The first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Vespers was held for Proximity Vespers on Friday, April 9. In celebration of AAPI Heritage Month, the theme of the vespers was "Rise Together." Photo credit: Lloyd Martinez
At the start of 2020, the Andrews University Office of Campus Ministries (CM) team began a design thinking process to prayerfully assess faith engagement in higher education. They looked at University surveys from various parts of the campus community and listened to feedback from seasoned undergraduate and graduate student leaders. They also examined a three-year study by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock presented in the book, “Faith for Exiles.”
It became clear to the CM team that a generational shift was already underway and that existing approaches would become increasingly less effective in strengthening students’ spiritual vitality. In fact, students continuously pointed to a key influencer in their spiritual life—engaging their faith through service in all the ways that one can serve others. The CM team, along with key University leaders, began the work of revamping the University’s spiritual master plan to reflect a methodology that responds to current students’ needs and the mission of Andrews University.
“Our commitment to be a missional community is central to our institutional identity,” says José Bourget, University chaplain. “It is a testament to God’s wisdom when the research says to move more boldly into one of Adventist education’s guiding principles: ‘It [true education] prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come’” (“Education” 13).
As a result, to represent the strategic shift to fully embrace the concept of “World Changers Made Here,” the Office of Campus Ministries name was retired in July 2020 and a renewed vision of the University’s namesake was launched: Center for Faith Engagement (CFE). CFE is committed to inspiring students to be resilient disciples of God and—teaming with faculty, staff and students—to develop graduates who are fully devoted to God and who see life’s work as a holy calling with eternal impact.
In addition to Bourget, the CFE executive team includes Danielle Pilgrim, associate chaplain; Prescott Khair, the newest associate chaplain and member of the pastoral staff at Pioneer Memorial Church; and Teela Ruehle, director of Student Missions & Service Projects.
The CFE team plans various large and small gatherings, forums on contemporary issues, small groups, crisis intervention, pastoral care, service projects and hands-on leadership development. They also support various projects pitched by students and student clubs. Just before the pandemic, CFE began developing a digital discipleship strategy that included a student’s idea for a University Faith app where students can find all campus faith engagement opportunities, explore meaningful content and share prayer requests. CFE coordinates student missions; Change Day, a day of service to the community; and ongoing change projects, as well.
CFE often works with other campus entities to holistically approach a variety of topics. For instance, on the 2021 5th Annual National Day of Racial Healing, CFE partnered with the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center to provide a space for open dialogue via story circle discussions. CFE has also provided time and facilitated conversations, with the Center for Teaching & Learning, for faculty to network and dialogue at “Tea and Learn,” offering resources and support, with the International Center for Trauma Education & Care, for victims of sexual abuse through an on-campus support group. In preparation for next school year, CFE is coordinating with student clubs, academic departments and churches for increasing community engagement in Benton Harbor and plans for student-led and -run evangelistic meetings with Harbor of Hope Church in spring 2022.
“The CFE team is already developing future plans and strategies toward wholeheartedly teaming together, also referred to as ‘faith integration,’” says Bourget. “Practically speaking, this means the future of CFE is closer to an innovation lab for engaging faith where we as a University community are all ‘spurring one another on toward love and good deeds’” (Heb. 10:24).
Compiled by Gillian Panigot, Communication manager & FOCUS editor