IV at Seminary

For the love of all that is good and holy, I wish I could fall asleep.  This would be really beneficial to me, seeing as I need to leave for class in four hours and will be taking a midterm this afternoon.  I can’t sleep, though, and I sure as hell don’t want to study any more until morning, so I sit here, typing away on my blog and drinking a Mike’s in hopes of making myself drowsy.

Besides my nervousness about my exam (and there is much nervousness, let me tell you), I am kept up by a ridiculous pondering: what would it be like if there were InterVarsity at Fuller?  I’m equally interested in the possibility of a grad chapter at Baylor, but since I don’t even know that I’m in yet, we’ll keep these musings to my current situation.

First, some disclaimers as to why an IV chapter (under the Graduate and Faculty Ministries division, as one of their “Religious and Theological Studies Fellowships [RTSF]”) might not be that great an idea:

* I am likely trying to replicate my amazing undergrad experience—and this is a different time and place with different people.
* The age range at Fuller and the type of student really varies, making it difficult for one fellowship to meet the many needs on campus.
* Fuller’s an evangelical institution, so there’s the question of what such a group would look like to begin with.  IV specifically states that RTSF chapters might be in secular departments of religion, mainline seminaries, or evangelical schools… but it’s an experiment that seems to have never been done.  (Seeing as the only RTSF chapter listed is at Harvard.)  Some would question the need.
* Students are “real” grown-ups now and need to take more responsibility for their own spiritual lives by joining a local church.
* The administration might not look to favorably on the idea, given that chapel, chaplains, etc. are supposed to already be meeting spiritual needs on campus.
* The cohorts of SIS and SOP might make a campus fellowship less important to some of these students vs. SOT students.

But I also can think of a number of reasons why such a fellowship could be a really, really good thing on campus:

* Most students don’t attend chapel.  Denominational chapels may bring in additional students, but when many students aren’t formally affiliated with a denomination either, many are still being left out.
* Chapel isn’t primarily student-led, nor does it create space to form relationships.
* There are few opportunities to get to know students outside of class, especially students of other schools (SOP/SIS/SOT) and levels (MA/MDiv vs. PhD) or ethnic and denominational backgrounds.
* There are many students that wrestle with difficult theological issues at Fuller that might want to wrestle with them in community.  There are also plenty of students dealing with difficult personal issues, I’m sure, but there’s no specific place to go to look for deeper fellowship.
* Ministry leaders often have trouble engaging with others on a more human level and might benefit from a context in which to fellowship with other ministry leaders.
* Having a structure encourages a culture.  That culture could be one of invitation to friendship, encouragement in mission, authenticity about brokenness, and challenge to remain both orthodox and spiritually engaged—things which I believe are harder to cultivate in each individual friend circle on campus.
* The fact is many Fuller students don’t go to church or only are involved in their churches as part of a ministry internship.

Anyway, I’m about to leave Fuller, so I’m not saying I’m about to start a new project.  But I’m interested to know how others (both at and outside of Fuller) see these things.  Is there a place for a campus fellowship at an evangelical seminary, and if so, what is it?  What about at a moderate Christian university like Baylor?

Now that I’ve gotten all of this out of my head, I’m hoping I can get some sleep.  ;o)


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2 responses to “IV at Seminary

  1. Hi Ashleigh!

    This reflects my experience at a mainline denominationally-affiliated seminary, but I find that organic Bible studies or prayer times work best. We have a variety of worship services (7/week at different times) and some of them include fellowship time (e.g., Sherry Hour for the Episcopalians) afterwards. But that wasn’t working enough for several of us, so we organized a cohort of 8 single young adult women that meets once a week and rotates responsibility for hosting/leading the B.S. I know of several other Bible Studies/prayer times that have formed this way. And because more organization/commitments is the last thing we need right now, this low-key way of organizing works for us!


    • Ashleigh

      Hey Diane!

      So sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to you–I’ve been really slow because I’ve been sick for the past week. I appreciate your thoughts, and understand what you mean about organic community. Regardless of how organized something is, it seems it must come from within the student body, meet felt student needs, be flexible to student schedules, etc. I do think that a lot of students here would benefit from really simple small groups, like the one you described, and there would be a lot of flexibility in such an arrangement.

      I’ve heard we may have some changes to chapel here in the next year or so, though I don’t know much about that–I’m hoping that whether or not much else develops chapel might become more relevant to student spirituality.

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