Rebuilding a Field, Reclaiming a Movement

The Election of Donald J. Trump to the highest seat in the United States has caused me a lot of consternation. I live in a country where we’ve been struggling with equality for women’s pay, prolonged battles over whether everyone should have access to health care, massive issues around how and if to fund public education, a decades long fight for GLBTQIA equality, and race issues that fifty plus years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are perhaps as some of their worst in decades.  I should have figured.

cmm_button_tagline_4c            One conversation with a colleague specifically about Trump and about the situations on campus spurred a reality that I myself will now make public: I believe campus ministry, and the Church at large, has a chance (albeit this is not the approach we should hope for) to use this election as a catalyst for revitalization.  Not since Vietnam has a force of dissent been so strong as that against Donald Trump.  Not since Vietnam have we seen so widespread on our campuses frustration, anger, and hostility.  And we need to use it.

The field of campus ministry has been struggling for decades.  It has struggled with identity, with vision, with impact, and with financial support as denominations cut off funding and refuse to see the imperative value, which of course is to be present during the most transformational moments of the students’ lives. And this moment, this opportunity, is both a moment of transition and a moment of transformation of a student into an activist and organizer, into a manifestation of social justice for a world that so badly needs it.

This is a moment when our Church can stand up and say YES to organizing with some of the most energized, passionate, and impressionable persons possible.  We can help them see how to truly speak truth to power, and in turn they can teach us what is means to help them to find a community through which to find their purpose.  This should be the essence of our work, where reverse mentoring and partnerships across generations can lead to faith communities (across all traditions) that are truly multigenerational and support the needs of our culture. We can become the very thing we were born to be: an entity that supports the need of our world and helps to shift culture where it is needed.

So yes, some of us may feel guilty that this is a chance for movement building, but moments like this only happen once in a generation.  And it is time for movement building.  Time to reclaim that campus ministry itself and the Church was always a movement, spurred on by radically outspoken individuals who refused to accept the status quo and spoke up when the marginalized were oppressed and the rights of all were threatened.  The message isn’t new; it just has a new locus to which to resist.

And it is time for us to rebuild a field that has been taken away from us.  A field of campus ministry that at its most impactful moments shaped the lives of students through organizing and community building and activism.  Our future is shaped by our past, our opportunity awaits in our present and campus ministry, the field that one could argue helped to build up the denominations and traditions many of us serve, needs rebuilding and reclaiming. And the time is now, this day, this moment, these next four years.

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