan State, apologized to survivors at a recent MSU board meeting. Upda spoke the following “on behalf of the university I love, as acting president and an executive officer, and as a former dean and faculty member:”

“I am sorry you were subjected to the pain and humiliation of sexual assault by somebody you should have been able to trust. We failed to comprehend and acknowledge your injuries. We were too slow to grasp the scope and enormity of the offense you endured. And we failed to treat you with the respect and care you deserved even as we sought to make amends.

Upda committed to “listen more closely, ask more caring questions and act more thoughtfully as all of us work to advance the culture of this campus to one focused first on safety and respect.”

I pray that all of us connected to MSU might have the courage and strength to indeed make it a place where people are listened to and cared for.

Prayers for MSU

Periodically, I (Brenda) lead the congregational prayer at River Terrace Church, which supports the ministry of Campus Edge. As a reflection of this semester’s studies on difficult conversations, the prayer includes some of the topics that would be considered difficult, like politics, being vulnerable and honest, and doubt.

As a way of continuing to pray the words in this prayer I am posting it below. It is also a way of praying for the current situation at MSU and the challenges faced by what appears to be the soon resignation of interim president, John Engler.

Almighty God, we come before you with our thanks and our concerns. We thank-you for the work that you are doing in this church and in the ministry of Campus Edge. We thank you for all those connected to MSU that we are able to encourage and support.

God of all peace, we pray for the world. We pray for those harmed by religious persecution or climate change and those suffering on account of war, poverty, or hunger. Bring comfort to all those who are suffering and protection to those who are fleeing dangerous situations. just as Joseph, Mary, and Jesus once had to.

God of all wisdom, we pray especially for this country in the midst of the government shutdown. May good dialogue happen; help those in charge find a way forward that will protect those living in the United States while also being a place where foreigners might be allowed to seek refuge.

God of all power and truth, we bring before you the church – and ask that Your spirit work among us. We pray that we might be able to speak the truth in love with each other, both encouraging each other and holding each other accountable. And that we might find ways to be vulnerable about our struggles and grow through voicing our disagreements. We pray this not only for the wider church but especially for River Terrace and Campus Edge.

We pray also for the work of your church at MSU. We pray for all those reaching out to those on MSU’s campus: that we might provide places where people find fellowship and support as well as space to ask questions about faith and know You better.

God of all comfort, we bring before you the communities of which we are a part. We pray for our families and friends, for the community of River Terrace Church, for those participating in Campus Edge, and for the wider community of Michigan State.

For the MSU community, we pray especially for the challenges that are part of a new semester. Fill people with hope and courage for the challenges and experiences that lie ahead of us. We pray for the family of the student who passed away this week in an accident. And we pray for those who’ve been harmed this past year and for the leadership, especially as John Engler’s time seems to be coming to an end.

We pray for those who are suffering. We pray for the illnesses and suffering that we know  about and for those things we don’t know about – whether that be spine surgeries or infertility, financial troubles or relationship troubles.

May all those suffering know your grace in all of the complicated areas of our lives. Give us the courage and wisdom to know how to be honest and open with each other, speaking about things that matter to us. May we also listen well, encourage each other and to be a strong community to each other.

Knowing that you hear all of our requests, we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

End of semester compassion fatigue

As the semester ends, your prayers for those (still) grading are requested. Having compassion for students, while also being fair and gracious and challenging students to be responsible and held appropriately accountable, takes a lot of wisdom and strength.

The Well recently highlighted an article that presents the challenge of end of semester compassion fatigue:

It’s the second-to-last week of the semester, which for many professors is the most intense stretch in the academic term. . . Almost exactly one year ago, while trudging through the very same sense of exhaustion, I found strange encouragement when I happened upon two articles acknowledging the existence of this experience for faculty. One piece appearing in Inside Higher Ed includes boundary-setting advice from a former faculty member who admits to having struggled between feeling “like I wanted to be the professor” and caring “so deeply about my students that I wanted all of them to feel seen, heard, and supported in their growth.”

In a related Chronicle of Higher Education piece, an anonymous faculty member details how students’ and colleagues’ appreciation of her willingness to listen often results in expenditures of her time and energy that go unnoticed by her institution. . . The author is quick, though, to emphasize the very problem I felt as my tired eyes read her words: “Listening, empathizing, problem solving, and resource finding take an enormous amount of time and energy.” And, as I seem to re-learn every year, the intense exhaustion many faculty feel is more than physical — it’s emotional, mental, and even spiritual. It’s compassion fatigue. . .