URBANA -- In the early 20th century, students attending the University of Illinois swelled the church rolls of Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church and gave rise to an “adventure in Christian higher education.
It was an opportunity to inspire students, transform lives and enrich the world with Christ’s love. 100 years later, the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois stands as a testament to that original vision that sought to have a presence in campus life.
On Oct. 13, 1913, the Wesley Foundation was born as a new way for Methodists to minister on college campuses that became a model for campus ministry across the nation and world.
Within 15 years, Trinity church closed and services for the church were moved into the Wesley Foundation’s social center and the relationship and share mission has been intertwined ever since.
Building on a glorious and historic past, the Wesley Foundation once again is preparing for a new generation of “inspiring students, transforming lives and enriching our world with Christ’s love.” While the context for ministry throughout the years has taken on different looks, the mission has remained the same.
“We are caretakers of much more than just building and grounds,” said Dan King Crede, pastor of Urbana Wesley UMC and director of the Wesley Foundation. “We are responsible for the vision, too.”
In order to be Mission Ready, the Foundation and congregation of Wesley UMC have embarked on a Second Century campaign aimed at upgrading the facilities at Goodwin and Green. Inspiring Students, Transforming Lives, and Enriching Our World with Christi’s Love is the theme of the Capital Campaign, which kicked off its efforts Feb. 3 with a celebration luncheon attended by more than 130 members, students, friends and alumni. More than $650,000 was given and pledged at that luncheon.
The $1.7 million campaign includes nearly $900,000 for replacement of the roof of the 1921 Social Center, cleaning limestone and re-pointing the masonry. The remaining $800,000 is for the electrical upgrade of the social center, window repairs and replacement and replacement of parts of the building’s heating and ventilation system.
But these repairs are not to prop up an institution; it is to do ministry and provide for opportunities for students and the community to come together to enrich the world with Christ’s love.
“Most of the students who come to the University of Illinois have little or no experience with regular worship but often consider themselves very ‘spiritual,’” said the Rev. Rob Kirby, former associate director for 10 years. “Many have a desire to serve and value intergenerational interaction, but avoid institutional organizations.”
Ministries s such as the monthly feeding program which serves more than 1,200 persons monthly provides a common ground for the faith community and community to come together. Working hand in hand, a strong passion to serve provides an opportunity to build a relationship with one another
“As students draw closer to Wesley through service, they encounter a warm home, a space to share their experiences and lives with each other, a security environment where they can openly explore questions of faith and a place where they are unconditionally accepted,” Kirby said.
“Back in 1989, when my husband Mike and I searched for a new church, we never envisioned that Wesley would become such a large part of our lives. Great things were done in our past and we are doing great things now,” said Susan Haney, who is serving as the Wesley Capital Campaign chair.
Bishop James Baker, who pastored at Trinity in 1913, at the time of the Wesley Foundation’s birth, said about the role of campus ministry in 1960:
“One thing we must keep in mind – a thing which it is almost impossible for the older generation to understand; namely, that we cannot simply hand over to the new generation ready-made standards, customs and beliefs. These may be offered as a suggestion and help from the older to the younger, but they cannot be accepted and repeated by rote….Each succeeding generation must work out its own salvation with fear and trembling. It must achieve its own beliefs and customs in the concrete terms of its own life, if they are to have reality and power. In this they should have our own unfailing sympathy and help.”
A century later…the adventure in higher education campus ministry continues. Be a part of God’s future by investing in the Second Century campaign.
For more information or to donate, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.