2012 Annual Report

Annual Report to the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, July 2011-June 2012

I.      GOALS FOR THE 2011-2012 ACADEMIC YEAR

This was our tenth year as a full-time United Methodist campus ministry at American University.  In this year, we hoped to increase connectional engagement, offer more service opportunities, create a culture of engagement in faith, use sermon series to attract seekers, and diversify expression in worship, particularly through the arts.

II.     FAITHFUL CELEBRATION

Our worship life is the cornerstone of our life as a community. It is the main gathering for the community, the place in which we are reminded of the values of our common life together, and an important place of celebration and consolation.  Our worship continues to be vibrant and heavily driven by lay involvement.

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 2011-2012 Academic Year, our Sunday attendance started off very strong and remained so throughout the year.  We ended the year with an average of 45, a 7.1% increase from 2010-2011 and 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 (1,486) and the healing service (640) representing 7.1% and 1.4% increases respectively over the previous year.

Attendance at Lenten and Holy Week events was very high, in some cases the highest ever (indicated throughout this report by an asterisk (*)).  Attendance for Lenten and Holy Week events for the 2011-2012 AY:  Ash Wednesday (46); Palm Sunday (41); Maundy Thursday (40*); Good Friday (42*); Easter Vigil (26); Easter Sunrise (37*); and Easter Sunday worship (80).  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 and a Lenten sermon series designed to draw interest (see below).  This is the third year in a row that our Easter attendance has topped 80 in worship.

It has been noted that in contemporary America, attendance is not being defined by those who attend worship every week, but that many parishioners attend 3 out of 4 weeks of the month.  Thus, worship attendance is not always the most accurate reflector of the total size of the worshiping community.  This is certainly true in our case and I would estimate that while our average worship attendance is 45, the likely size of our total worshiping community is around 60.

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 I have prepared and the themes for the day.  In consultation with the musicians, the committee determines the hymns, it picks the prayers—in many cases writing the prayers—and other worship elements.  Average attendance at worship committee meetings: 5.

3.     Sermon Series

In the fall semester, I offered a sermon series entitled “Questions of Faith” based on the spring semester’s Q&A sermon, in which we explored questions that crop up over and over again in that annual Q&A sermon.  The questions included: Why Does God Allow Evil?  Can I Think Critically and Have Faith?[1] Do Non-Christians Go to Hell?  How Sinful Is Sex?  Does Forgiveness Require Me to Be a Victim? and  Am I Lost If I Have Doubt?  Attendance was very high (average 50/week) throughout this series and it generated a lot of interest on campus.

In the spring semester, I offered a Lenten sermon series This We Believe dealing with some of the basic affirmations that we as a community of faith make. Among the affirmations were Jesus is the Son of God, Discipleship is Costly, God is Love, God Loves All People, The World is a Very Broken Place (Palm Sunday), and Christ is Risen!  (Easter Sunday). There was a fair amount of interest in this series. (44/week)

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 2011-2012 the average attendance was 21, a 5% increase from 2010-2011 and is the highest such average on record.  The healing service represents real growth possibilities as its appeal becomes more widely known.

C.    Other/Special Services

  • Sunday worship on the 10th anniversary of September 11th drew 70 worshipers, a record outside of Easter or an episcopal visit.
  • On October 13, 2011, we repurposed our Thursday Healing Service to be a DREAM Sabbath and invited immigrant students to share their stories of hopes for education. (38)
  • In November 2011, students reprised the Veterans Day “Remembrance Day” Vigil, placing 500 grave markers on the quad in remembrance of the U.S. servicemen and –women who have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
  • In February and March 2012, we participated in a pulpit exchange with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship (Assemblies of God) with Chi Alpha’s chaplain, the Rev. Mike Godzwa, preaching in United Methodist services in February and me preaching in Chi Alpha’s worship in March.
  • Twice in the spring semester, I preached using alternative preaching methods, one as a first person monologue, the other a dialogue sermon in the style of a Bob Newhart routine.
  • We offered a baccalaureate service for the eighth year in a row.  We were again able to have our event listed in the university’s official commencement publication. Attendance: 100.

III.   FAITHFUL RELATIONSHIPS

A sense of community is vital to a healthy campus ministry and the community thrives when the relationships that make it up are nourished and supported.  Weekly fellowship opportunities (and weekly leadership opportunities that help to provide fellowship, such as the UMSA meeting) help to build a solid foundation for these vital relationships to thrive.  Of course, plenty of food is involved.

A.    Weekly Meetings of the United Methodist Student Association

The United Methodist Student Association (UMSA) has a weekly leadership meeting.  This meeting is a key component of the community’s leadership development in that it develops leadership skills, teaches collaboration, and helps students to think productively and constructively.  Students involved in UMSA leadership number approximately 13, representing nearly a third (28.8%) of those regularly attending worship.

B.     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. Average attendance: 35.

Fellowship remains strong following Sunday services and a weekly community lunch (Tuesdays in the Tavern) has also been a popular fellowship event.

1.   Fellowship Dinners

Following on the practice established in 2006-2007, we continued occasional fellowship dinners following worship. We have had a number of fellowship dinners this semester, at times prepared by the students, at times prepared by local churches. We have had twelve (12) dinners this academic year. Average attendance, 40.  The fellowship dinners have also provided an important way of connecting with the local congregations.

C.    Welcome Week

We began the 2011-2012 Academic Year with an active welcome week program consisting of a game night and ice cream social (co-sponsored with Chi Alpha) (60*), participating in distributing cupcakes at a Kay event (400), a “Protestant Pancake Night” co-sponsored with Chi Alpha (40), a movie night (The Adjustment Bureau, 25), and s’mores (150).  Tied into this promotion were events during September such as, a beach party (60), a hike in the Rock Creek Park (10).

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 The Adjustment Bureau, Black Swan, True Grit, Keeping the Faith, Muppet Christmas Carol, Super 8, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and The Shawshank Redemption.   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. Average attendance: 25.

E.     Fall and Spring Retreats

Our fall retreat was held on the weekend of September 16-17 at the Shenandoah cabin of University Chaplain Joe Eldridge.  We tied a record with a turnout of twenty seven (27*) students attended, with a number of freshmen participating.  In the spring of 2012, 13 students attended a planning and visioning retreat at West River Camp.

F.     Fall Outings

Eleven (11) students participated in a fall outing to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD.

G.    Halloween Murder Mystery Party

A tradition revived from the old Protestant Community days, the party is organized by students and was held at Metropolitan Memorial UMC.  Participants are given roles to play and a crime to solve.  Attendance 30.  The fall party was such a success it was reprised in the spring semester in April.  Attendance: 21.

H.    Tenth Anniversary Gala

The 2011-2012 academic year marked the tenth year of our ministry as a full-time campus ministry on the American University campus. To celebrate this milestone, students planned a Tenth Anniversary Gala held in the Great Hall of Metropolitan Memorial UMC on April 21, 2012.  A number of alumni were in attendance, as well as District Superintendent Evan Young.  Attendance: 71.

I.      Other Fellowship Opportunities

  • Welcome Week programming, August 21-27, 2011
  • Fellowship Dinner following Worship provided by MMUMC, September 4, 2011 (45)
  • Fellowship Dinner following Worship provided by MMUMC, September 25, 2011 (50)
  • Outing to Dinner at Steak-n-Egg following the Healing Service, October 13, 2011 (6)
  • Fall Break Indiana Jones Movie Marathon Lock-In, October 14, 2011 (17)
  • Outing to Maryland Renaissance Festival, October 15, 2011 (12)
  • Fellowship Dinner following Homecoming Service, October 23, 2011 (45)
  • Thanksgiving Dinner, provided by our Lutheran Chaplain (40)
  • Fellowship Chili Dinner provided by MMUMC, December 4, 2011 (45)
  • UMSA Christmas Dinner at UM Chaplain’s house, December 10, 2010 (15)
  • “Hypothetical” Christmas Party, December 13, 2011 (43*)
  • Fellowship dinner following worship, January 22, 2012 (45)
  • Fellowship pizza dinner following worship, February 12, 2012. (40)
  • Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner, February 21, 2012 (109*)
  • Easter Dinner, prepared by students, April 8, 2012 (60*)
  • Fellowship Dinner following worship, April 22, 2012 (40)
  • Eat at Joe’s, April 29, 2012 (27)
  • Senior Farewell Cookout, May 6, 2012 (40)
  • Senior dinner: I took the graduating seniors to dinner at Lebanese Taverna, May 9, 2012, (10)

IV.   FAITH DEVELOPMENT

The ability to wrestle with deep questions of faith and to explore the biblical and theological traditions of the church is a great gift of campus ministry.  There is a deep hunger among young adults to explore in meaningful ways the tradition that would have them participate in it.  And so, Bible studies, membership classes, discussion groups, book studies, and others are an essential part of our ministry on campus.

A.    Baptism and Christian Initiation/Membership

Ms. Melanie Ollett was received into membership in The United Methodist Church on Sunday, October 23, 2012 by profession of faith.

B.     Covenant Discipleship

We had a regular covenant discipleship meeting every week.  The CD group was organized by one of our students.  The group averaged 7 participants a week.

C.    Practical Christianity

Jennifer Kinne (’12) and Carly Jones (’13) have continued to demonstrate great leadership in taking charge of this program and have developed excellent study outlines and had a number of very successful weekly discussions. Discussions either tracked along with topics addressed in sermons or current events (death penalty, Occupy Wall Street, etc.).  Average attendance: 6.

D.    Bible Studies

1.     Isaiah

In the fall semester, I led a verse by verse exploration of the Book of Isaiah with an exploration of the prophetic witness. Average attendance: 6.

2.     Methodism 101

In the spring semester, I offered a weekly course introducing the history, theology, beliefs, and practices of United Methodism.  This course was designed for those seeking to join the UMC or who wished simply to learn more about it. Average attendance: 6.

3.     Abraham’s Sacrifice of His Son

In November 2011, I participated in a panel discussion through the College of Arts and Sciences on the understandings of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac/Ishmael in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (37)

4.     Summer Bible Study

In the summer of 2012, following on the success of the previous summers, 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 (as of June 2012): 8.

5.     Psalms

David Hosey, one of our pastoral interns, led a Bible study on Psalms and Spiritual Practices. Average attendance: 5.

E.     Vocational Discernment

Associate Chaplain for Civic Life, Katy Wheat, lead a number of vocational discernment discussions on a group and an individual basis, helping students to discern vocation in light of their faith.

F.     Interfaith Dialogue

The UMSA and The UM Chaplaincy were 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.  The campus ministry maintains a strong connection with the Interfaith Council and a number of students serve in leadership of the Council.

G.    Conference Participants

Students also participated in a number of connectional ministries.  A number of our students continued leadership in various United Methodist student groups, including UMSM, RMN, and MoSAIC. One student, Melanie Ollett (’12), was appointed to serve as lay delegate at-large to the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference. One of our alumni, Kate von Richthofen (’05) also served as an at-large delegate to Conference through the campus ministry board.

H.    Counseling

As United Methodist chaplain, I have offered counseling services to the university and have counseled a number of students from within and without the community.  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.

In the spring of 2012, I reprised a support group for graduating seniors.  Due to the smaller size of the senior class and a number of scheduling difficulties, it only met a couple of times.  It may be reprised as a post-graduate support group over the summer.  Average attendance: 2-3.

I.      Discussions & Panels

  • Discussion: Theology of Inclusiveness, September 13, 2011 (5)
  • Interfaith Eco Panel, March 6, 2012 (25)
  • Film & Discussion: Viewing of the documentary “Tapped,” March 21, 2012 (35)
  • Hospitality and Worship Workshop, January 22, 2012 (17)
  • I participated in a discussion sponsored by Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship on human trafficking. January 31, 2011 (25)

J.      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.  I have continued to serve as instructor of New Testament for Wesley Seminary’s Course of Study.

 

V.    FAITHFUL SERVICE

Social justice and service, those Wesleyan ministries of “mercy”, remain very close to the heart of our community.  For many, our commitment to social justice is a key entry point into the community as they are attracted to our commitment to engage with the world and seek to know more about what it is that motivates us to do so.  The young adults in our community are intensely passionate about an active faith and a desire to transform the world.  Our commitment to justice and service is one of the cornerstones of our community identity and of our identity on the broader AU campus.

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 2011-2012 included LGBT inclusion, homelessness, animal rights, and environmental stewardship.  For each topic 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 2011-2012 were Ethan Goss (’13), Caroline Marsh (’14), and Andreas Wiede (’15).

C.    Social Justice Committee

Students met weekly to discuss issues of social justice and our community response thereto. Average attendance: 8.

D.    Service Projects and Events

  • In November 2011, students participated in a gleaning project with the youth from Metropolitan Memorial UMC. (4)
  • In October 2011, students participated in the Conference’s “Change the World” days of service cleaning up the Potomac watershed by clearing trash from neighboring Glover Archbold Park (10)
  • November 2011, students placed our memorial vigil to the fallen soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on the quad. (12)
  • In April 2012, students participated in a park cleanup as part of our Other Six Days program. (7)
  • In April 2011, students formed a team and participated in the Relay for Life to raise money for cancer research. (7)
  • In April 2011, students participated in the reading of names of victims of the Holocaust organized by the Jewish Student Association. (6)

E.     Alternative Spring Break

In 2012, for our eighth time, we took a group of 10 to Cherokee, North Carolina for a week of service, reflection, and learning.  As before, we were guests of the Cherokee United Methodist Church.

F.     Participation with other Groups (Points of Contact)

  • The UMSA participated in a number of events with other groups, including AU Hillel, AU Interfaith Council, AU Chi Alpha, the GLBTA Resource Center, and a number of social justice groups on campus.

VI.   FAITH SHARING

The campus ministry community is committed to making its presence on the university campus known and making its mission clear to all.  In the previous year, we adopted a revised mission statement: “Love God. Serve Others. Welcome All.” This mission statements summarizes well the key focuses of the community: faithful commitment to God, service and justice toward others, and a community of radical hospitality for everyone.  Understanding our mission guides the ways in which the community seeks to be known and seeks to have the gospel message known on the AU campus.

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/worship/sermons.

Students can also use the website to update their directory information, sign up for the Weekly E-pistle, indicate interest in various leadership positions, and participate in community polls.

We have made arrangements through the General Council on Finance and Administration approved Vanco Services to receive online donations through the website.

B.     Methodist Heritage Week

September 12-19, 2011, we reprised our week-long program of events and discussions about United Methodism.  Discussions included a discussion on Methodist history, and other learning opportunities.

1.     Feed the Quad

We sponsored our annual free picnic and cookout for the AU Campus on September 15, 2011.  Approximately 300 people are served at these events, receiving AU UMC cups with our web address.  For the sixth 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 “Catholic Spirit”.  A discussion followed.  (10)

3.     Game Day/T-Shirt Tie-Dye

On successive days, the UM community tented on the quad offering hospitality, games, crafts and other information about the community. (50).  Students also made tie-dyed t-shirts on the quad using fabric markers to add their own designs. (80)

C.    Orientation

We had a regular presence at summer orientation 2011 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 as with previous years, 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.     Christmas Caroling

Students went from University building to building caroling and singing songs of the season. (12)

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 website 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. Our hospitality coordinators Sarah Ryan (’14) and Monica Nehls (’15), helped to organize a gift bag distribution to new students during the beginning weeks of school and during finals.

G.    Study Breaks

  • Partnering with the Hillel Foundation and the University Chaplain’s office, the United Methodist Chaplaincy helped to establish a study lounge in the chapel for students to use during finals.  It was stocked with snacks and other refreshments.  (50+)
  • Provision of free chocolate during finals to stressed out students (see “Spiritual Therapy Through Chocolate” above).

H.    Promotion and Marketing

  • We have continued with the dynamic marketing campaign utilizing minimalist ads and humorous messages from 2008-2009 that continue to be extremely successful in branding the community, raising the profile of the ministry, and in reaching out to students.
  • Placement of ads in electronic newsletters, chalking on quad, and flyers on university shuttle buses.
  • The campus ministry maintains a presence on Facebook and other online media and is developing a following on Twitter, used primarily to keep followers up to date with programming and events.

I.      Participation in Interfaith Events

  • Participation in Interfaith Month and Interfaith Fortnight with open services designed to be accessible to visitors.
  • I served as one of the advisors to the Kay Interfaith Council and regularly participated its programs.

 

VII. LEADERSHIP & MENTORSHIP

All of the above ministries contribute to leadership development: training leaders in worship, service, justice, devotion, and evangelism.  However, there are ministry areas specifically devoted to leadership development per se.

A.    Adopt-a-Freshman

For the past four years, our campus ministry has had a program pairing incoming freshmen with an upperclassman who shares interests and background.  These connections help to provide a sense of community and to make the freshman transitions to college life easier.

B.     Vocational Discernment

I regularly met with students to discuss vocational discernment and to help them reflect on future plans.  In the coming year, we hope to expand this to pairing students with members of the community at large who are already at work in the students’ chosen fields and who can give particular mentorship, especially as their vocations relate to their faith.

We have begun to take steps toward the creation of a Center for Religion and Civic Life at AU.  The first stage, which was implemented in the fall of 2011, involves vocational mentoring and social justice engagement.  Katy Wheat, a third year seminarian from Wesley Theological Seminary served as Associate Chaplain for Civic Life and was instrumental in directing the mentoring and engagement programs. (See www.aumethodists.org/crcl for more information).

VIII.         ADMINISTRATIVE

A.    Administrative Intern

With the permission of the Board and with the help of some funding from Foundry United Methodist Church, the Chaplaincy offered an administrative internship to a student during the Spring 2012 semester. The administrative intern performed administrative and office support activities for the campus ministry, including fielding telephone calls, word processing, basic bookkeeping, data entry, filing, and preparing mailings. In February 2012, Ms. Angela Budzinski began work as the administrative intern freeing me up to focus on other aspects of the ministry and to better exercise self-care.

IX.   GOALS AND PLANS FOR THE COMING YEAR

Hoping to build upon the accomplishments of the past year, as a community we have identified a number of goals for the year ahead.

A.    Increase Connectional Engagement

In 2012-2013, we hope to build upon the good work we have done with Metropolitan Memorial UMC and build strong relationships with other local congregations as well as with other connectional ministries of the Church: UMCOR, GBCS, BWC Young Adult Council, etc.

B.     Continue to Increase Service Opportunities

Last year we determined that we needed more “hands on” opportunities for service beyond our customary social justice witness.  Student leadership remains committed to increasing the number of service opportunities available to the congregation.

C.    Develop a Culture of Engagement in Faith

We hope to continue to assist American University in exploring the intersections of faith and public life.  The pilot programs for the creation of a Center for Religion and Civil Life as a joint venture of the UMC and AU are already underway.  In 2012-2013, we hope to continue the vocational mentoring and engagement pieces and add to it an undergraduate certificate in Religion and Civic Life.

D.    Develop Sermon Series Designed to Appeal to Seekers and Skeptics

Following up on the examples provided by the fall sermon series of the last three years, we plan to have a number of sermon series in 2012-2013 that will attract non-religious or nominally religious students to come to our fellowship.

E.     Add More Arts to Worship

Students have expressed a desire to add more arts to worship, including visuals and drama as an effort to maintain passion and energy in worship and engage the tradition in exciting new ways.

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] This sermon was preached by Bishop John Schol.