Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Students

Check out this short video about a few of the students at Rockwell House!  We had a lot of fun making this!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Interfaith Progressive Dinner

One of the annual traditions at UC Davis is to have an Interfaith Progressive Dinner each November.  Held the week before Thanksgiving, it gives students the chance to come into four different ministry centers: CA House (Methodist, Presbyterian, and UCC ministry), Hillel, the Islamic Center, and the Belfry (Lutheran and Episcopal) - my ministry.  At each house we pair up with another ministry - the Unitarians, Newman Center, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc. - so that everyone is represented.  It takes about 2 1/2-3 hours to go to each house and eat, etc., but it is always a highlight of the school year.

As with any progressive dinner, the meal is served in courses: appetizers in one place, soup & salad in another, main course at another stop, and finally dessert.  To accommodate religious food restrictions we agree to have all food be vegetarian - no meat at all.  We also agree in advance that this night is not about proselytizing.  Our goal is to have the students meet each other and to share/learn something about each faith tradition.

This year, each group shared whatever would be their traditional food blessing.  Not all groups have a prayer like this that is universally accepted, but some definitely do.  Our group sang the doxology.  The food is always delicious and it is so nice to be welcomed into each ministry space.  It demystifies what happens behind the doors of each center and allows everyone to see and hear something about what each group does.  Students routinely ask for more events like this by the end of the night.

This is one way we have interfaith dialogue and collaboration on our campus.  How does it happen on yours?

Monday, October 15, 2012

4 years later…

In October of 2008, I was just beginning my first full year of ministry as Campus Chaplain at UC Davis.  And we were in the home stretch of the election.  It seemed as if politics were everywhere on campus.  The various campaigns were represented on campus each day, political signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers were pervasive.  We even had a “No on Prop 8” sign in front of the Belfry (which was stolen, and brought at least one angry person inside questioning how a Christian ministry could be in favor of same sex marriage).  Students gathered in the Belfry living room to watch the debates together, which turned out to be a natural community builder.  The twists and turns of the election were common post-worship dinner fodder, and I was impressed at how the students could discuss these serious issues in a serious but meaningful way, without alienating each other.

Now, in October of 2012, the fact that it is an election year is mostly strangely absent from campus.  Certainly there are pockets of interest, especially in certain statewide propositions.  But the general interest level in things like the presidential debates is relatively low.  Bill Clinton spoke at a rally on campus last week, and that was one of the few big signs of this being an election year I’ve seen thus far.  Thousands of people gathered on the quad to hear Clinton, but it’s hard to know if they were there for the political rally or to hear a former president speak in person.

It’s really strange.  When asked, students express interest in the election, but it doesn’t seem to be on their minds, bodies, backpacks, etc., the way it was in 2008.  Which makes me wonder, what is it like this year on your campus?  Are students engaged in the election the way they were in 2008 or is this year different?  And why is that?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 Trends You Should Know About To Be A Better Chaplain

As the new school year has begun and the academic church year is on its way I thought it would be a great time to catch you up on a few trends sweeping the undergraduate community.  You might think these trends are irrelevant and meaningless to doing ministry on campus, but as you might know, context isn't everything, it's the only thing.

If you are interested in last year's trends CLICK HERE!

5. Pinterest 

Pinterest isn't exactly new, but it's certainly feels new.  No status updates, quizzes  or silly games taking up your timeline on Pinterest, it's just a collection of what people like!  It has taken social media and made it beautiful.  The collage of images and ideas enhances the internet experience, and undergrads are all over it!

4. Mumford and Sons 

Mumford and Sons isn't just a blip on the radar.  It's seriously good music and students know it!  It may not be on everyone's iPod, but it's certainly a better representation of music than, let's say, LMFAO.  

3. Riding Boots are the New Uggs

I'm not fashion expert, but the days of sweat pants and Uggs have been replaced by tights and riding boots.  Young women all over campus are asking their moms and dads to head out to the barn to dust off those Ariat English Riding Boots and to send them to campus in a care package ASAP! And I don't blame them.  They are very classy and simple and they surely look better than the oh so tired combo of Uggs and sweats.      

2. Memes

The Urban Dictionary defines a meme as "an idea, belief or belief system, or pattern of behavior that spreads throughout a culture either vertically by cultural inheritance (as by parents to children) or horizontally by cultural acquisition (as by peers, information media, and entertainment media)."  Basically it's taking something that is relevant (iPhone 5 maps disaster as pictured on Columbus Day) and spicing it up with a little snark.  Memes can be fun, often funny, but unfortunately they (like so many other things on the internet) can be predictable and boring.  But their still hot and I'd imagine that they will continue to stay hot.  

1. Gangnam Style

I don't even know how to describe this.  And I'm not really sure if it's even appropriate to acknowledge that it exists.  But it does and everyone knows about it, so you should too! 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Building Your Résumé

College is fantastic, right?  Well, maybe not for all.  I suppose it can be a bad experience.  But for most of the students I encounter it is a period of fun mixed with intense study and intentional exploration. 
For six years I’ve watched a culture of young adults gather in a community focused on academics.  Of course, that’s the stated obvious focus but it’s often not the whole.  Extracurricular activities such as playing sports, watching sports, acapella groups, debate teams, student councils, theatre groups, community service groups, fraternities and sororities, and yes even campus ministries can shape and set the tone to a student’s college experience…not the actual school work.  Academics are always at the core but rarely are they the whole. 
Usually it’s rare to meet an 18 year old who knows what they want to do the rest of their life, but at Wash U. it seems to be the norm.  High school students with high aspirations and blemish-free report cards and résumés land in a sea of students with equally impressive résumés.  This sets the stage for a very competitive and intense atmosphere in the classroom and in the social construct. 
It’s chaotic and very entertaining to be a witness to this very competitive environment.   It’s not only in the classroom, but it’s in sports (best overall NCAA DIII school in the nation), the acapella groups, councils, and the million clubs.   Students are out to succeed and they mean it. 
The spirit of success is great, and I certainly support it.  In fact, I believe most of the students at Wash U. not only want to succeed, but they want to contribute to the world in a manner that will only make it a better place. 
Recently a group of students from Wash U. found a running clothing company called Janji that not only makes awesome running clothes, but it’s a non-profit movement that aims to end the global food and water crisis.  Through selling their running apparel they fund solutions and raise awareness to brining clean water and food to the world. 
If this isn’t inspiring I’m not sure what is. 
What is most inspiring to me is that these students were called to create something beautiful in the world and they followed this call.  Sure, the most obvious route might have been to wait until they graduate and follow the standard path (grad school), but the Janji founders didn’t follow conventional wisdom, and took their love of running and made an impact in the world…all while still in college! 
I love this story because to me it’s not just about the résumé.  It’s more than about getting straight A’s.  It’s so much more than just looking good on paper.  I worry that too many students are so fixated on being perfect on paper that they lose touch with other valuable, artistic, cultural, spiritual, philanthropic aspects of life that give a person character and show a person’s care for the world. 
I completely support students who strive for academic perfection, but when it comes at a cost of only doing things that make you look better, I can’t support it. 
I know most of us have a little overachiever in us.  I have it, my wife has it, my kids have it, my students at Mizzou had it, and my Wash U. and SLU students definitely have it too.  It’s not a bad thing, but it can be if it’s the whole of your substance.  I know I want to find a wholesome balance in life that helps me help others.  It’s what God calls us to do…and it’s through this lived discipleship that we show our love for God and each other, not through building our résumés.   

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Where are the Young Adults?

Here they are:
Group photo at the Saturday evening Eucharist and blessing of seniors in Parke Chapel at St. Andrew's Cathedral

Last weekend was PROV 2012.  Province VIII has a tradition of hosting an annual college student gathering in the spring each year.  Usually a campus ministry hosts it (so it rotates around the Province), and then a design team of students from around the Province plan it.  Since I landed at UC Davis 4 years ago, Prov has been held at Arizona State, San Francisco, and last year at UC Davis.  Taking on the role of Provincial Coordinator, it was my job to find this years' host.  Unfortunately, everyone I asked said they just couldn't do it.  I began to worry that Prov may not happen.

In December, I got a message from a student in Hawaii who had attended all those Provs I listed above.  You see, Province VIII is the geographically largest in our country, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii, and Taiwan.  "Cohort U," the ministry in Honolulu serving multiple campuses, has always sent 5 or more students to Prov because for them, it is one of the only times and ways they can connect with the rest of the Church.  So this conference is very important to them.

I had to admit to the Hawaiian student that no one had agreed to host it so it may not happen this year.  And then something ridiculous happened: he said the Hawaiian students would host it.  This is ridiculous because: 1) how could we afford to get broke students from broke ministries to Hawaii? 2) the students there don't have a chaplain to help with the planning, 3) would anyone go all the way to Hawaii for just a weekend? and 4) could I help plan something in a place I'd never been and I would not get to until the day the conference began?

But I prayed about it and several things became clear: the students in Hawaii had faithfully attended Prov for many years, and so it seemed right to go to them at least once.  I had no idea how many people would attend, and prepared for the fact that it might be a small conference.  But more than that, when everyone else in our community had said no, here they were bravely saying: "YES, we'll do it!"

And I have to hand it to my chaplain colleagues who agreed to take the plunge with me.  They fundraised, I begged for more funds from various places.  I know there are students who wanted to go but couldn't afford it.  But all in all, 46 students and 12 chaplains from the mainland registered, and we were joined by another 10-15 Hawaiian students.  Which put us around 70 total, which is pretty much what Prov attendance is like each year.  So much for thinking this would be a small conference...

Then I had to find a location in Honolulu to host.  The students sent me a list of possibilities.  As I went down the list, I kept hearing no, after no, after no.  Then finally, I had a conversation with The Very Rev. Walter Brownridge, Dean of St. Andrew's Cathedral.  Their parish hall is under construction, and there were other events going on that weekend (in other words, this was going to be an inconvenience), but he said YES!  Bring the students, we'll make it work. 

Now let's be clear: this was no resort vacation.  We were in downtown Honolulu - not the area where tourists tend to be, so we were in the midst of the 'real' Hawaii.  When we landed in Honolulu and picked up the rental car, the attendant asked if we needed directions and where we were going.  I said, "Downtown Honolulu." 

"Oh, Waikiki?"  He asked.  "No, downtown Honolulu."  I responded.  "Downtown Waikiki?"  he was so puzzled.  Clearly not many people rent minivans and head to downtown Honolulu.

During the weekend, the students were introduced to the Hawaiian Spirituality, and the history of Christianity on the Islands.  We talked about the connection between colonization, oppression, and the Church, and how Anglicanism was introduced by the King and Queen (after being treated like scum in America, they were given the royal treatment by the British Royals and that definitely influenced them a little...).

But more than that, connections were made.  As my colleague Megan+ reflected in her blog, every year at Prov one or more students talk movingly about how this is the first time they've worshipped with other people their age.  They talk about how campus ministry has kept them connected to the church.  Or brought them in to the church, to know Jesus.  Regardless, they talk about how it has changed their lives. 

All of this is to say, with all the budget wrangling going on across the country, and the elimination of Formation funding (which would include eliminating funding for Prov), the use of these dollars for this ministry and this purpose was only validated and strengthened.  It became abundantly clear that this is not only a good use of church monies, it is an imperative one.  And while much anger and frustration at the current state of things (budgets and what not) were expressed by chaplains and students alike, there was also a resolve to not let this happen.  That this ministry is too important.  That these young adults are not the future of the church, they are the church.  And that we will do what we can to help communicate this to the wider church in hopes that General Convention will heed the call and do the right thing in Indianapolis.

Everyone said we could never have Prov in Hawaii.  Well, we just did have Prov in Hawaii.  And if we can pull that off (a bunch of underpaid and mostly marginalized chaplains and students) then I'm pretty confident that the leaders of our church can figure out how to fund this ministry for the next triennium.  As we learned together in Hawaii, the strength of being in a denomination is that we are forced to be connected to people and places we may not choose to be otherwise.  But that is what being the Body of Christ is all about.  If we only focus on "the local level," Prov wouldn't have happened, and the richness and for many life changing spiritual impact that occurred last weekend wouldn't have been possible.  Wanna see what I mean?

P.S. Prov 8 chaplains drafted a letter of protest against the budget.  I posted it on, and it got reposted on social networks and is now a national petition.  Feel free to add your name and comments there.