Annual Report to the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry, July 2012-June 2013
I. GOALS FOR THE 2012-2013 ACADEMIC YEAR
This was our eleventh 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. We succeeded on some of these goals and did not meet expectations on others.
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 2012-2013 Academic Year, our Sunday attendance started somewhat below recent expectations and remained that way throughout the year. We ended the year with an average of 40, an 11.2% decrease from 2011-2012 and the lowest average attendance in four years. In addition, our total numbers for the year were below expectation for both the Sunday services (1,315) and the healing service (566) representing -11.2% and -11.6% decreases respectively over the previous year.
We struggled to figure out the source of the lower attendance this year. For reasons we have not been able to identify, we were not as successful in engaging the freshman class this year and the initial surge we usually get in August and September never materialized. Since that surge usually defines the levels of engagement for the year, starting off with lower numbers off the bat meant lower attendance throughout the year as the masses usually relied on to replace the previous year’s graduates never quite materialized in the same way. Overall, our trend is still up; with this year’s numbers still reflecting a 22.3% increase over the last four-year period and a 50.5% increase overall over the course of the full-time ministry.
Attendance at Lenten and Holy Week events was solid, with record attendance in some cases (indicated throughout this report by an asterisk (*)). Attendance for Lenten and Holy Week events for the 2012-2013 AY: Ash Wednesday (33); Palm Sunday (44); Maundy Thursday (27); Good Friday (44*); Easter Vigil (24); Easter Sunrise (27); and Easter Sunday worship (86*). 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 fourth year in a row that our Easter attendance has topped 80 in worship.
Considering that not every member of the community attends every week, raw worship attendance numbers are not always the most accurate reflector of the total size of the worshiping community. I would estimate that while our average worship attendance is 40, 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 “9 Lies You Hear in Church” based on the book 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday: …And Why the Truth Is So Much Better by Steve McVey. The topics included: Everything Is Fine; If You Pray Hard Enough, God Will Answer; God Never Gives You More than You Can Bear; Christians Should Always Be Happy; Our Faith Gets Us to God; The Bible Teaches Us How to Live; Sacred Is the Opposite of Secular; It’s All Part of God’s Plan; and Salvation is About Getting into Heaven. Attendance was reasonably high (average 41/week) throughout this series.
In the spring semester, I offered a Lenten sermon series In the Wilderness dealing with how we encounter God in the wilderness places of our lives. Among the topics were The Wilderness of Want, The Wilderness of Despair, The Wilderness of Tragedy, The Wilderness of Loneliness, The Wilderness of Betrayal (Palm/Passion Sunday), and Entering the Promised Land (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 2012-2013 the average attendance was 18, a 19% decrease from 2011-2012 but still among the highest levels we have attained. The healing service continues to represent real growth possibilities, as its appeal becomes more widely known. We had much higher student involvement in terms of preaching at the healing service this year.
C. Other/Special Services
- On November 5, 2012, members of the community organized an ecumenical prayer service on the eve of the election to pray for unity, discernment, and peacemaking in a fractious political climate. Attendance: 25.
- In November 2012, 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.
- I participated in a vigil for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing held on April 16, 2013 and organized by the Office of the University Chaplain. (250)
- We offered a baccalaureate service for the ninth year in a row. We were again able to have our event listed in the university’s official commencement publication. Attendance: 105.
III. FELLOWSHIP & COMMUNITY
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 15, representing well over a third (37.5%) 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/Wednesdays 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 thirteen (13) dinners this academic year. Average attendance, 41. The fellowship dinners have also provided an important way of connecting with the local congregations.
2. Tuesdays in the Tavern
An informal gathering weekly for lunch in the Tavern. Students drop by between 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. During the spring semester, this program was moved to Wednesdays. Average attendance: 8.
3. Free Food Fridays
Free pizza lunch offered by Metropolitan Memorial UMC from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in the AU Lounge. (In the fall semester, because of scheduling, this event was Monday Munchies at Metro). Average attendance: 7.
C. Welcome Week
We began the 2012-2013 Academic Year with an active welcome week program consisting of a game night and ice cream social (co-sponsored with Chi Alpha) (45), participating in distributing cupcakes at a Kay event (400), a “Protestant Pancake Night” co-sponsored with Chi Alpha (40), a movie night (The Hunger Games, 37), s’mores (120), and a walking tour of the monuments (10). Tied into this promotion were events during September such as, an interfaith beach party (50), 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 Hunger Games, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Artist, Brave, Elf, Looper, Argo, and Skyfall. 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: 29.
E. Fall and Spring Retreats
Our fall retreat was held on the weekend of September 15-16 at the Shenandoah cabin of University Chaplain Joe Eldridge. Twenty-six (26) students attended, although only a small number of freshmen attended. In the spring of 2013, 13 students attended a leadership and visioning retreat at West River Camp in conjunction with students from the University of Maryland.
Nine (9) students participated in a fall outing to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, MD.
Another nine (9) students participated in our United Methodist Men’s group outing to Capitol Hill to tour the Library of Congress and the Capitol.
G. Murder Mystery Party
A long-time community tradition, the party is organized by students and was held at Metropolitan Memorial UMC. This year, the party took place in the spring semester in April. Attendance: 30.
H. Mario Kart Tournament
As part of the University’s AU After Dark program, our community set up a MarioKart Tournament on Friday, March 22, 2013. Held in the University Club, students were treated to popcorn machines, cotton candy, snacks, and refreshments while competing in a bracketed tournament to win a vintage Nintendo64 gaming system. The event was very well attended and was appreciated by all who participated. Attendance: 75.
I. Other Fellowship Opportunities
- Welcome Week programming, August 19-25, 2012
- Fellowship Dinner following Worship provided by MMUMC, September 2, 2012 (35)
- Fellowship Dinner following Worship provided by MMUMC, September 23, 2012 (45)
- Outing to Dinner at Steak-n-Egg following the Healing Service, October 11, 2012 (10)
- Fall Break Lord of the Rings Movie Marathon Lock-In, October 12, 2012 (25)
- Fellowship Dinner following Homecoming Service, October 21, 2012 (48)
- Outing to see “Wreck it Ralph”, November 2, 2012 (10)
- Fellowship Dinner following Worship provided by MMUMC, November 11, 2013 (35)
- Thanksgiving Dinner, provided by our Lutheran Chaplain (40)
- Fellowship Dinner provided by MMUMC, December 9, 2012 (45)
- Christmas Cookie Baking Party, December 7, 2012 (10)
- UMSA Christmas Dinner at UM Chaplain’s house, December 8, 2012 (17)
- “Hypothetical” Christmas Party, December 11, 2012 (37)
- Fellowship dinner following worship provided by MMUMC, January 27, 2013 (40)
- Superbowl Party following worship, February 3, 2013 (18)
- Fellowship dinner following worship provided by MMUMC, February 17, 2013. (35)
- “Methodist Mardi Gras” Pancake Dinner at chaplain’s residence, February 12, 2013 (17)
- Easter Dinner, prepared by students, March 31, 2013 (67*)
- Fellowship Dinner following worship provided by MMUMC, April 14, 213 (40)
- Eat at Joe’s, April 21, 2013 (26)
- Fellowship and Ice-Cream Bar, April 28, 2013 (28)
- Senior Farewell Cookout, May 5, 2013 (45)
- Senior dinner: I took the graduating seniors to dinner at Lebanese Taverna, May 6, 2013, (17)
- Outing to see a Nationals Game, May 9, 2013 (10)
IV. DEVOTION & STUDY
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. Practical Christianity
Due to scheduling difficulties and the trouble in finding leadership for it, we were not able to reprise this program this year. We expect to reestablish this program in the fall 2013 semester.
B. Bible Studies
In the fall semester, pastoral intern Brian Cook led a weekly Bible study on the Gospels. Average attendance: 4.
2. The Creation
In October 2012, I participated in a panel discussion through the College of Arts and Sciences on the understandings of the Creation narrative in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. (25) The other participants (Rabbi Leila Berner, Dr. Martyn Oliver) and I are looking to make this a semi-annual event.
3. Summer Bible Study
In the summer of 2013, 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 2013): 8.
4. Epistles of Paul
David Hosey, Caleb Frazier, and Brian Cook, our pastoral interns, led a Bible study the Epistles of Paul. Average attendance: 5.
C. Vocational Discernment
Pastoral Interns David Hosey and Caleb Frazier lead a number of discernment discussions on a group and an individual basis, helping students to discern vocation in light of their faith.
D. United Methodist Women/United Methodist Men
Our community is blessed with two student-led groups that seek to provide a safe space for reflection and fellowship.
Our United Methodist Women’s group meets weekly and has sponsored a variety of programming for all female-identifying students who wish to attend, including visits from the Student Health Center and an officer from Public Safety teaching about self-defense. The UMW meets weekly and averages 8-10 people a week.
The United Methodist Men’s group meets somewhat irregularly, but will have occasional gatherings for brunch at the home of one of the members. The UMM has also planned a number of outings including trips to the movies and a tour of the Library of Congress and the Capitol. Average attendance: 6.
E. 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.
F. 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, Carly Jones (’13), was appointed to serve as lay delegate at-large to the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference.
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 2013, I reprised a support group for graduating seniors. We met on a regular basis beginning mid-semester through the end of the semester. Average attendance: 8.
H. Discussions & Panels
- Discussion: What Makes AU Methodist, September 15, 2012 (5)
- Stereotypes of the Native American (Part of Native American Heritage Month) (10)
I. 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. SERVICE AND JUSTICE
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 2012-2013 included LGBT inclusion, malaria prevention, and environmental stewardship among others. 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 Andreas Wiede (’15) and Lindsay Wylie (’16).
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
- November 2012, students placed our memorial vigil to the fallen soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on the quad. (12)
- In November 2012, students put together a presentation on anti-malaria efforts in Africa with an invited speaker from “Nets for Life”. (10)
- In conjunction with the above, in November 2012, students sold free-trade chocolate as a fundraiser for malaria nets and were able to provide $400 (amounting to 40 nets) to Nets for Life.
- On November 27, 2012, students put together a presentation on “Social Justice in Harry Potter and the Arab Spring”, reflecting on themes present in fiction and in the events of the Arab Spring. (16)
- Over the weekend of February 16-17, students arranged and participated in a mission trip to New Jersey to clean up Hurricane Sandy damaged homes. (8)
- In April 2013, students participated in invasive species removal at Dumbarton Oaks park as part of our Other Six Days program. (7)
- In April 2013, students formed a team and participated in the Relay for Life to raise money for cancer research. (8)
- In April 2013, students participated in the reading of names of victims of the Holocaust organized by the Jewish Student Association. (10)
E. Alternative Spring Break
In 2013, for our ninth time, we took a group of 11 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. EVANGELISM & OUTREACH
The campus ministry community is committed to making its presence on the university campus known and making its mission clear to all. Our mission statement is simply: “Love God. Serve Others. Welcome All.” This mission statement 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.
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 .
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 10-17, 2012, 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 14, 2012. Approximately 300 people were served, receiving AU UMC cups with our web address.
2. Demonstration of Wesley’s Preaching
Our chaplain dressed up as John Wesley and delivered the sermon “Catholic Spirit”. A discussion followed. (8)
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. (100*)
We had a regular presence at summer orientation 2012 and added about 15 names and e-mail addresses to our mailing list. This is a drastically lower number than usual, which is normally around 40. The lower numbers may be the result of happenstance (scheduling of conflicting events during the Orientation sessions), but it seems reasonable to conclude that the lower number of students signed up correlates in some way to the lower numbers of freshmen involved at the beginning of the year.
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 the winter.
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.
- Formation of Hospitality Committee—a group of students who reflect on issues of hospitality and how our community can improve. Our hospitality coordinators helped to organize a gift bag distribution to new students during the beginning weeks of school and during finals.
- 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).
- On February 14, 2013, Chaplaincy paid for everyone’s coffee for an hour at the Davenport Coffee Lounge on campus
- 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.
- 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.
G. Study Breaks
H. Promotion and Marketing
I. Participation in Interfaith Events
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.
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. A discernment study, led by two of our pastoral interns, was also helpful in this endeavor.
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. (See www.aumethodists.org/crcl for more information). Those engagement programs continued in the fall 2012 with a special Welcome Week program in Religion and Social Justice under the direction of intern Ethan Goss. This program will continue in the fall 2013 semester.
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 the fall 2012 semester, Ms. Angela Budzinski continued to work as the administrative intern freeing me up to focus on other aspects of the ministry and to better exercise self-care. With Angela studying abroad in spring 2013, those duties were taken up by Carly Jones.
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
Our “hands on” service projects were very popular this year and we look to expand opportunities for such missional engagement.
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 as is the undergraduate certificate in Religion and Civic Life. In 2013-2014, we hope to continue the vocational mentoring and engagement pieces and begin the development of the funding infrastructure for a Center.
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 2013-2014 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 have lacked follow through in this aspect of our community life and we hope to be able to make some progress on implementing this goal.
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.
Mark A. Schaefer
United Methodist Campus Minister
 The sermon for this topic is our website’s most visited page.