Hope. It’s a popular theme in Advent sermon series. I recently heard Barbara Brown Taylor speak on hope in a really challenging way, but in a way that reflects what is so often happening in the CRC campus ministries that Resonate Global Mission supports.
Much of the hope we feel is a type that Taylor refers to as anticipatory hope. “In its most common form, it's the deeply human wish to escape what is right in front of us and fix our gaze, instead, on a more promising future….. We hope for desired outcomes. We want God to come through with some detectable response to our hope so that our faith remains credible both to us and to those who may be overhearing us. That kind of hope can fail for all kinds of reasons, many of them completely unavoidable.”
Taylor asks us to consider “participatory” hope. A hope that cultivates practices for future outcomes—some of which we may not even get to see or experience in our lifetime. Practices that we cannot be sure will have our desired outcomes. Practices that allow us to participate in the flourishing of others and creation now and into the future.
Such participatory hope lives in our campus ministries as they provide spiritual care and so much more. COVID-19 restrictions make providing such care a challenge, but campus ministers are creative!
Sara DeMoor, campus minister at Guelph University, recently reported in a newsletter that “my children and I had a blast driving around Guelph and beyond delivering care packages to 40 of you! What a joy it was to see some of you in person, without Zoom mediating :) I hope that the contents of the baskets remind you that you belong in this Christian community, even when we cannot meet for all of our in-person gatherings.”
Being fully integrated in the life and flourishing of universities is a goal for campus ministers—and some opportunities to grow and strengthen relationships have arisen that benefit the ministries now and “hopefully” for the future.
At Brock University, Zack DeBruyn is excited to recently have been named the Chair of the Faith and Life Department. “This means that I get to engage with directors of various departments at Brock that are a part of the Student Life team,” he said. “This has legitimized the work of the ministry and given me the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with influential university leaders.”
Several campus ministries have shared how technology has created some new opportunities for increased engagement with local churches. At Fanshawe College, Helena Allan has been able to invite young adults from area churches to join in ministry events—even if they are not Fanshawe students. At Queens University, the leadership team led by Steve Kooy is conducting research on young adults, in particular Gen Z, with the assistance of a Resonate grant. Using this data, the team is hoping to design training modules for local church leaders that will equip them to minister to young adults.
In some cases, online gatherings have increased the reach of campus ministry providing what may continue to be a part of their future ministry work. Michael Fallon at McMaster University and the team at York University have been able to bring in speakers to their weekly gatherings from farther afield, providing more diverse learning experiences for students. University of Toronto is seeing attendees at weekly Wine Before Breakfast and Graduate Fellowship gatherings from as far away as British Columbia, Ottawa, New Brunswick, Alberta, and Michigan.
Campus ministries are engaged in participatory hope. They’ve always done their work with cohorts that come for a limited time and then leave. They have hope that their short time with students is part of an ongoing cultivation of flourishing now and into the future. Like many ministries right now, they have no idea if their hopes for this year, or even for this week, will come to fruition. Still, they continue to practice participatory hope in order to cultivate hope for the students, staff and faculty who are telling them of their pain, stress, grief and sense of loss in a time of pandemic restrictions.
Margaret Griffioen-Drenth is Resonate Global Mission’s Campus Ministry Administrative Coordinator. You can learn more about Campus Ministry here.