We’ve come a long way – in the right direction – since September 2014. Now, the congregation’s unanimous call of Ken Henry as the new Head of Staff Pastor, and session extending Lynne Clement’s and Tracy Howe Wispelwey’s temporary pastoral standing with our congregation to Covenant Pastors last spring, grounds us now, and strengthens Westminster’s cherished heritage as a progressive congregation with a unique ministry at the University of Virginia.
In this new academic year, our undergraduate students are gathering and planning around the theme of “Matthew 25,” a challenging and beautiful text that reminds us of the grace of God as well as our call to serve “the least of these” and “visit the prisoner.” In fact, the group is bringing in congregational members with rich experience in criminal justice and its alternatives to lead Tuesday night discussions and will partner with the Wesley Foundation to visit and worship with the women of the Fluvanna women’s correctional facility in the spring. The fall retreat and January trip to the Montreat College Conference are already being highly anticipated.
Tracy recruited Brittany Caine-Connolly to serve as the Outreach Coordinator beginning in August and Brittany’s joyful spirit has already uplifted the student fellowship. The strength of the undergraduate community is witnessed in their outings together outside of regular programing, which has included salsa dancing and paddle boarding (with yoga!).
Brittany is working with the students to develop strategies for their group to have a visible presence on grounds. She also hosts Sunday night open study space until midnight at Common Grounds and uses that as an opportunity to greet and know a diverse group of students who do not (yet) come to any of our regular programing or worship at Westminster.
Graduate student (and elder) Hannah Tucker is working with Tracy in coordinating bi-monthy graduate student dinner fellowships. The list has already grown to 30 graduate students and we are excited to nurture this community and the specific needs of grad students and young adults. Graduate students and young adults wanting weekly contact and rhythms of faith and community can attend the Common Grounds bible study being led by Tracy and Lynne on the Gospel of Mark on alternating Sunday evenings.
Food and fellowship, not to mention program and staffing, requires our support – spiritual, personal, and financial. Just as with all our church staff, we want our Covenant Pastor for Ministry at U.Va., Mission & Outreach to be supported in her ministry with us and on our behalf at the University. We pray others in the congregation will share our joyful mission by sharing a Sunday student and young adult continental brunch or Tuesday evening UKirk meal or by helping with our increasingly popular exam period open study space, whether hosting or just bringing snacks. With the congregation’s generous support, we can continue to serve God in Westminster’s foundational ministry here at the University of Virginia. (Submitted by Ron Wiley & Tracy Howe Wispelwey)