2009 Annual Report

to the Committee on Higher Education and Campus Ministry
July 2008-June 2009 (as of January 2010, with supplement for fall 2009)

I. GOALS FOR THE 2008-2009 ACADEMIC YEAR

This was our seventh year being as 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. We were in large part successful in these endeavors. We also initiated a very successful marketing and outreach campaign.

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 2008-2009 Academic Year, we followed up on our practice from the previous years of a vigorous presence at Welcome Week. Our Sunday attendance started off very strong and ended with a year average of 36, a 5% increase from 2007-2008 and a tie with the highest average attendance in our history. In addition, our total numbers for the year, were the highest they have ever been for both the Sunday services (1191) and the healing service (362) representing 5% and 35% increases respectively over the previous year.

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 2008-2009 AY: Ash Wednesday (35); Palm Sunday (50); Maundy Thursday (23); Good Friday (33*); Easter Vigil (15); Easter Sunrise (12); and Easter Sunday worship (65*). Our good numbers this year were the result of a major outreach that we initiated using flyering, electronic billboard advertising, and signs on the quad listing 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 “The Seven Words You Can’t Say in Church” that explored topics that Christians either do not address or that Christians are expected to deal with in a particular way. It included such topics as evolution, intolerance, abortion, sex, politics, death, and the sacred feminine. In the spring semester, I offered a sermon series entitled “It’s just like Facebook, only real” exploring issues of relationship, status, and friendship. A sermon series for Lent was offered called “Christianity 101” that covered topics of forgiveness, salvation, and repentance.

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 2008-2009 the average attendance was 12, a 33% increase from 2007-2008.

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 2008-2009, the service at the law school conflicted with the Catholic noon mass and so I conducted it by myself. In addition, for the fifth 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: 35.

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 4,200+ 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 fifth year in a row. We were again able to have our event listed in the university’s official commencement publication. Attendance was lower than in previous years, but still good: 80 attendees. This was likely due to the change of the commencement schedule, and the moving of our service from Saturday afternoon, after the honors convocation, to Friday evening.

Our community organized a remembrance of the September 11 attacks as part of our Thursday night healing service. Ours was the only remembrance of September 11 th on campus. Attendance: 19.

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 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 35-40 per meal.

B. Welcome Week

We began the 2008-2009 Academic Year with an active welcome week program consisting of a game night and ice cream social (co-sponsored with Chi Alpha) (40), stump the chaplains game (35), participated in distributing cupcakes at a Kay event (400), and a movie night ( Juno , 120), and s’mores (200*). Tied into this promotion were events during September such as a kickball game (15), a beach party, a hike in the Rock Creek Park (17*). Our attendance numbers were the highest they had ever been for a Welcome Week program.

C. 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 Charlie Wilson’s War, The American President, Stop-loss, Wall-E, On the Waterfron, Milk, and Doubt. 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.

D. Fall and Spring Retreats

Our fall retreat was held on the weekend of September 19-20, 2008 at the Shenandoah cabin of University Chaplain Joe Eldridge. Nineteen (19) students attended, with a number of freshmen participating. In the spring of 2009, 11 students attended a planning and visioning retreat at Camp Manidokan.

E. Fall Outings

We reprised our fall outing to Cox Farms in Centreville, Virginia. Attendance: 13.

F. 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 20.

G. 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.

H. Other Fellowship Opportunities

  • Welcome Week programming, August 17-24, 2008
  • Women’s Group Outing: Picnic on the Mall, October 18, 2008 (10)
  • Game Night, October 17, 2007 (7)
  • Thanksgiving Dinner, provided by our Lutheran Chaplain (45)
  • UMSA Christmas Dinner at UM Chaplain’s house, December 6, 2008 (10)
  • Senior Dinner for December Graduates, December 8, 2008 (9)
  • “Hypothetical” Christmas Party, December 9, 2008 (25)
  • Dinner & Ice-Skating, January 25 (10)
  • Superbowl Watching Party, February 1, 2009 (8)
  • Methodist Mardi Gras: Shrove Tuesday party with pancakes, etc. (15)
  • UMSA Talent Show, March 29, 2009 (21)
  • Easter Dinner, April 12, 2009 (45)
  • Annual Eat at Joe’s Cookout (at my house), April 26 (16)
  • Baseball Outing, Nationals v. Cardinals (10)
  • Bike Ride Study Break, May 2, 2009 (5)
  • Cookout after Senior Farewell Service, May 3 (40)
  • Senior dinner: I took the graduating seniors to dinner at Lebanese Taverna, May 6, 2009, (9)
  • Summer Bike Ride, June 27 (6)

IV. FAITH DEVELOPMENT

A. Baptism and Christian Initiation

Ms. Carrie Johnson was received into membership in The United Methodist Church on October 26, 2008 by profession of faith. Ms. Michelle Dromgold was received into membership of The United Methodist Church on November 20, 2008 at our healing service by transfer from Messiah Lutheran in Rochester, NY.

B. Covenant Discipleship

We had a regular covenant discipleship meeting every week. The CD group was organized by our a student and one of our seminary interns.

C. Practical Christianity

In the fall of 2008, one of our freshmen, a young woman named Jennifer Kinne showed great leadership in taking charge of this program and has developed excellent study outlines and had a number of very successful discussions, which she did throughout the year, often following the themes of the Sunday worship. Average attendance: 5.

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. This program continued in Fall 2008 and served as the membership class for the two young women who joined the UMC in the Fall 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. This program continued in Fall 2008 and served as the membership class for the two young women who joined the UMC in the Fall.

3. 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.

4. Summer Bible Study

In the summer of 2009, following on the success of the previous summer, 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: 6.

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. This group continued throughout the 2008-2009 Academic Year. Average attendance: 5-6.

F. Simple Living Group

In the fall of 2008, students began a “Simple Living” group in which they covenanted to reduce consumption, be more sustainable in their choices, and reflect on their Christian faith as it related to their material living. The group met weekly for dinner and discussion. (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

Two of our students attended Student Forum in May 2009. Students also participated other connectional ministry. A number of our students continued leadership in various United Methodist student groups, including UMSM, RMN, and MoSAIC.

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.

Because of the high number of December graduates (8), the chaplain reprised the group again in November and December of 2008. In the spring of 2009, the chaplain reprised a support group for graduating seniors.

J. Discussions & Panels

  • Film & Discussion: Chocolate City , dealing with issues of gentrification (7)
  • An Evening with Judy Shephard: The UMSA co-sponsored a Kennedy Political Union event wherein Judy Shepard, whose son Matthew was murdered in a hate crime, spoke on issues of hatred and bigotry. (300)
  • Film & Discussion: For the Bible Tells Me So , as part of the community’s Reconciling weekend.
  • Panel Discussion on the UM Position on Abortion: 9
  • Discussion on Majority White Institutions and Historically Black Colleges at Foundry UMC (with Howard U) (13).
  • Discussion: “Public Education in the District”. Mary Levy from the Washington Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights came to lead a discussion on education in DC. Attendance: 8.
  • Discussion: Domestic Violence Awareness. Led by alum Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger from the DC Rape Crisis Center. (20)
  • Film & Discussion: Invisible Children –Screening of the film to raise awareness. (5)
  • “Passion Week” “Last Supper” Dinner. The Christian communities shared in a dinner and discussion on the different understandings of the Eucharist. (55)

K. Academic Instruction

Since the fall of 2006, I have been an adjunct professor in the Philosophy and Religion department, teaching a course entitled “Religious Heritage of the West”. It is a general education course of about 40 students a semester. This has offered me the opportunity to make connections in the classroom as well as in the chapel. Beginning in the fall of 2010, I will also be teaching a course in New Testament, being offered for the first time in nearly a decade.

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 2008-2009 included gentrification, abortion, consumerism, literacy, domestic violence, and corporate responsibility. 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.

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 2008-2009 were Kurt Karandy (’11) and Kristen Walling (’10).

C. Social Justice Committee

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

D. Service Projects

  • In September 2008, the Committee on Social Justice presented a film and discussion on gentrification. (7)
  • In October 2008, student participated in an accountability meeting with the city leadership organized by the Washington Interfaith Network for affordable housing. (6)
  • In November students cosponsored an event on consumerism helping students to live sustainably in the dorms and to make sustainable choices in holiday shopping. A clothing swap was included. (19)
  • In November 2008, students participated in the Help the Homeless Walk ($105.00) (7)
  • In partnership with the Muslim Student Association, students made scarves for the homeless (18).
  • Students organized a campaign to get the university to reconsider its contract with Coca Cola because of that company’s poor environmental and labor rights record.
  • In March, students prepared a meal for the women at Calvary Women’s Shelter. (6)
  • In April, students distributed free sodas on the quad in furtherance of their anti-Coke campaign.

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. Interest in the program for the spring of 2009 was up again and we took a group of 14 to Cherokee again for a week of service, reflection, and learning.

F. Participation with other Groups (Points of Contact)

  • 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 a number of events with other groups, including EcoSense, Queers and Allies, the GLBTA Resource Center, and a number of social justice groups on campus.

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 16-21, 2008, 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 16, 2008. Approximately 300 people are served at these events, receiving AU UMC cups with worship times and our web address. For the fourth year in a row, it took place during Methodist Heritage Week.

2. Demonstration of Wesley’s Preaching

Our chaplain dressed up as John Wesley and delivered the sermon “The Catholic Spirit”. A discussion followed. (8)

3. Social Justice Film

As part of MHW, we screened the film Chocolate City about gentrification in Washington.

C. Orientation

We had a regular presence at summer orientation 2008 and added about 40 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

  • A dynamic and new marketing campaign utilizing minimalist ads and snarky messages has been extremely successful in branding the community, raising the profile of the ministry, and in reaching out to students. Community members are constantly being told by members of the broader community how much they like our signs. They have been very effective in communicating the United Methodist community as a community of openness, inclusiveness, love, and grace. (Some samples are attached).
  • 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. MISCELLANEOUS

A. Awards and Recognitions

I was awarded the Faculty Staff Recognition Award by the GLBTA Resource Center in the Spring of 2009. This follows the community itself receiving an award for excellence from that same office. Both awards are testimony to the great efforts this community has made to be open and welcoming to all people.

VIII. GOALS AND PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

A. Continue Create a Culture of Spiritual Development

In 2009-2010, 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. Create a Culture of Engagement in Faith

One of the long-range goals of the community is to assist American University in exploring the intersections of faith and public life. We hope to help along a process of exploration of the ways that people of faith can turn their faith into action, and that people concerned with social justice can mine the depths of the theological and religious traditions. This is an important element of vocational discernment and of effective social change for the transformation of lives.

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