Church/college Partnerships Provide Ministry Experiences for Students
The support of a pair of Presbyterian churches in Michigan has
resulted in partnerships that have increased ministry opportunities for
Alma College students.
Marc Hong, a senior bound for the seminary, says voluntary chapel attendance at the College’s Dunning Memorial Chapel is up more than ever thanks in part to the student ministry coordinators and continued financial support from Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church in West Bloomfield Hills.
Kirk in the Hills has contributed $8,000 every year for the last three years to fund the student ministry coordinator program at Alma, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), says campus Chaplain Carol Gregg.
“It’s a unique and very substantive partnership,” says Gregg.
The student ministry coordinators, also known as SMCs, function like a second chaplain, says Gregg. Their duties include taking over the majority of responsibility for Sunday evening services and other chapel activities.
“Kirk has been a long-time supporter of Alma College,” says Gregg. “Their gifts change as the College needs change.”
Hong has been a fellow SMC from its creation. An English and religious studies double major, Hong began contributing to the chapel as an apprentice four years ago when former Chaplain Christine Vogel created the SMC program. The very act of building the program from the ground up has given him ample field experience in applying to work as a college chaplain someday.
“We’re always looking for people with skills to do what we do,” says Hong, who takes great joy in helping people become more involved.
“My hope is that the people in the pews are not just watching us perform, but their eyes are closed and they’re singing along,” says Hong, who loves the camaraderie that accompanies the job.
Katrina Bundy, a senior religious studies major, says working as an SMC has not only strengthened her conviction to become an ordained minister, but it also has aided her in honing in on her specialty.
“I was looking for an opportunity to become more involved and help me find my spiritual gifts,” says Bundy. She plans to focus her career plans on social justice issues.
Bundy and Hong both agree that the community and fellowship of the SMC group have been wonderful. Worship on Sunday is more than just a paycheck for Bundy.
“No matter how stressful or disorganized the week seems, everything comes together on Sunday,” she says. Bundy feels all SMCs share a quality of “a passion to serve God and a desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.”
“While it has been a joy to build this from the ground up, we’ve had to tweak it as it goes and that can be frustrating, but we know the chapel will be a better place for worship and that the program will grow,” says Bundy.
While not all SMCs are pre-seminary, they all have valuable skills to contribute to the whole. Bundy, for example, writes the liturgy and prayers.
The biggest challenge, says Hong, is working with disparate personalities and backgrounds.
“We all had very different views of what worship was supposed to be,” Hong says of when they first formed the group.
Their success can be well measured as each year chapel attendance increases. They’re up to 65 this year from 51 a year ago. Hong claims attendance has increased because students are not being preached at but invited in.
Alma’s second church-college partnership is with the Milford, Mich., Presbyterian Church, which donated $11,000 for a pre-Christmas Hurricane Katrina relief trip to Gautier, Mississippi, to do home repair for individuals still recovering from the hurricane.
The group will work with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and stay at the Gautier Presbyterian Church. Twenty students will accompany four church volunteers to Mississippi on the trip Dec. 16 through 23.
Posted: Fri, December 8th, 2006 at 4:32PM