Dear friends and supporters of Lutheran Campus Ministry at Iowa State,
|University Lutheran Center, Ames, IA, May 2008.|
It’s a beautiful, quiet winter day at University Lutheran Center. My dog, Jack, is wandering around the lounge, wondering where all his beloved students have gone. I’ve parked myself in a comfy chair next to the fireplace, loaded up the fire with enough wood to last the next hour or so, filled my coffee mug and told myself, “You’re not moving until you get this letter written.” So, here goes.
I’ve been trying to write this to you for almost three months. It’s hard to find the proper tone for the report I have to give you. It’s been a great fall semester here at University Lutheran Center. Deep friendships have been forged here this fall, and I’ve been privileged to watch and encourage many of our students as they grow in faith and love in our community. Overall worship attendance has been slightly down, but the student community has become more strongly bound together in prayer and service. As always, much pizza has been eaten, many joys and sorrows have been shared, and many, many, many questions have been raised and discussed. The time I’ve spent in this chair by the fire with our students, talking about life and faith and God’s mission in the world, has been some of the most rewarding ministry experience I’ve had to date, and I’m looking forward to many more years of this kind of experience here in Ames.
So much for the good news. Now for what can only be described as challenging news.
Most of you know these are anxious days in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Financial support within the ELCA has been on a steady downward path since 1987, and the economic circumstances of the past two years have removed the last safety nets allowing us to ignore this fact. Churches, synods and the Churchwide Office are all cutting staff and programs. ELCA Campus Ministry staff has gone through two rounds of layoffs, until only Campus Ministry Director (and former LCM-ISU staff member) Sue Rothmeyer remains. On the one hand, this is hard, hard news, especially for those campus ministry staffers who’ve been forced to leave calls they loved due to circumstances beyond their control. On the other hand, campus ministry financial support from synods and the churchwide organization have held firm, which shows that even in these troubling days our denomination understands the contribution strong campus ministries provide, both to our students and to the church at large. Unfortunately, the next domino to fall will be financial support, and it is our responsibility as local campus ministry staff to prepare for that possibility. We no longer have the luxury of assuming grant funds from Churchwide and synods will provide the bulk of our operating expenses, and for most of us, this means changes in how we do what we do – and who we look to for prayerful financial support as well.
Locally we will be making changes to increase the width and depth of our connections with ELCA congregations in all three Iowa synods. The Lutheran Campus Ministry Sunday worship service will be moving to 6PM to allow LCM worship teams, including myself as supply preacher, to go out to congregations across the state. It’s one thing to hear about our incredible student community – it’s another thing entirely to see them in person and realize what a gift they are to the church right now. I’m looking forward to learning more about our congregations and the history they have with campus ministry at all three sites in Iowa, and I hope you will consider inviting us to your own congregations in the very near future.
That’s just one of several changes in the works for LCM-ISU. Here are some more to which you can contribute directly:
1. Our mailing list has been edited and cleaned up over the past year, which was needed, but we are woefully out-of-touch with many of our alumni, considering the history and size of this campus ministry over the years. If you know of alumni who should be on our list, but aren’t, please send that information to Cheryl Uhlmeyer at the ULC office at your convenience.
2. You can serve as an ambassador for campus ministry in your own congregation – the fact that you’re on our list says that you understand the blessing that campus ministry can be to all people in academic settings like Ames. Most congregations will be having their annual meetings in January – would you be willing to suggest a line item of support for Lutheran Campus Ministry? How about suggesting Lenten offerings go to LCM? Where we can’t make direct connections, our friends and alumni can – and we will need you to do so to ensure a strong future for campus ministry at Iowa State.
3. You can make connections with prospective students and their families within your congregation. If you know a student will be visiting Iowa State this spring, tell them about University Lutheran Center and suggest they stop by for a visit while they’re here. Tell them we are on Facebook and Twitter, even if you’re not – they’ll know how to find us even if you don’t. Most of our students wind up here because of a contact made within their home congregation – don’t let the opportunity slip away!
4. As always, your direct financial support is crucial for Lutheran Campus Ministry, and will become even more crucial in years to come. Any gift, no matter the size or ministry to which it is directed, accomplishes much. Thank you for what you’ve given this year – if you can, please include us in your stewardship plans for 2011 as well.
It remains a great privilege for me to serve as your campus pastor at Iowa State. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my own experience with campus ministry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the 1990s, and I know many of you count your time in campus ministry as a highlight of your college experience. We need you to help us spread the news about campus ministry, to ensure that LCM-ISU remains a vital part of the student community at Iowa State. Christmas blessings to you all, and may the light of Christ shine through you as we journey toward Epiphany and the revealing of our Lord Jesus in splendor and glory.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Scott Alan Johnson