How can the church be of service to collegebound members of her family? The scope of this article is limited to suggestions for a stronger campus ministry. Some ideas have been tested by other national religious bodies, some by Orthodox groups currently operating on campus.
We think the task of campus ministry belongs primarily to the local Orthodox communities. The college movement of the 60's showed promise, but when the national leadership moved on, local campus fellowships faltered and died. Why? Because the Campus Commission was limited to promoting relationships on a national level between Fellowships, and was unable to develop local structures and personnel. If we look at the success of such programs as the Baptist Student Union, Canterbury House, the Newman Center, and Campion College, we discover that much of their success is due to strong local support. Their clergy, laity, faculty membership, and church families actively involve themselves as a recognized force in the universities. The national churches offer auxiliary support as the demands of the local centers grow. So, what can we do?
MAKING OURSELVES VISIBLE
Visibility, credibility and dependability are crucial to the life of any campus program. If we are to succeed, Orthodox churches in a college area need to work together as a family. Interested lay and clergy members meeting as a task force on campus ministry need to elect a liaison preferably a priest or faculty member, who will represent Orthodox interests in the official contacts with university administration. The Orthodox liaison has several opportunities to make the Church visible:
There is no doubt that a full time priest assigned to a university setting is desirable. For example, at many schools priests and ministers of all denominations have been effective in ministering to their own church youth in this manner. What's more, their ministry has helped draw in numbers of unchurched or uncommitted students. There is every reason to believe that the more effort we put into campus ministry in terms of supplying fulltime people, the greater the results.
But in the case of the Orthodox Church it may not be possible given the factionalism that still exists on all other levels of church life. A full-time person needs funding, support, and security. We need to ask ourselves if we can offer that; and if not, why not?
In the mean-time, drawing on local interest and talent is the next best available thing. Permanent Orthodox faculty members at any college can sometimes carry on a program when there is a turn-over of parish priests in an urban area. This untapped resource of highly educated capable men and women deserves to be harnessed. A national association of such teachers and writers would provide the basis for a viable Orthodox presence on campus.
Naturally the role of the lay families in the parishes around any university can tremendously influence the success of this ministry. After all, the youth we seek to minister come from these same Orthodox homes. The more teens understand the nature of the Church, her celebration, her gospel, her reconciling community...the more teens see Her as extended family ... the more knowledge they have of Her history, struggles, goals, then the more they will embrace Her ministry on their campuses. And, the more they will accept the responsibility for a campus ministry. It will become their movement, fulfilling their need, not something imposed by authority.
As in the YMCA/YWCA and the secular schools, lay families can function as host families. Here is another area we need to tap. Many families love to have an 'adopted' body ortwo around the house for a limited period of time. It adds life, interests their children, breathes meaning into the scriptural admonition, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Some churches have hundreds of pages of literature devoted to the roles of clergy, laity and faculty members on campus. Much of their advice is sensible. It is worth our while to peruse thistype of material in formulating our own direction on campus. The former Campus Commission guide, printed in 1972, delineates a workable program. Perhaps if we combine the best, the tested ideas, and a new commitment to visability, our kite will fly.
THE MEETING PLACE
Although not an essential part of Christian ministry, meeting places provide a permanencyto a movement. Our own physical pile of bricks is best; borrowing another's space will suffice. If we extend our imagination we can try an Orthodox rented house near the campus. Staffed (lived in) by preferably graduate students who maintain the house in exchange for free lodgings, this type of set-up is a flexible solution to permanent housing. It needs to be funded by an energetic local Church (any number/jurisdiction of area parishes) which commits itself to monthly rent payments, raised by means of yearly fund-raisers. What can we do with a house? All families need one. A small chapel in one room; an open common room; a lending library; a place to meet for counselling; meetings ... it has its function. Open and closed hours can be posted. Compline can be a 15 minute refresher in the hubbub of campus craziness. One school has a Wednesday sermonette (5 minutes) delivered by a faculty member of the church following chapel, and a Friday sermonette assigned to a student weekly.
FISHERS OF MEN
Good fishermen learn when to cast their nets and where. The week of orientation/ registration is when. The total university population must register somewhere, so that's where the Orthodox set up tents (or booths, or tables, or whatever). This is our Orthodox contribution to global search and find. We locate Orthodox college students and we mate them with local parishes, host families, campus leaders, and programs. How? Bait is helpful. Most people are busytrying to get into classes, finding their way around, dealing with financial dilemmas. Food and a friendly face are like beacons in a crowd. Have a sign-up table, a creative attention device, refreshments (donated by local church women), and Orthodox ambassadors about. Offer information booklets containing lists of Orthodox students/faculty members/clergy/host families and how to find them; programs with times and meetings places; handy references such as campus and area maps, medical services, ethnic restaurants and cultural resources, licensing bureaus, some job possibilities from Orthodox employers including couples who need sitters for one week or more during the year); and a questionnaire tapping the new student's talents and interests and needs to be utilized for both campus ministry and for plugging into parish life. Offer people, our greatest resource, who are interested in meeting the students. Local laity can work in shifts. Clergy can be around all day. Faculty and student leaders can come by during breaks from their own registration duties. Some parishes, through the priest or parents, have contacted parishes in the university area on behalf of their enrolling children. Greeting students with familiarity, even just by knowing their names, is a giant step toward establishing that 'family' milieu. A strong home parish and a strong campus ministry help the student form a network of support before he attends the first class.
There is a period of 40 days, something like the church in her wisdom allows us in any new venture, for a 'follow-up' on Orthodox students. This is where an Orthodox task-force on the local level can be most effective. Some ideas for followup are:
At K. U. in Lawrence, Kansas, campus ministry is spearheaded by a law student and his wife from an Antiochian church in Wichita. Locally the movement is nourished by an O.C.A. parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Speakers are drawn from the clergy and laity in the surrounding areas. Every Thursday night during the school year, students meet for a lecture and discussion. During the week the Orthodox students carry on a rapport, meeting in the apartment of the student leaders to talk. On the weekends some of the students drive 45 minutes to Kansas City to attend church services.
How did all this happen? Through a lot of hard work, trial and error, and determination to keep the movement going. The student leaders counted on encouragement from a local parish priest to keep them going, and the local church welcomed the students. Resources from several parishes helped sustain expenses of advertising. Student initiative persevered.
What are some programs that other student groups attend? Bible studies are popular, most held weekly. Chapel attendance is another attraction. U.S. News and World Report, April 16/84 edition comments that religious organizations are drawing more students for worship, study or lobbying. Also seen are 'soap-box preachers' outside dormitories and classroom buildings. At a small Christian college in Palm Beach, Atlantic Baptist students pair up with faculty each year meeting regularly for prayer meetings and rapport. The Baptist Student Union on campus holds weekly meetings in the cafeteria. This same body appeals to parents for contributions to put together care packages during finals. The care packages contain food and a scripture verse. They are distributed to each room so that all students (Christian and non-Christian alike) get one.
Underthe Orthodox influence on campus several commendable programs can be established for both Orthodox and non-Orthodox students. A St. Panteleimon's Society can visit local hospitals, the home-bound, or group homes for children once a month. A St. Herman's fund can be collected through an Orthodox clearing-house mechanism in cooperation with the university. This fund collects a few dollars here and there from fellow students, then is distributed secretly to needy students on the recommendation of student dorm leaders. International student fairs can draw Orthodox youth in America closer to Orthodox youth from foreign countries. Both groups can work together to create an ethnic extravaganza complete with food, costumes, cultural and religious exhibits. Student fairs of any kind, with music, food and fun will draw Orthodoxy to the attention of the rest of the campus, and possiblyto the rest of the local community.
Local churches can complement campus programs, too, using ideas like those of the Cookeville Women on Campus. Seeing the need for household items, baby items, clothing and furniture, these students began a yearly loan closet. Each fall local churches collected items needed by students, students opened a rented space on campus and distributed these items for a small fee, and borrowers carted what they needed to their rooms and apartments. At the end of the year students returned usable items to the loan closet and much of the fee was refunded.
Let's be realistic. We are losing kids left and right. They are gravitating toward biblical programs, organized church ministries, and professionals who are first of all their friend. Worse yet, our kids are ill prepared in the parish to know or live their faith. On the shifting moral sands of college, assaulted by some pretty heady intellectual stuff, without strong roots, we are losing them. So, we have to do something.
Chris Chichura, a freshman engineering student at K.U., reinforces this need for practical servicing in the university. He writes, "College is a very critical and demanding time. For the student with weak faith and knowledge it is too easy to become overwhelmed. On the outside a student tolerates unethical actions, but on the inside he continues to say, 'no, this is not right for me.' But he doesn't speak out for fear of rejection or loss of a friend. He becomes two-faced. A warm shoulder or the firm support of the church can help the student overcome his/her times of despair and separation from God." Chris expressed many of the needs and feelings of freshmen who look to the Church for help, mentioning the need for warmth, relationships, friendly Christians to talk to. The pressures of peers, grades, finances, illnesses, and personal problems weigh heavily on what the media chooses to hype as a fun-loving, irresponsible crowd of college students. What we need to be is warm, intelligent, responding Orthodox ministers.
This article makes some suggestions for improvement of what we have. But in the end what we really need is a "genuine metanoia, `a change of princi principle and practice'." And it has to be across the board in the Orthodox Church. We need to begin changing ourselves, our attitudes, our unchristian actions toward our own jurisdictional brothers. Lip service, sadly, is no real substitute for confronting our situation and changing it. Campus ministry is a symptom here. Let's heal the whole body.
THE COLLEGE STUDENT'S ORTHODOX SURVIVAL KIT
Don't send your college student away to school without providing some "basic necessities" for his or her spiritual life and education. Here are some suggestions:
Additional or Alternate Selections:
Seasonal Gift Packages For November:
Also, CDs of Orthodox liturgical music are excellent gifts for college students.