It's not easy being a campus minister. This work of nurturing students spiritually and providing inclusive community on college campuses is crucial, and yet it is also taxing and can be isolating. That's why it's so important to find peer support! We Unitarian Universalists (UU) are a small movement and while we have roughly 60 campus ministries across the country, not all of them are currently active and many are led by rotating volunteers. To find wisdom, support, new ideas and a sense of connection, it's wonderful to turn to our siblings in faith and get in touch with other religious professionals engaged in this work.
One way to find such connection is through National Campus Ministry Association (NCMA), an organization dedicated to educating, equipping, and advocating for the practice of Higher Education Ministry. We UUs have a lot to offer this historically Christian Ecumenical group and they have much to teach us about best practices in ministering to students. They host a conference each summer for professional development and this year it was held in Albion, Michigan. UU Religious Educator and new campus ministry leader Ann Mbacke attended this conference and had a very positive experience.Read about it in her own words:
I attended the 2015 National Campus Ministry Association (NCMA) conference for the first time and was pleasantly surprised. As a newcomer to campus ministry I felt truly welcomed and instantly connected to the people and work being done to foster spiritual growth and development of young adults and students. I was most impressed by the keynote speaker Dr. Sharon Parks and her ability to help us all see outside our small lens and began to see creative possibilities and express our best selves in the world. We also learned about the "Ask Big Questions" project run by the Jewish campus organization Hillel and I found myself implementing this approach to our situation here in my congregation at church. Rather than asking open and shut or yes or no questions I am now asking leading questions that engage with others and bring out purposeful information. This experience made me want to be a part of an ongoing interfaith community and/or conversation. I can truly say this was one of the best conferences I participated in. Not only did I learn but I was able to connect and contribute – to the point that I volunteered for the Coordinating Committee or "CoComm" within the NCMA – and that is a three year stint – now the fun will really begin.
Who is Ann Mbacke?
Ann is currently serving as the Director of Adult Religious Growth and Learning at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis. Her outreach includes campus ministry and young adult ministry. Ann began her career in the environmental permitting field and then began teaching middle school and high school which led to social work including mental health services and vocational/career development work with several non-profits. Ann has studied with and practices many faith and spiritual traditions including Christianity, Unity, and Buddhism that honor the diversity of which we are a part. Her goal with campus ministry and young adult ministry is to be available to young adults as they transition from home to campus and beyond providing a welcoming presence and inspiring them to develop or anchor themselves in a spiritual practice that represents who they are and who they want to be in the world. Ann has a specific interest in connecting with interfaith ministries. She has lived and traveled across the country, is a native of Detroit, Michigan and currently resides in Corvallis, Oregon.