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The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Cal Lutheran’s Campus Ministry creates interfaith space for students

Abbey Saucedo
Students join University Pastor Reverend Scott Adams at the Campus Ministry.

As the semester comes to an end, California Lutheran University’s Campus Ministry is providing an interfaith space for students to engage in. 

University Pastor Reverend Scott Adams said Campus Ministry hopes to create a beloved community for Cal Lutheran.

“Each and every person, each and every student, faculty, staff and administrator who is here with their various faith backgrounds and traditions, need to feel a sense of belonging,” Adams said.

Reverend Colleen Windham-Hughes, associate vice president for Mission & Identity, said Cal Lutheran’s interfaith approach to campus ministry began in 2012, after receiving funding to take part in an interfaith leadership institute.

Windham-Hughes said the organization assists college campuses with the development of interfaith ministry programming that is specifically suited for each campus, and helps meet the needs of their own unique campus community.

Upon returning from the Interfaith Leadership Summit, Windham-Hughes said, Cal Lutheran’s constitution was amended to include the Interfaith Allies. The Interfaith Allies, she said, are a group of students from different faith backgrounds raising awareness to build an interfaith community on campus. 

Campus Ministry, Windham-Hughes said, is currently experiencing a ‘building back’ phase that is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that student interest in Campus Ministry has been growing since the return to campus.

As the holiday season approaches, Adams said it is important to have a community where religious traditions and practices can be shared and celebrated in a safe and accepting environment that is centered around intentionality.

One community on campus is Cal Lutheran’s Lord of Life ministry group, co-presided by sophomore Abby Blom. Blom said the club offers a variety of different activities throughout the year that range from dinner-church scripture reading to service projects.

“It’s a community for students to come and be themselves and be fully accepted,” Blom said. “To learn about God’s love and grace and what that all means.”

Blom said the university’s interpretation of Lutheran values is inherently community-based given the campus environment. She said the pursuit is to not only coexist with those of a different faith, but also to love, share and truly understand others whose faith practices differ from one’s own.

“In a religious setting, oftentimes people are more tapped into knowing and loving others and choosing to see them as a person, and not focusing on so much of the outside noise that society chooses to put on us,” Blom said. “There is a certain level of respect and love that is highlighted when you step into the chapel.”

Adams said the holiday season can become so difficult because it is a season of waiting. He said whether it is a religious focus on waiting, a seasonal focus on waiting or an emotional focus on waiting, the uncertainty and stillness can weigh heavy on the mind.

“The time between winter and spring, I call it ‘the meantime’ for a reason, because oftentimes, it’s mean-time, it’s really mean,” Adams said. “But I also think that it calls us back to being human, because winter reflects the human condition that there has to be death in order for there to be life.”

Regardless of faith practice, Windham-Hughes said, the holidays offer not only different challenges, but also a unique perspective that brings us closer to some of the most primitive aspects of what makes us human.

“Part of the reason there are so many different cultural and religious observances at this time of year, is because people are paying attention to the Earth,” Windham Hughes said. “The days are getting shorter, the temperatures are lower, plants go into a temporary hibernation or what looks like death to us, and a lot of these cultural and religious services are meant to be companions to us in the changing season of the year.”

Campus Ministry, Adams said, can help students and faculty alike remain present in these moments of uncertainty, anticipation and stress by connecting them with a community that supports them.

“Fundamentally, interfaith work is about dialogue and cooperation,” Adams said. “Having conversation, being collaborative and cooperating to make sure that not only are we just talking about what it means to build relationship, but also doing things that would align with what we’re talking about.”

The greatest advantage of interfaith ministry, Adams said, is that it gives others the chance to hear the stories of individuals who come from different faith traditions and to engage in conversations in the pursuit of learning more, and Adams said it is not necessary to be expertly, or even well versed, in different faith traditions. 

“The best way to learn about it is to really go into the communities, immerse yourself in the space and have contact with the people who are there, and just learn, break bread together and laugh,” Adams said. 

Senior Chapel Production Assistant and Common Ground intern Gabriel Wounded Head is an active member of Campus Ministry. 

Common Ground is an interfaith, student-led candlelight service that meets weekly in the Samuelson Chapel. 

Wounded Head said Cal Lutheran Campus Ministry has personally helped him feel supported as a student.

“Anytime, in a very dramatic sense, when I don’t think there’s anything out there for me, it just finds its way back into my life,” Wounded Head said. “I think campus ministry, especially at CLU, is more about just celebrating each other and reaching out to our neighbor.”

Wounded Head said the commitment to ministry is fulfilling, because it means something to see a community thrive, regardless of how big or small it may be.

“Selfishly, the more smiles I see, the more I’m gonna smile,” Wounded Head said.

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