Bishop Peggy Johnson and the Eastern PA Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry are urging churches to observe Campus Ministry Sunday and receive the special offering on August 23 or any Sunday from now through September.
While August 23 is the official observance date, it is also a time of transition for many churches, with many members not yet back from summer breaks and students just leaving for school. The best time for many churches to celebrate and support campus ministry may be on subsequent Sundays.
The Campus Ministry board, just reorganized in 2014, has been working closely with four campus ministers in our region:
Albright and Lebanon Valley are colleges historically related to The United Methodist Church, while Drexel and Millersville have long had UM-affiliated campus ministries.
These campus ministers, and perhaps some of their student leaders, may be available to speak at nearby churches that celebrate Campus Ministry Sunday in August and September.
The board, which met August 11, wants to support the ecumenical collegiate ministries at these four sites, aided by gifts to the Campus Ministry Sunday offering. Meanwhile, it is exploring possible relationships with other area institutions. The goal is to eventually develop official campus ministry relationships with institutions in all six districts. And they want to encourage more local churches to connect with students at higher education institutions.
Bishop Johnson, a proud alumna of Lebanon Valley College, recently spoke to a national gathering of UMC campus ministers, including some from Eastern PA, at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.
“I was impressed with the breadth and scope of campus ministries happening around the country,” she recalled. “They are reaching young adults that few churches are able to attract. But they all are interested in having more connections with welcoming, supportive local churches.
“I encourage us all to give generously to support campus ministries in our midst,” she appealed, “and to be in touch with campus ministers so together we can find ways to engage in ministry with gifted, called young people who can lead our church and our society into a future with hope. Campus ministry needs the local church. And more than they know, local churches need campus ministry. Our future depends on it.”
The conference received about $1,200 from last year’s initial Campus Ministry Sunday offering. Churches are encouraged to use up to half of their offerings to support their own local campus ministry work and to remit the remainder to the EPAUMC Conference Treasurer to aid conference-wide efforts.
“We want to encourage more local churches to engage in creative interactions with campus ministries, and vice versa, so that close relationships can be established to benefit students, campus faculty and churches,” said the Rev. Jason Perkowski, Higher Education and Campus Ministry board chair. A part-time pastor and teacher, he has posted “memes,” brief online reflections and images meant to be shared, on his Facebook page, and on other Facebook pages belonging to “EPAUMC Pastors” and “Eastern PA Youth Workers,” to promote support for college students, campus ministries and the Campus Ministry Sunday observance. They provide practical ways to engage in campus ministry as schools begin class sessions this fall. Feel free to contact him or other board members for more information or copies of these tips.
The Higher Education and Campus Ministry board also urges churches to celebrate World Communion Sunday on Oct. 4 and UM Student Day on Nov. 29, and to give to the churchwide offerings received on those special Sundays. The offerings provide scholarships to UM college students, including some from our conference.
“We are a connectional church, the body of Christ, and we can do far more together than we can individually,” said Perkowski. “The Wesleyan movement began as a campus ministry; so it is in our DNA. Please consider how your church can be a part of campus ministries locally and wherever your students may attend.”