By Neal Christie
This semester the United Campus Ministry at Frostburg University has had a particular calling as it prepares students for the stress of finals and the end of the semester and looks to the relief and promise of peace for Christmas. Like too many college campus ministries across the state and country, the United Campus Ministries has recently faced the reality of violence. Their response says much about the vitality of its ministry to young adults.
“The tragic shooting and death of a Frostburg student this fall galvanized the United Campus Ministry,” said Chaplain Trey Daniel, who leads the United Campus Ministry at Frostburg University.
The United Campus Ministry (UCM) is one of the five campus ministries supported by the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The UCM is unique because it is an entire ecumenical campus ministry that serves the broad Protestant expressions of faith on campus and also works with the students, faculty and administrators to build bridges and ally with other student-led interfaith and advocacy organizations.
The death on campus this fall "brought out a strong emotion in me, anger. I am angry because the death of this individual was not widely acknowledged. Not a lot of students knew about his loss to the community,” Daniel said. The UCM with the Student Government Association, the NAACP, The Muslim Student Association, the Latin American Student Organization, Africa Student Association, along with a broad range of other student-led associations, sororities and fraternities, hosted a series of town halls in November to both recognize what was being done, to recognize this student, and to point out how leaders can best show how every student is valued, regardless of their race or geographic home.
This fall, Chaplain Daniel led a candlelight vigil to promote truth-telling, healing, and to recognize the student who had died. Daniel also lifted up the grief over a number of young people who have been affected by violence. Campus Ministers are offering similar rituals and conversations across the nation where gun violence has taken students’ lives this semester at the University of Virginia and the University of Idaho.
“It’s outrageous that universities are not safe for students, and not safe for the community. We must do a better job to ensure safety at every institution is committed to learning,” Daniel said.
Rabiatu Ladan, a Mass Communication major, editor of The Bottom Line campus newspaper, and president of the Muslim Student Association, worked with Chaplain Daniel to address the needs of students. “Creating safe spaces for students to interact -- such as healing circles or forums -- is helpful; it gives students an opportunity and an outlet to voice their concerns. Sometimes, students just want to be heard and understood as much as they want change,” Ladan said.
Ariyana Ward is a Political Science & Psychology major. She shared with Chaplain Daniel that “ the support we need to feel safe on campus and in the FSU community includes 24-hour physical and mental health care access; transparency when someone reports violent crimes happening near or on campus; and substance abuse support and training.” She added, “the UCM can advocate for designated safe spaces for students to sign in and go to if they ever need a place to go, cry, sleep, think, and pray -- even if they just want to be alone.”
Following the vigil, Chaplain Daniel offered spiritual self-care workshops focused on the whole student from “Orientation to Graduation,” designed and sponsored by the UCM. “
“I am excited as we move toward the end of the semester that we will now work with the University’s provost and lead conversations on spiritual self-care for the incoming freshman and build on these skills each year that students are at Frostburg. ‘Transparency on gun laws for our campus will help tremendously. Strengthening gun violence laws where students live needs to be a priority. Senseless violence can be named and addressed in the name of the Prince of Peace.”
The UCM is being incarnational by caring about what makes for peace, both in policies and spiritual practices, and offers a welcoming and safe space for all. To learn more about this ministry, visit https://www.facebook.com/bwccampusministry/about/?ref=page_internal or https://www.bwcumc.org/cm/
You or your congregation can also provide financial support to strengthen the ministries at Frostburg University. Give now.