I first walked through the doors of this sanctuary a little over 30 years ago when I was a UVA student living around the corner on Virginia Avenue. All summer long, my mom had been nudging/nagging me to go to church and Westminster had a distinct advantage of being both Presbyterian and within a 5 minute walk. That very first Sunday, sitting in the back row near the walkway doors, I knew I had found a home where I was welcomed, loved, and accepted.
Although I wasn’t consistently sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings, I found my place at the table through Westminster’s University Mission program. I planned my busy student schedule around the mid-week dinner gatherings led by our then Associate Pastor Jim Baker, and not just because it provided a home cooked meal. Those discussions nurtured my spiritual growth, which continued when I joined the graduate student fellowship.
Recently, Westminster strengthened our longstanding commitment to University outreach by creating a second associate pastor position. I’m grateful to have served on the Associate Pastor Nominating Committee which discerned that Dorothy Piatt was truly called by God to serve with us here at Westminster as our Associate Pastor for University and Social Justice Mission. My service on the APNC was a tangible way for me to give back to Westminster and help ensure a safe space for future students, faculty and staff to grow and receive God’s hospitality.
University Mission at Westminster continues to provide meaningful connections and space to explore faith and service. Our UKirk program is part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s campus ministry network and is focused on undergraduate students. The 20/30 CreW group is aimed at graduate/professional students and young adults. Since Dorothy’s arrival in July, the University Missions Committee has hosted a lemonade booth to greet students on the first day of classes, a welcome dinner at Common Grounds, bi-weekly 20/30 CreW Wednesday Wind-down get togethers, one-on-one coffee dates with students, and a Mac and Cheese-Off during UVA’s Family Weekend. Soon, we’ll host a Friendsgiving dinner, open study hours at Common Grounds during exam week, and a Christmas Kick-Back party where students can enjoy holiday cookies and de-stress. Outreach to University faculty and staff are in our plans as well.
University mission is central to the founding of this church and there are so many ways to support university ministry and contribute to a welcoming community. From baking Christmas cookies for students to hosting a two-hour block at Common Grounds during exams to providing exam week snacks, we encourage you to consider ways to receive and share God’s love, and live out your faith in a complex world. Your involvement and your pledges make it possible to provide a place at the table filled with love, grace and acceptance for everyone.
Susie Bruce, University Mission Committee