Part of my call in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas was serving as the Missioner for the college ministry at Baylor University. This work included managing the programs and physical plant for the Episcopal Student Center in Waco.
Please click on any of the photos below for more details about the Episcopal Student Center and visit the ESC Waco Website.
The student center includes two buildings: The first is the Thompson Canterbury House, which is open 24 hours per day for students for fellowship activities, formation, and to be a college resource center. The second is the All Saints’ Chapel, which is open for worship services on Sundays and Thursdays.
During my time as Missioner, I worked with the advisory board to revise the budget and attend to deferred maintenance, including replacing the roof, replacing the HVAC system, and renovating the second floor of the Canterbury House. The advisory board is comprised of both students and faculty Baylor University, as well as members of each of the Waco-area Episcopal churches.
The first floor of the Canterbury House is used for dinner gatherings and fellowship for college students at Baylor. Currently, there are different groups who meet at the ESC almost every night of the week, including a Bible Study, a depression support group, an the Episcopal-Lutheran Fellowship student organization.
Parishioners from the three local Episcopal churches volunteer in rotation to bring meals on Sunday and Thursday nights. Dinners are followed by worship services in the All Saints’ Chapel.
The students gather for regular formation groups, such as this one where they participate in a video Bible study series. Most of the equipment, goods, and services at the ESC–such as the television and access to Netflix–have come from soliciting donations and talking about the importance of college ministry work with Baylor Alumni and members of local churches.
We also created a new game room on the first floor of the Canterbury House. The first floor has been developed as a community gathering space that is frequently being used for at least some purpose every day and night of the week.
The renovations on the second floor of the Canterbury House included adding a Quiet Prayer/Quiet Study room (shown here), a new Computer Lab with 24-hour access to printing/faxing/copying services, and a Group Study/Conference Room for group projects and where the advisory board meets monthly. We spent about one year planning and fundraising to completely furnish the new spaces.
The All Saints’ Chapel is the heart of where students are empowered to play an active role in their worship life. Students are encouraged and taught how to serve as lectors, sacristans, music leaders, liturgical planners, and even preachers.
The Chapel is also used for hosting guest speakers and even concerts. Last year we planned a concert fundraiser to help fund the opening of a non-profit grocery store in an inner-city food desert.
The Jubilee Food Market was the main focus of outreach for the college ministry for 2016. Starting in 2017, the college ministry will begin actively supporting The Cove in Waco, a safe housing program for at-risk high school students.
The Chapel serves as a space for students both past and present to gather together. In our ecumenical efforts, we have also started welcoming Lutheran students who do not have their own college ministry center.
ELF: The Episcopal Lutheran Fellowship was started in 2015 as the first officially recognized student organization at Baylor for Lutheran and Episcopal students. As college missioner for Waco, I serve as the chaplain of the student org as well as one of the founders, though I could not have accomplished this without the steadfast help of many students who put in the time and effort to achieve official status. This year I helped facilitate the group’s first election of new officers after the graduation of the founding officers–a crucial step in the ongoing vitality of this important organization at the university.
Our Episcopal and Lutheran students are empowered to participate in Baylor gatherings and actively engage with students in other ministries so that they can build diverse relationships.
With the cooperation of other clergy and leaders at Baylor, one of the important groups we’ve worked to establish is a support ministry for students who are victims of sexual assault or violence. The ESC is a valuable safe space where students can turn to in confidentiality and receive support, counseling, and even help understanding the legal process.
One of my main responsibilities has been to serve as a liaison between the college ministry and the local-area churches in their young adult ministry efforts. I regularly visit other churches in Waco and even outside of Waco to teach, preach, and lead group discussions about the importance of youth and college ministries for the future of the church.
As a College Missioner in Texas, I am also responsible for helping lead college retreats and graduating high schooler retreats.
The annual college retreat welcomes students from more than 15 universities–including Baylor, University of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and others–for weekends filled with fellowship, formation, and worship in a broader community. The students forge bonds that they will take with them back to their own communities and be richer in their Christian lives for it. Many come back in subsequent years to help plan programming with the clergy and learn to be leaders in their church.
One of my most active roles at Baylor is serving as a member of Baylor’s Institutional Review Board. This board meets monthly to oversee ethical and appropriate research practices at the university.
With the assistance of many people of great faith and a sense of service, we have worked toward growing the Episcopal Student Center into a robust ministry. The ESC has steadily grown in attendance–in worship, fellowship, and formation events–and weekly brings in new students who seek to learn more about The Episcopal Church and how they can actively engage in their faith while in college.
The following video is a sample sermon from a chapel service at the ESC Waco:
Lectionary reading: Matthew 11:2-11 (read here)