Writing a reflection about my experience as a St. Augustine’s campus ministry student is a project I find exciting but also daunting, because there is so much to say that I have no idea where to begin. I find myself wanting to start, ironically enough, with the beginning of it though, back when I came to St. Augustine’s for the first time on a Sunday for worship. Before that Sunday came, I had been to St. A’s once before for a joint Lutheran/Episcopal welcome night my very first week of school, and had met the new Lutheran campus minister at the time, Pastor Dana Lockhart. He let me know that there would be a service held that weekend for students in the Chapel, and invited me to come out for it. So that Sunday, being raised Lutheran and wanting to stay close to my roots, I got ready and then arrived right in time for the service to begin.
When I got to the Chapel, I noticed I was the first one to arrive besides Pr. Dana, and so together we waited for a few minutes before walking into the Chapel to begin worship. Once it became apparent that I was the only person present for this service, Pr. Dana looked at me, and said, “Well Grace, I can give you two options. I can continue on with worship, or we can forgo the service, go and eat, and then pick up with one next week when more students will likely be here”. I thought about it for a second, and told him, “Well, I came for a service, so let’s go ahead and have a service.” Pastor Dana then got the biggest smile on his face, and said “Okay” and went on to preside over one of the most special and memorable services that I have been to.
Thinking back on what makes that service stand out so much in my mind, I realize that it has little to do with my own part in the experience. Rather what made that service so unique was Pastor’s own spirit of enthusiasm to continue on with worship, not in spite of there being just one student present but rather because there was a student present. And that is the spirit I have loved about St. A’s from the beginning up until now: the spirit of enthusiasm to reach out to students as individuals, and make them feel special and welcomed no matter what place they are at religiously, spiritually, or otherwise in life. That exact spirit is what allows students to come to St. A’s Chapel and be a part of a group where they feel noticed and able to be themselves.
That same spirit I feel has been present throughout my three years with St. A’s campus ministry, and throughout all the different changes we have undergone as a group. I have benefited so much from being able to come to St. A’s Chapel and feel welcomed and listened to as I am, and I have grown both spiritually and intellectually as a result of it. I am very thankful to St. A’s for giving me that these past several years, and it has helped me to understand how I can go about letting other people I interact with in life to feel accepted and welcomed as they are. I believe that St. A’s campus ministry carries on the mission of Jesus very truly in this way, and brings it to a college campus setting where so many students are in need of feeling accepted for who they are as well as invited to be a part of something bigger than themselves. And for those reasons of enthusiasm, acceptance, and mission, I feel very honored to be a part of St. Augustine’s Chapel.