After 10 years as a part of the Christ Church Cathedral family, I am taking on a new role as the Campus Missioner for the University of Houston. A lot of people have asked me, “What does that mean?” So, here I offer a few snapshots of what this ministry looks like and how you might get involved:
The Canterbury Association at UH was founded in the 1950s with the help of Bishop John Hines, a great advocate for campus ministries. The first full-time chaplain, The Rev. John Fritts, established an active ministry centered around Thursday and Sunday Eucharist, Coffee Club Bible studies, common meals, social events, and pastoral counseling.
Later on, in leaner years, the Canterbury House closed and the Canterbury ministry took up residence at the AD Bruce Religion Center on campus.
The AD Bruce is a unique space. Half-chapel, half “mall of denominations”, the Bruce is located on the more residential side of campus, close to the Quad and the Student Health Center. One of the benefits of being located in such a space is the contact one has with students of different faiths. On any given day at the Bruce, I am sure to have conversations with Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians of various denominations. The opportunity for dialogue across difference here seems extraordinary.
Over the years, the Canterbury ministry at UH has largely followed the campus-centered model of ministry, struggling to reach commuter students. Leadership transitions have been frequent and difficult, and there has not been a full-time clergy presence for many years. This new epoch in the life of UH Canterbury is filled with opportunity to reach out and to use the gifts of the Episcopal Church to share the gospel, to teach and learn about the eucharistic life, and to build new communities of students seeking to walk in the way of Jesus.
Canterbury on Campus
We still believe that Fr. Fritts was on to something when he established a ministry centered around Eucharist, Bible study, common meals, community-building fun, and pastoral counseling. The Canterbury Suite, Room 205, in the AD Bruce Religion Center will continue to be a hub for on campus ministry to students, faculty, and staff alike.
Canterbury in the Community
Canterbury in the Community seeks to meet commuter students, as well as community college students, in the places where they live and work. Currently, several community-based small groups are forming in different parts of Houston with an eye to gathering students to support and pray for each other, to ask any question, and to grow in faith through ministry and service.
As I have begun work on the UH campus and listened to students, I have been struck by the struggles of first-generation college students. I believe that the Episcopal Church is well-equipped to reach out to first-generation college students in supportive ways. In Fall 2016, we will launch the first phase of a ministry to first-gen college students, which will include mentoring and connection with professionals in areas of interest.
If you are or are connected to a UH student (grad or undergrad), a member of the faculty or staff, or a proud alum, I would love to connect with you this summer (email@example.com).