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Aug 28, 2017 | The Rev. Beth Magill

A Growing Presence on Campus

The Diocese of Texas has a robust network of college missions with a presence on 17 campuses. Eight additional campuses adjacent to congregations are in discernment this year. Another seven campuses have been identified for our next missions in 2018.

Bishop Andy Doyle set an audacious goal to plant 20 new campus missions over the course of five years, and while you may be familiar with our flagship ministries on campuses like UT Austin and Texas A&M, College Station, we also have more than 100 graduate students from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston who gather on a weekly basis. Sixty students from the University of Houston, Houston Community College and San Jacinto Community College campuses come together in the Greater Houston area in a variety of locations, piloting a new model of networked campus ministries called Canterbury in the Community. We are well on our way toward surpassing the Bishop’s generous invitation.

One of our current priorities is to envision what an Episcopal presence might look like on community and vocational college campuses. These less residential campuses are notably different from a traditional model of campus ministry. Yet, we have important Good News to share in these mission fields. North of Houston, several Episcopal churches have embarked on an exciting partnership to meet the needs of Lone Star Community College students. Recognizing the complexity of the Lone Star network, the churches have committed to gathering to pray and study the context, and dream about a presence on these campuses. Today’s students pursue higher education in a changing context. We must be nimble enough to offer the best of our tradition to all students.

In all this work, reconciliation is one of our primary values. The Diocese of Texas boasts four of the five Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the state of Texas, and yet we are only beginning to have a presence on one of those campuses. Our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has invited The Episcopal Church into the work of Becoming Beloved Community. In his report to the Church, Bishop Curry said: “The Episcopal Church could also embody racial healing, justice and reconciliation through a renewed commitment to the two Episcopal historically Black institutions of higher learning” (Saint Augustine’s University, Raleigh, NC and Voorhees College, Denmark, SC). While we do not have an Episcopal HBCU, it is a critical time for us to become a partner in this work of racial healing, justice and reconciliation in our corner of the Kingdom.

The work that happens on these campuses is critical, and it is only one piece of the puzzle. We have made a commitment to this campus ministry in a fashion that is unprecedented throughout The Episcopal Church. Yet, we have only scratched the surface.

We gathered names and contact information of all of our graduating high school seniors. We are committed to connecting all of our students—children, grandchildren and friends—to the Episcopal community on their new campus home, both in our Diocese and beyond. It is our privilege to “recruit” and greet students as they transition to campus life, and to walk alongside them during this chapter of their journey. We invite you to do the same by calling our campus missioners and “recruit” students from your home parish upon graduation. The work of formation does not begin on college campuses, but there it is deepened in a transformative way.