Steadfast on Campus — ULC: The Flagship of Campus Ministry
While you’re looking through the University Lutheran Chapel (ULC) website, take note of three reasons why so many of us in campus ministry see the ULC as the flagship for confessional Lutheran campus ministry.
Reason #1- The ULC centers her life in the Sunday Divine Service (See http://ulcmn.org).
When I said in an earlier post that campus ministry is nothing other than Word and sacrament ministry for students, I really meant it. Everything else is nice, but the Divine Service is the main dish. This is why it is called campus ministry. By the word “ministry” here we are talking about the ministry of the Holy Spirit—the means of grace, the preaching of Christ’s Word and the administration of the sacraments (might we simply say campus Predigtamt?). We are not using ministry to refer to extra-curricular activities (Why does everything have to be called ministry anyway? Oscar Feucht?). Take away all the programs and leave the Divine Service, you still have campus ministry. Take away the Divine Service and leave all the programs, you don’t have campus ministry. Seriously.
At ULC we have seen and continue to see Lutheran campus ministry as it should be. Students are nourished with the Bread of Life in the Divine Liturgy—no gimmicks, no goofy stuff. What Pr. Pless did, Pr. Kind continues to do. In a fantastic article titled Lutheran Missiology and Campus Ministry, Pless writes, “Rather than take on the characteristics of the meta-church movement with its cell groups, confessional Lutheran campus ministry and its missionary vitality is anchored in the means of grace, Christ’s own instruments for growing and sustaining His church. The life and mission of campus ministry is centered in the Divine Service” (This article is a must read for anyone in campus ministry: http://media.ctsfw.edu/2518).
What does this campus ministry look like? Pr. Kind has on the website: “Because we believe our Lord is truly speaking in the preaching of His Word and physically present in Holy Communion, we conduct our worship with the utmost reverence. You will find no happy-clappy, folk-band, foolishness here. Christ does not come to entertain you. What you will find is serious, authentic, joyful, Christian worship. In other words, you will find Christ and His grace here. This is why we gather together and worship the way we do” (http://ulcmn.org/About/Worship.html).
Some might find this shocking. We know. There is definitely the mindset that campus ministry has to be centered in small groups and social events. Or that we must tinker with the liturgy to make it casual and appealing to young people (Rock on!). I suppose the idea is that we must draw the students into the church in order for them to hear the Gospel. But we believe this tinkering undermines the Gospel. And what is more, we believe that the Divine Service is the draw for students. College students might have left their homes, but the old man is still with them (Yikes!). They will find what they need in the Divine Service—Christ and His grace.
In the same article from Pless above, he writes, “There are pressures for Lutheran campus ministry to conform itself to the patterns of the popular para-church groups that are dominant on campus these days.” Yep! We feel the pressures. There are pressures to pattern campus ministry after them to this very day. There are pressures to pattern campus ministry after every latest fad in pop-American Christianity. But you won’t find ULC bending. And, ULC definitely does not look like a para-church ministry because para-church ministries don’t have their own buildings with altars, pulpits, or fonts.
Reason #2- We like everything else they do that revolves around the Divine Service.
ULC offers Evening Prayer, private confession and absolution, catechesis and Bible studies, Table Talk (food and theology!), Patristic studies, retreats with guest theologians (I went to one of these in the 90s!), a solid library, encouragement of liturgical art and music, a common chest, social events, and a great website! This list speaks for itself and I’m sure I didn’t include everything. Yet, we see the number of things that go right along with the Divine Service (catechesis, absolution, daily prayer, liturgical art and music, etc.).
Okay. So “social events” is glaring at me. I’m not opposed to social events—they’re just not central. I like them a lot. If I’m not mistaken, James Nestingen said something about Lutheran buffalo meeting other Lutheran buffalo and how that leads to more Lutheran buffalo. Social events are good for Lutheran buffalo! Furthermore, the ULC seems to understand that excellent distinction: When we work, we work. When we play, we play. When we worship, we worship (I can’t remember from whence this came—Higher Things?).
Hmmm—as I review this, it also reminds me of a certain Witness, Mercy, Life Together paradigm…
Reason #3- The ULC has been around and weathered the storms.
Despite pressures and other developments, the ULC has a long and rich history as a confessional Lutheran campus ministry. This, in my opinion, makes her worthy of flagship status. We have much to learn from ULC. Take the time to read her history (http://ulcmn.org/About/History.html). If anyone is just getting started in campus ministry or struggling to understand how to do it the right way, look to lead ship carrying confessional Lutheran flag—the ULC.