2007 Annual Report

to the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry
Academic Year
2006 – 2007

I.  GOALS FOR THE 2006-2007 ACADEMIC YEAR

This was our fifth year being a full-time United Methodist campus ministry on the American University campus.   In this year, we hoped to build upon our past successes and focus on spiritual development, reaffirmation of our reconciling status, and development of Christian leaders.   In large measure we were successful in those goals.

II.  FAITHFUL CELEBRATION

A.  Sunday Night Worship

Regular weekly worship services are held in the Kay Spiritual Life Center chapel every Sunday evening during the semester at 7:00 p.m.   It is the only regular mainline Protestant worship service offered on campus.   There other Christian services on campus are Roman Catholic, Chi Alpha (Assemblies of God), and The Gathering (McLean Bible Church).

1.  Attendance and Stability

In the 2006-2007 academic year, we followed up on our practice from the previous years of a vigorous presence at Welcome Week.   As a result, freshman involvement was strong.   Our numbers did not always track, however.   Our average attendance for the academic year was 31, down 5 from 2005-2006.   This may have been due to the loss of a very large graduating class in the class of 2006 (9) and a number of students who were studying abroad (5).

However, in spite of this dip in attendance at the Sunday services, attendance at Lenten and Holy Week events was very high, in some cases the highest ever (indicated by an asterisk (*)).   Attendance for Lenten and Holy Week events for the 2006-2007 AY:   Ash Wednesday (48*); Palm Sunday (52*); Maundy Thursday (23); Good Friday (20); Easter Vigil (20); Easter Sunrise (10); and Easter Sunday worship (48).   Our good numbers this year were the result of a major outreach that we initiated using flyering, electronic billboard advertising, and the distribution of 1,700 quarter-sheets to every mailbox on campus with the theme “Between Palms and Lilies” and a list of all our Holy Week services.

2.  Worship Committee

A worship committee has been in existence since fall 2004.   The worship committee is entirely student led in consultation with the chaplain.   The committee bases its work on the sermon outlines that the chaplain has prepared and the themes for the day.   In consultation with the musicians, the committee determines the hymns, it picks the prayers and other worship elements.   It has been a remarkable instrument for getting student involvement in the worship life of the community.   In recent months, students have even begun writing the prayers that are used in our Sunday worship and Thursday healing services, adding a whole new level to the student involvement during worship.

B.  Thursday Night Healing Service

We have continued with our mid-week worship opportunity: a communion, prayer, and healing service held every Thursday night at 11:00 p.m. in the Kay Chapel.   In 2006-2007 the average attendance was 11, remaining at exactly the same level as 2005-2006.   And more and more people have been availing themselves of this worship opportunity.

C.  Other Services

Ash Wednesday services are usually coordinated by the Catholic chaplain’s office and consist of a noon and evening mass and ecumenical services at the law school and the Kay Chapel.   This year, for the third year in a row, we provided a late night (11 pm) Ash Wednesday service for the benefit of United Methodist-Protestant students unable to make the earlier services.   Attendance: 48 (our highest attendance yet).

We coordinated a Remembrance Day service on Veteran’s Day 2006 at which we read the names of the 3,000+ US servicemen and women who have died in Iraq, along with the names of other foreign service personnel and Iraqi civilians.   Attendance: 10

We offered a baccalaureate service for the second year in a row.   We were again able to have our event listed in the university’s official commencement publication and attendance was the highest it has ever been: 125 attendees, up from 106 the year before, and up from 30 two years earlier.

The UM chaplain also participated in a number of special services on campus this year, including interfaith vigils for the victims of the Virginia Tech Massacre (50)

III.  FAITHFUL RELATIONSHIPS

A.  Weekly Fellowship

Every week, we have a time of fellowship after Sunday services in the Kay Lounge, with refreshments and an opportunity to connect with one another.

Every Thursday, we had a weekly Community dinner in the Tavern, avg. attend.: 12.   Toward the end of the year, a second weekly began to take place following the weekly fellowship on Sunday evenings.

1.  Fellowship Dinners

Beginning in December 2006, two of our students began to organize home-cooked fellowship dinners that we would have following worship.   The first dinner was in December 2006 to say farewell to students who would be traveling abroad the following semester, at the beginning of the spring semester, again just before Lent, and on Easter Sunday.   Average attendance was about 30 per meal.

B.  Welcome Week

We began the 2006-2007 academic year with an active welcome week program consisting of a walking tour of the monuments, a movie night, a wiffleball game, a beach party, and s’mores.   Tied into this promotion were events during September such as a hike in the Rock Creek Park and the baseball outing (see below).   Our attendance numbers were the highest they had ever been for a welcome week program.

C.  Outing to a Nationals Game

2006 was the fifth year we have done this program.   It was tied in with our Welcome Week promotion, which, combined with the market appeal of the new Washington baseball team, brought 22 students.   As with the previous year, we rented a bus from Leonard’s Transportation services.   The event was a great success and we even saw some baseball fans at worship the following Sunday.

D.  Monthly Methodist Movie Night

The first Tuesday of the month is movie night.   The UMSA and the Chaplaincy sponsor a free showing with free pizza and snacks.   In the past year we showed Inside Man, V for Vendetta, Thank You for Smoking, American Dreamz, Rudolph & Charlie Brown Christmas Double feature), An Inconvenient Truth, The Departed, Glory, and The Pursuit of Happyness Viewing of the film is always followed by a discussion in which we talk about the theological or philosophical issues addressed by each movie.   The movie nights are very popular and we often have attendees who would not otherwise participate in campus ministry related events.

E.  Fall and Spring Retreats

Our fall retreat was held on the weekend of September 15-16, 2006 at the cabin of University Chaplain Joe Eldridge in the Shenandoah.   Fourteen students attended, with a number of freshmen participating.   In the spring of 2007, 15 students attended a planning and visioning retreat at Camp Manidokan.

F.  Fall Outings

We reprised our fall outing to Cox Farms in Centreville, Virginia.   Attendance: 8.

G.  Other Fellowship Opportunities

•  Welcome Week programming, August 21-27, 2006
•  Baseball Outing, Nationals v. Diamondbacks (13)
•  Thanksgiving Dinner, provided by our Lutheran Chaplain (25)
•  Dinner and a Movie:
•  UMSA Christmas Dinner at UM Chaplain’s house, December 11, 2006
•  Methodist Mardi Gras: Shrove Tuesday party at chaplain’s residence with pancakes, etc.
•  Game Night, March 29, 2007
•  Community Planning Meeting, April 15: 2007-2008 Vision: Faith in Community
•  Annual Eat at Joe’s Cookout at University Chaplain’s house, April 29
•  Ice Cream Social Study Break, May 2, 2007 (12)
•  Senior dinner: I took the graduating seniors out to dinner at the Cactus Cantina, May 10, 2007

IV.  FAITH DEVELOPMENT

A.  Baptism and Christian Initiation

We did not have any students receive baptism or join The United Methodist Church during this academic year.

B.  Covenant Discipleship

We had a regular covenant discipleship meeting every week.   The CD group was organized by our Pastoral Intern Jonathan Tanner.

C.  Bible Studies

1.  Great Stories of the Bible

Every Wednesday evening, the Chaplain led a Bible study entitled “Great Stories of the Bible” designed to increase Biblical literacy and familiarity with foundational texts.   The study had an average of 5-6 participants a week.   This study will continue in 2007-2008.

2.  Bible Studies at Washington College of Law

The chaplain conducted occasional Bible studies at the Washington College of Law as a guest of the Christian Legal Society.

3.  Reconciling Bible Study

Students led a Reconciling Bible Study entitled “Claiming the Name”, exploring issues of homosexuality and Christian faith.   This Bible study was part of the community’s examination of our reconciling status and re-affirmation of that identity.   An average of 4-5 students participated each week.

4.  Social Justice Bible Study on Immigration

During Methodist Heritage Week, we conducted a special Bible study on immigration and the Christian’s response to the stranger. Attendance: 6.

D.  Bi-Weekly Prayer Meeting

In early 2007, Miriam Wood, a sophomore proposed the creation of a bi-weekly prayer meeting.   The prayer meeting met every Tuesday and Thursday at 5pm and prayed for concerns that had been shared with the group and explored various modes of prayer.   Average attendance: 5.

E.  Women’s Group

Beginning in the Spring 2007 semester, a number of young women decided to form a Women’s Group to study scripture, support one another, and reflect upon the meaning of being a young woman of faith.   Average attendance: 5-6.

F.  Interfaith Dialogue

The UMSA and The UM Chaplaincy are founding presences in the Kay Interfaith Council, an interfaith body designed to promote communication and discussion among the various tenants of the Kay Spiritual Life Center.

G.  Conference Participants

Three of our students attended Student Forum in Tacoma, Washington in May 2007.   Students also participated in North East Jurisdiction meeting.   One of our students, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, was elected as Co-Chair of the United Methodist Student Movement.

H.  Counseling

The United Methodist chaplain has offered counseling services to the university and has counseled a number of students from within and without the community.   In contrast with a number of other ministries on campus, the UM community has developed a reputation as an open and affirming community, and that has translated into students coming for counseling who are from outside the community, but who believe they are likely to be better received there than in their own.

In the spring of 2007, the chaplain reprised a support group for graduating seniors.

I.  Discussions & Panels

•  Discussion: “The Stained Glass Ceiling”–a panel discussion about women in ministry and the experiences of three women serving the church: Rev. Vivian McCarthy (UMC), Rev. Rachel Cornwell (UMC), and Rev. Amy Butler (Baptist).
•  During “Passion Week”, the United Methodist community sponsored a screening of the film “Glory” and led a discussion on the themes presented in the film, particularly on the issue of slavery and liberation. Attendance: 16
•  Discussion: “Religion and Organ Donation”.   I was invited to speak at a panel sponsored by AU Students for Organ Donation on the question of the attitudes various religions have toward organ donation. Attendance: 24.
•    Discussion on Native American related Alternative Breaks.   Following worship on Sunday, April 22, we conducted a discussion on lessons learned from Native American based alternative spring breaks as part of our “Other Six Days” social justice focus on Native issues. Attendance: 20.
•  Film & Discussion: “The DaVinci Code”–Screening of the film followed by discussion on issues presented by the film, with special attention to Church history and the development of the canon.   Attendance: 22.

V.  FAITHFUL SERVICE

A.  The Other Six Days

The most significant development in our social justice ministry was the creation in the 2004-2005 year of an ongoing ministry called “The Other Six Days.”   The aim of this program is to connect particular Sunday worship with opportunities for education and service. Monthly themes for 2006-2007 included immigration, genocide awareness, corporate responsibility, poverty, women’s equality, and Native American issues.   In each of these months was a dedicated worship service, a discussion or educational event, and a service opportunity.

The Other Six Days: Fair Trade Chocolate Sales.   The UM Community purchased 60 bars of fair trade chocolate to sell around Valentine’s Day and to continue our witness to fair trade and child labor free products.   The bars were resold at $1.50 and used as a UMSA fundraiser for justice purposes.

B.  Social Justice Intern

Since spring 2004, we have had a social justice coordinator.   Originally an intern for one semester from the Washington Center, this position has been staffed by a student peer minister since the fall of 2004.   The Social Justice Coordinator organizes meetings of the social justice committee and plans the events for our “The Other Six Days” program.   Our social justice coordinator for 2006-2007 was Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, a junior from Chicago, Illinois.

C.  Service Projects

  • In October 2006, the Committee on Social Justice sponsored an outing to the Green Festival to learn more about environmental issues and ways that people of faith can participate. (7)
  • In November 2006 and March 2007, students prepared dinner for the women of the Calvary Women’s Shelter in Washington, D.C. (6)
  • In November 2006 and February 2007, students volunteered with children at the Transitional Housing Service’s Birthday Party Program. (14)
  • The Hospitality and Social Justice Committees put together a table talk on the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980’s and its modern expression.   Speakers who were part of that movement shared their experiences. (18)

D.  Alternative Spring Break

In the 2003-2004 academic year, our ministry added an Alternative Spring Break program.   Based upon a similar program at Howard University, we planned a week of service and learning in Cherokee, North Carolina.   In 2007, our fourth year of the program, we had 10 students participate in the program, staying at Cherokee UMC and working during the day at the home of a family in need. We also participated in a Potato Drop sponsored by the Society of St. Andrew that took place at Cherokee UMC.   In addition, we were able to meet members of the community including the Principal Chief, participate in a sweat lodge ritual, and to explore the town.   It was a very successful program and we expect to reprise it in 2008.

E.  Witnessing for Peace

United Methodist students organized a meeting in February 2007 to take a stand against the War in Iraq, including letter writing, postering, and other actions.   The group would, with the help of Chaplaincy funds, eventually construct a wall of fabric on the quad–one side filled with pictures of wounded veterans and Iraqis, the other a blank wall on which people could write their own reflections as to why they opposed the war.

F.  Re-Affirmation of Reconciling Status

The United Methodist Community at American University has been a reconciling campus ministry since 1994–making it one of the oldest campus ministries to be so identified.   However there did not seem to be a reconciling statement that was available anywhere (perhaps it had been lost).   After a year-long process of discernment and exploration, the UM-Protestant Community adopted a Reconciling Statement on May 6, 2007 in re-affirmation of our reconciling status.   The statement appears in long form on our website and in short form in our bulletins.

G.  Participation with other Groups (Points of Contact)

•  The Chaplain participated in a program sponsored by the AU Chapter of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
•  Students participated in Mayor Fenty’s march for D.C. Voting Rights on April 16, 2007.
•  The UMSA participated in the National Day of Silence to raise awareness about the discrimination and harassment of GLBT persons.
•  The Chaplaincy co-sponsored a screening of the film “The Ground Truth” about soldiers’ experiences of the Iraq War.

VI.  FAITH SHARING

A.  Website

The Chaplaincy has a website that it maintains at http://www.aumethodists.org.   The site contains information about the ministry, upcoming worship times, the weekly lectionary readings, and copies of past sermons.   Sermons are posted on our website at http://www.aumethodists.org/sermons.html. Students can also use the website to update their directory information and participate in community polls.

For the past two and a half years, we have had arrangements through Network for Good to receive online donations, which visitors to our website can make online through the services of that non-profit organization at no cost to us.

B.  Methodist Heritage Week

September 11-17, 2006, We reprised our week-long program of events and discussions about United Methodism.   Discussions included a discussion on Methodist history, a discussion on the reconciling movement in the church

1.  Feed the Quad

We sponsored our annual free picnic and cookouts for the AU Campus on September 13, 2006.   Approximately 350 people are served at these events, receiving AU UMC cups with worship times and our web address.   For the second year in a row, it took place during Methodist Heritage Week

C.  Orientation

We had a regular presence at summer orientation 2006 and added about 45 names and e-mail addresses to our mailing list.   We have had a larger number of materials available for students and their parents.

D.  Club Fair and Tabling

The United Methodist Student Association had a table at the Campus Club Fair at which we distributed materials about the ministry, along with cross-shaped keychains and ‘Flaming Cupcakes’ (hostess cakes with a candle stuck in them).   “Flaming Cupcake” is the nickname of the Kay Spiritual Life Center, a round building with a flame on the roof.   The UMSA also tabled in the campus center and offered hot chocolate on the quad during February.

In addition, during winter finals, the chaplain tabled in the Mary Graydon Center offering “Spiritual Therapy Through Chocolate” and giving out free chocolates and other snacks to stressed out college students during finals.

E.  Dorm Deacons

A number of students have volunteered to be Dorm Deacons, responsible for distributing flyers and other information in the dorms and for being contact persons for the community.

F.  Hospitality Ministry

  • Have new Hospitality Coordinator, responsible for tabling on campus, greeting newcomers.
  • Students visit the dorm rooms of those who were visitors to church the previous Sunday, bringing cups with the UM community logo and schedule that are full of candy, and information about the community
  • Formation of Hospitality Committee–a group of students who reflect on issues of hospitality and how our community can improve.

G.  Promotion and Marketing

  • Placement of ads in electronic newsletters, chalking on quad, quartersheet mailings to campus mailboxes.
  • Provision of free chocolate during finals to stressed out students

H.  Participation in Interfaith Events

  • Interfaith Council Discussion: Ask the Chaplain “Faith and Social Justice”–Chaplains of different faiths were invited to speak about their tradition’s relationship to social justice
  • Participation in Interfaith Month and Interfaith Fortnight with open services designed to be accessible to visitors.
  • Participated in a screening of a documentary “Life of Muhammad” followed by breakout groups discussing impressions from a variety of interfaith perpectives.

VII.  GOALS AND PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

A.  Continue Create a Culture of Spiritual Development

In 2007-2008, we hope to continue to try to develop ministries of spiritual discipline and development.   We hope to do this through the increase in the number of small groups and student led Bible studies.

B.  Develop Christian Leaders

It is my hope that we will continue the trend we have begun in fostering Christian leaders.   As we have seen students take responsibility for worship and social justice, and hospitality, we hope to develop student leaders in small groups and discipleship.

We hope to follow the strong showing we have made this year and expect to continue to grow our presence, outreach and the number of opportunities available to explore faith on the AU campus.