Mark your calendars — with a star! — for the Following the Star Advent Workshop for all ages on Sunday, December 1, from 9:45 to 10:30 a.m. You’ll have fun making an Advent wreath, decorating a wooden crèche set, and creating ornaments for your tree. A $10 donation for materials would be appreciated. Questions? Contact Lynne Clements, or 434-293-3133.
Some of you may remember the childhood church jingle: Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors and see all the people. But we know that the church is not a physical location – the church is anywhere people are gathered worshiping God and doing mission in the world. But who exactly is in this world? Biblical teachings tell countless stories of providing food, shelter, and love to people who are hungry, thirsty, sick, and alone. If you close your eyes and picture those kinds of people, you probably aren’t picturing a college student.
While it’s true that the Bible says nothing about college students, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a part of the world that the church should aim to serve. Have you ever seen college students flock to free food like they haven’t eaten all day? It’s likely because they haven’t. Have you ever walked around Grounds during exam week? You are likely to see hoards of blurry-eyed, sniffling students who haven’t slept in days. The stresses of college paired with the endless unknowns of being twenty years old and having no idea what you are going to do with your life can easily lead to a sense of being alone. Through mission to the university community, we can support these students during such a critical moment in their lives.
University Mission at Westminster serves two main groups at the UVA campus and beyond. Ukirk, or University Church, supports undergraduate students looking for meaningful connection and a space to explore faith and service. The 20/30 CreW includes graduate and professional students and young adults and provides opportunities for personal growth alongside others in the same phase of life. For us so far, it has meant a lemonade booth on UVA’s first day of classes, a welcome dinner at Common Grounds, bi-weekly 20/30 CreW Wednesday Wind-down get togethers across town, one on one coffee dates with students, and a Mac and Cheese Off during Parents Weekend. We are looking forward to our upcoming Friendsgiving dinner, open study hours for exam week, and our post-exam Cookie Decorating De-stress Party.
The goal of University Mission is to meet students and young adults where they are, demonstrating to them that Westminster is an open and welcoming space that can support them through important periods of questioning, growth, and faith exploration. Through the stewardship of the church, we can continue this mission in our community.
Rebecca McGregor, on behalf of the University Mission Committee
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
Youth and their families are invited to join other families to sing songs, eat s’mores and drink cider! Questions? Contact Lynne Clements, .
Gene Locke, Peace, Justice & Inclusion Division
Fifty years ago I sat in a seminary class on “The Ethics of Jesus” only to discover that there is no such thing. Jesus was focused on ethical action, not thought experiments. He sat at table with all the wrong people – an act symbolizing his gospel of radical inclusion. In the parable of the great banquet, the king commands, when too many of the right people made excuses to avoid his invitation: “Bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame. Go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come in.” There is a place for every one born at God’s table.
There is plenty of room at the table – if we choose welcome, not fear. Giving a ride to her ICE appointment to a young mother who journeyed from Central America to the United States so that her two little daughters could grow up in safety. Meeting the hostility asylum-seekers faced at the border with our hospitality by offering food and water and coats and blankets as they ride the Greyhound bus from the border for their destination with family or sponsors. Supporting the Charlottesville Freedom Bail Bond Fund so that undocumented family bread winners arrested for driving without a license can be reunited with their families rather than being sent to a detention center far away. There is room at our table for migrants, those seeking asylum from violence, for refugees from war-torn countries, if we choose welcome, not fear.
Some may argue, but there’s not room for everybody at the table. Surely there are limits! Within the concrete particulars of time and place in today’s world, perhaps not at one particular table. But in God’s economy, there is room at some table at some place somewhere, if we are guided by the mercy and justice of God in figuring out how to distribute the abundant resources of the whole to assist the parts, if we choose welcome, not fear.
So how does WPC make room at its table? Not only through our benevolence giving, but literally, by building homes through Habitat, offering shelter on cold nights for the homeless through PACEM, working to sustain our planet home by the efforts of the Green Team, advocating for affordable housing and driver’s licenses for the undocumented through IMPACT, working for racial justice in Charlottesville through dialogue and education, supporting legal assistance to unaccompanied minors and parents separated from their children through LAJC, supporting Sin Barreras as it helps the immigrant community thrive, providing education and advocacy to protect our immigrant neighbors from discrimination, profiling, and arbitrary detention and deportation, through participation in the Charlottesville Immigrant Resource and Advocacy Coalition. Protecting Maria, an indigenous woman from Guatemala whose home was set on fire, with her family in it, by gangs that wanted her land, in sanctuary, and safety at Wesley UMC. At WPC, we choose welcome, not fear.
And that’s not all. WPC supports more programs that make room at the table: the annual CROP walk, Emergency Food Bank, the Gleaning program, and the Presbyterian Food Offering; global health through the Prosami program; standing with the LBGTQ community at the Pride Festival and sponsoring the conference on Caring for Transgender Persons this time last year; supporting the March for Our Lives kids and other programs to reduce gun violence; support for our local jail ministry, so that incarcerated persons might one day return to their place at the table, whole and restored.
For every one born there is a place at the table, when we choose welcome, not fear.