2008 Annual Report

TO THE BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION AND CAMPUS MINISTRY
JULY 2007-JUNE 2008

I. GOALS FOR THE 2007-2008 ACADEMIC YEAR

This was our sixth year being a full-time United Methodist campus ministry at American University. In this year, we hoped to continue to foster ministries of spiritual discipline and development, through the increase in the number of small groups and student led Bible studies. We also hoped to continue the trend we have begun in fostering Christian leaders. As we had seen students take responsibility for worship, social justice, and hospitality, we aimed to develop student leaders in small groups and discipleship. We were successful in many of our goals, although some challenges remain.

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. The 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 2007-2008 Academic Year, we followed up on our practice from the previous years of a vigorous presence at Welcome Week. Our initial Sunday attendance was very strong with some of the highest numbers for opening week attendance ever. However, the decline in attendance that routinely takes place over the course of the semester, was more precipitous than usual. That being said, our average attendance for the academic year was 34, up 3 from 2006-2007, an increase of 9.6% from the previous year and our second highest average overall. So, while the average attendance did not match the initial high levels in the fall, it still represented a positive year for the campus ministry in terms of worship attendance. The net totals of worship attendance (not simply averages) at all services was also the second highest on record.

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 2007-2008 AY: Ash Wednesday (34); Palm Sunday (20) [1]; Maundy Thursday (21); Good Friday (11); Easter Vigil (18); Easter Sunrise (13); and Easter Sunday worship (59*). 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 “What Wondrous Love is This” 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. Students have continued the tradition of writing the prayers that are used in our Sunday worship and Thursday healing services, adding a whole new level of student involvement in our worship.

3. Sermon Series

I offered a sermon series in the fall entitled “Majoring in Christianity” that explored how the various majors studied by students at American can be seen as Christian vocations. In the spring semester, a sermon series for Lent was offered called “Walking with Jesus through…” that covered areas such as family conflict, depression, and heartbreak.

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 2007-2008 the average attendance was 9, a decrease from 11 in 2006-2007. The decline may be due to the numbers of previously regularly attending students who moved off campus and thus could not make the service as easily.

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. In 2007-2008, the service at the law school conflicted with the Catholic noon mass and so I conducted it by myself. In addition, for the fourth 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: 34.

In previous years we had coordinated a Remembrance Day service on Veteran’s Day at which we read the names of the US servicemen and women who have died in Iraq. Attendance was always disappointingly low at this service, even if those who attended did appreciate the opportunity. I decided that a more visible memorial was required and so instead of a name reading service, we made 3,800+ small wooden crosses and other markers for people of other faiths and placed them on the quad in the fashion of a battlefield cemetery. Signs were placed on the edges explaining the vigil and listing the names of the fallen.

We offered a baccalaureate service for the fourth year in a row. We were again able to have our event listed in the university’s official commencement publication and attendance was high: 105 attendees. The collection was donated as part of our community’s commitment to the HOPE Fund.

Our community organized a remembrance of the September 11 attacks that took place on the Kay Chapel steps. The service consisted of prayers, hymns, and a brief reflection by University Chaplain Joe Eldridge. Ours was the only remembrance of September 11 th on campus.

Our fall homecoming service, October 28, 2007 (Reformation Sunday), was also a service of reconciliation between Protestant and Catholic, in which Catholic Chaplain Rev. Fr. David Mott participated.

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 Wednesday during the year, we had a weekly Community dinner in the Tavern. Often, a second weekly dinner took place following the weekly fellowship on Sunday evenings.

1. Fellowship Dinners

Following on the practice established in 2006-2007, we continued occasional fellowship dinners following worship. Some were cooked by the students, others were pizza dinners, and others were cooked by local congregations. Average attendance was about 30 per meal.

B. Welcome Week

We began the 2007-2008 Academic Year with an active welcome week program consisting of a game night and ice cream social (co-sponsored with Chi Alpha) (40), a movie night (35), a walking tour of the monuments (11), participated in distributing cupcakes at a Kay event (300), and s’mores (120). Tied into this promotion were events during September such as a kickball game (15), a beach party, 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

The 2007-2008 AY was the sixth year we have done this program. It was tied in with our Welcome Week promotion. Because of the proximity of the new baseball team, many groups offer outings and thus the novelty of the event and its demand have dropped. We decided to forego renting a bus this year which was fortuitous as only 11 students attended the fall outing. We reprised the outing in the spring as a study break in late April: 13 students attended this outing to the Nationals’ new ballpark.

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 Superman Returns, Children of Men, Babel, Little Miss Sunshine, Elf, 3:10 to Yuma, Gone Baby Gone, and The Kite Runner. Viewing of the film is always followed by an optional 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 14-15, 2007 at the Shenandoah cabin of University Chaplain Joe Eldridge. Twenty one (21) students attended, with a number of freshmen participating. In the spring of 2008, 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. Halloween Murder Mystery Party

A tradition revived from the old Protestant Community days, the party is organized by students. Participants are given roles to play and a crime to solve. Attendance 22.

H. Quad Sitting Ministry

A ministry of hospitality and fellowship: the chaplaincy provided blankets for sitting on the quad, extension cords for laptops, and free snacks and sodas. Students would use the opportunity to study in the fresh air. A dozen or more students took advantage of the opportunity.

I. Other Fellowship Opportunities

  • Welcome Week programming, August 21-27, 2006
  • Baseball Outing, Nationals v. Diamondbacks (13)
  • Game Night, October 17, 2007 (7)
  • Thanksgiving Dinner, provided by our Lutheran Chaplain (34)
  • “Hypothetical” Christmas Party, December 11, 2007 (24)
  • UMSA Christmas Dinner at UM Chaplain’s house, December 9, 2007 (10)
  • Dinner & Ice-Skating, January 25 (10)
  • Superbowl Watching Party, February 3 (6)
  • Methodist Mardi Gras: Shrove Tuesday party with pancakes, etc. (16)
  • Easter Dinner, March 23, 2008 (38)
  • Knitting Group (5)
  • Community Planning Meeting, April 27 (7)
  • Annual Eat at Joe’s Cookout at University Chaplain’s house, April 27 (16)
  • Cookout after Senior Farewell Service, May 4 (40)
  • Senior dinner: I took the graduating seniors out to dinner at Buca di Beppo, May 6, 2008, (stragglers to MeiWah on May 8) (16)
  • Summer Movie Outing, May 26 (10)

IV. FAITH DEVELOPMENT

A. Baptism and Christian Initiation

Miriam Wood was received into membership in The United Methodist Church on May 4, 2008 by profession of faith.

B. Covenant Discipleship

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

C. Practical Christianity

In January 2008, we began a regular weekly study meeting called “Practical Christianity” that was designed to explore a lived faith in light of Christian teaching. The sessions covered a wide range of topics from “living your faith in college”, to “sharing your faith”, to sexuality and dating. The program has become a staple of our Sunday evening programming, taking place before Sunday worship. Average attendance 7.

D. Bible Studies

1. Scripture with Fries and a Soda

Every week, the chaplain led a weekly Bible study in the Tavern called “Scripture with Fries and a Soda” covering texts like Revelation, Romans, and others. Average attendance: 4.

2. Methodism 101

I provided a weekly course in the history, theology, beliefs, and practices of United Methodism. It was made available to those seeking to join The United Methodist Church and those simply interested in learning more about United Methodism. It served as the membership class for those who became members in 2008.

3. Reconciling Bible Study

Students led a Reconciling Bible Study that began during Methodist Heritage Week (see below) and continued for several weeks (6).

4. 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.

5. Summer Bible Study

In the summer of 2008, for the first time in recent years, there was a sizeable number of students remaining in town over the summer and an expressed desire for fellowship and study. A weekly Bible study and dinner would run throughout June and July. Average attendance: 5.

E. 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.

F. 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. This group continued throughout the 2007-2008 Academic Year. Average attendance: 5-6.

G. 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.

H. Conference Participants

Four of our students attended Student Forum in May 2008, which was held on the American University Campus. Students also participated other connectional ministry. Two students, Kurt Karandy and Katie Karges, were elected by their home annual conferences as delegates to General Conference. One of our students, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger, continued her term as Co-Chair of the United Methodist Student Movement.

I. 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 2008, the chaplain reprised a support group for graduating seniors.

J. Discussions & Panels

  • Discussion: “Global Missions”. Speakers from the General Board of Global Ministries and US-2 Missionaries from Washington led a discussion on missionary vocation in the UMC. (15)
  • During “Passion Week”, the United Methodist community sponsored a screening of the film Amazing Grace and led a discussion on the themes presented in the film, particularly on the issue of faith as shaping one’s life’s work. Attendance: 30
  • Discussion: “The Origins of Easter”–a discussion on the origins of Easter from both Judaism and paganism. (23)
  • Discussion: “The Last Supper and the Eucharist”. An ecumenical dinner and discussion on the meaning of the Eucharist across different Christian traditions. Attendance: 40.
  • Visioning Process: A reflection on the community’s mission statement and development of a vision for the coming years. (12)
  • Film & Discussion: For the Bible Tells Me So –Screening of the film at North Bethesda UMC, followed by discussion on issues presented by the film. (7)
  • The chaplain participated in an interfaith discussion on the afterlife sponsored by the Kay Interfaith Council. (31)

V. FAITHFUL SERVICE

A. The Other Six Days

The most significant development in our social justice ministry was the creation of an ongoing ministry called “The Other Six Days” in the 2004-2005 Academic Year. The aim of this program is to connect particular Sunday worship with opportunities for education and service. Monthly themes for 2007-2008 included environmentalism, AIDS, voting rights, hunger, workers’ rights, and heath care. In each month there was a dedicated worship service, a discussion or educational event, and a service opportunity. The educational opportunities included discussions, film screenings, and presentations. Service projects (see below) included fundraising, letter writing, and other hands-on activities.

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 coordinators for 2007-2008 were Casey McNeill (’08) and Kristen Walling (’10).

C. Social Justice Lunches

Students met weekly to discuss issues of social justice and our community response thereto.

D. Service Projects

  • In September 2007, the Committee on Social Justice presented a discussion on watersheds and water pollution. (6)
  • In October 2007, students participated in the DC AIDS Walk (6)
  • As part of The Other Six Days reflection on the AIDS crisis, students raised money for the HOPE Fund. ($117.31)
  • Students participated in an event addressing the issue of use of Native American images as mascots.
  • Students tabled in the Mary Graydon Center in support of D.C. voting rights.
  • The UMSA hosted the Homeless Speakers Bureau at a dinner and raised money for the National Council for the Homeless (23).
  • Students raised money for Heifer International ($118.02 on Ash Wednesday and $144.63 the following Sunday) to purchase animals for needy families.
  • In partnership with the Student Campaign for Burma, the UMSA screened Beyond Rangoon and discussed the situation in Burma. (8)

E. 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 2008, a much greater number of Alt Break programs led to a decreased demand and in the end only three people signed up necessitating cancellation of the trip.

F. Witnessing for Peace

Students participated in a weekly peace vigil during the fall semester every Monday.

G. Participation with other Groups (Points of Contact)

  • I moderated a panel entitled “Confronting Intolerance” about issues of Islamophobia, racism, and homophobia in October 2007.
  • Students participated in Wesley Seminary’s All Saints Day vigil remembering the war dead through placement of luminaries on the seminary lawn.
  • Students participated in the university’s “Take Back the Night” program. The Chaplaincy supported the event by providing chaplain coverage for students who needed to talk or counseling during the evening’s events.
  • 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 “Winter Soldier” about soldiers’ experiences returning from the Iraq War and testifying about the war, March 20, 2008.

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.

Students can also use the website to update their directory information and participate in community polls.

For the past three and a half years, we have had arrangements through Network for Good to receive online donations, through which visitors to our website can make online at no cost to us.

B. Methodist Heritage Week

September 10-16, 2007, 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, and other learning opportunities.

1. Feed the Quad

We sponsored our annual free picnic and cookout for the AU Campus on September 13, 2007. Approximately 300 people are served at these events, receiving AU UMC cups with worship times and our web address. For the third year in a row, it took place during Methodist Heritage Week.

2. Bishop Oxnam Celebration

Co-sponsored with the office of the Dean of the School of International Service, we conducted a presentation and celebration of the ministry and vision of Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, founder of the School of International Service. President Neil Kerwin, Rev. Bruce Poynter, and Dean Louis Goodman spoke. Visitors from Metropolitan Memorial UMC and Wesley Theological Seminary were also in attendance. Attendance: 40.

3. Demonstration of Wesley’s Preaching

Our chaplain dressed up as John Wesley and delivered the sermon “The Scripture Way of Salvation”. A discussion followed. (10)

4. Hymn Sing

Students led a hymn sing in the tents on the quad.

C. Orientation

We had a regular presence at summer orientation 2007 and added about 50 names and e-mail addresses to our mailing list. We 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 t-shirts, cups, lanyards and other materials. The UMSA also tabled in the campus center and offered hot chocolate on the quad during February.

In addition, during winter finals, I 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

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. Study Breaks

Partnering with the Hillel Foundation and the University Chaplain’s office, the chaplain helped to establish a study lounge in the chapel for students to use during finals. It was stocked with snacks and other refreshments. (30+)

The chaplain and some of the staff from Hillel prepared pancakes and provided juice for students at a midnight study break during spring semester finals. Over 200 people were served.

Provision of free chocolate during finals to stressed out students

H. Promotion and Marketing

Placement of ads in electronic newsletters, chalking on quad, quartersheet mailings to campus mailboxes.

The campus ministry maintain a presence on Facebook and other online media.

I. Participation in Interfaith Events

Participation in Interfaith Month and Interfaith Fortnight with open services designed to be accessible to visitors.

The chaplain served as an advisor to the Kay Interfaith Council and regularly participated its programs.

VII. GOALS AND PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

A. Continue Create a Culture of Spiritual Development

In 2008-2009, we hope to continue to try to develop ministries of spiritual discipline and development. We would like to continue to build greater resources for spiritual development.

B. Outreach to those Suspicious of Faith

There are a number of people on campus who will not attend any program because of preconceptions and stereotypes about Christians. Through the use of sermon series on topics that will generate interest outside the walls of the community and a recommitment to our social justice presence on campus, I hope to present a face of Christianity to AU that is open, compassionate, committed to social action, and unlike the stereotype of a narrow-minded, insular group.

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.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark A. Schaefer
United Methodist Campus Minister
American University

[1] The unusually low number for Palm Sunday is due to the fact that Easter’s early date meant that Palm Sunday fell on the Sunday at the end of Spring Break, when many students were still returning or had been to morning services at home.