By Rev. Susan Holden, Campus Minister & Associate Pastor University UMC
This has been a fruitful year for the UNLV collegiate ministry, as we continue to focus significant time in the community, listening, supporting in practical ways—which I believe is “loving like Jesus.” Our big vision is to make Christ known across the campus, by building trust relationships with students, faculty, staff, and administrators through genuine love and affirmation of all.
We do this by collaborating across the UNLV campus: Recent examples–on October 2, after the shootings at the Route 91 event in Las Vegas, Directors of Student Life and Student Engagement invited me, Rev Terri Hubbard, and District Lay Leader Phyllis Murray to provide spiritual support for those who visited the “Healing in Community” stations on campus. This fall, Gard Jameson, a professor of philosophy at UNLV, came to the University Church campus to lead a Centering Prayer workshop for students and community members. We are currently collaborating with faculty in the UNLV School of Social Work, the Department of Family Services, United Methodist Social Ministries, Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth and Open Table, to develop a substantial support system for Foster Care alumni who are college bound or already enrolled in college. On a regular basis, music faculty and students collaborate with us and share their musical gifts with our community. The UNLV Ceramics Club utilizes our space for their meetings and is developing a broader community presence with our support. Negotiations are in progress to host a student art show to feature final projects for undergraduate students in our designated student room. We continue to work with the directors of Student Life and Student Diversity, The Center for Social Justice, and Interfaith Council of Southern Nevada to support a deeper student commitment to interfaith dialogue and service in the community. These are the kinds of collaborations that are the result of genuine, organic partnership, over the long term, as we, United Methodists of the North District reach out to our neighbors at UNLV.
Oasis Student Organization: The focus of Oasis is to network and collaborate with other student movements compatible with our core values. We seek to be the voice of Grace and progressive Christian thought, as the United Methodists are the only mainline groups who are currently active on campus. In Spring of 2017, University Church designated space for student ministry. In August 2017, we launched “The Coffee Spot,” space for students to relax, reflect, study, and gather. This is the “mini Wesley House” that we hope will someday grow into a full-fledged Wesley Foundation. In the Coffee Spot, we continue to develop resources for students to learn and practice centering prayer, deep conversation, and a practice of service and mission. We invite you to the North District to stop by and visit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons and at other times upon request.
Wednesday Evening Meals: Recognizing that our mission is to also build small-group community, we have developed a consistent group who gather on Wednesday evenings to share a meal together. Along with the “regular participants,” students often invite their friends and classmates. We are now averaging 23-25 students who come together each Wednesday. We are blessed to have a group of dedicated planners, cooks, servers, and hosts from University Church and from District-wide churches, to support the Coffee Spot and Wednesday evening meals. Occasionally students join us for Wednesday worship, and Rev. Terri and I continue to explore ideas to expand the worship opportunities for students.
Serving in a campus ministry context requires all of us to stretch ourselves beyond our comfort zones in order to love like Jesus. The key is building and adding to our presence on the campus while making our resources and facilities and community open to include students so they feel comfortable to integrate with us if they feel led. But the ultimate goal is to create a new community of faith that meets the specific spiritual and contextual needs of those who study, work and live on the UNLV campus.
Visions for expanding the ministry: Increase collaboration with UNLV faculty by organizing “Deep Dish Meals,” where favorite professors are invited to have lunch with students to answer their questions about vocation. Increase interfaith dialogue by hosting a monthly luncheon to discuss collaborative events on campus.
Continue to work with offices of Student Life, Student Diversity, and the Center for Social Justice. Set up our Coffee Shop walls to offer a gallery space on a regular basis for art students, our worship space for sacred art, and dance and drama students a platform for expression. Encourage a service component to our Wednesday meal gatherings. Develop more concrete relationships and collaborations with the Center for Social Justice and other student organizations.
This has truly been a year of challenge and blessing, and I am pleased to serve the Desert Southwest Conference in leading the North District in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world through collegiate ministries at UNLV. As always, I greatly need and appreciate your prayers, presence, gifts, ministry, and witness in this ministry.