Faith Life on Campus
Student Perspectives of Faith Life on Campus
Faith perspective 1:
One of the main reasons I chose Gustavus Adolphus College over the private liberal arts colleges in the Twin Cities is because of the college’s affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the strong sense of Lutheran theology, tradition, and faith that was impressed upon me during admissions tours and campus visits.
My parents impressed upon me at a young age the importance of attending church and being active in the congregation, and during confirmation I realized what faith and a life walking with Jesus meant to me, thus a college centered around values like my own was the ideal environment for learning and maturing into adulthood.
The main appeal as an incoming student was Christ Chapel and the daily chapel services that the Chaplain’s Office provided for students. Monday thru Friday excluding Wednesday at ten o’clock there are services with hymns and homilies either by professors, staff, or upperclassmen. Wednesday service is the Morning Praise from the Gather hymnal and is the most popular student service because of the emphasis on singing and the lack of a homily. Wednesday services are also my favorite because I feel more open to the Holy Spirit during that service than any other. The Chapel also hosts Sunday communion service at 10:30 am and Taize services in the evening. These services are invaluable to the faith life on campus and are a reminder of the importance of a community of believers worshipping together.
There are four departments that work together to develop and sustain the Lutheran theology, tradition, and focus on faith at Gustavus: the Chaplain’s Office, the Center for Vocational Reflection, the Office of Church Relations, and the Religion Department. Each of the individuals that staff and lead these departments is filled with a sense of calling to be at Gustavus for teaching, counseling, and assisting of the students. Gustavus is amazing in that the emphasis is focused on the nurturing, developing, and challenging of its students.
The students are at the heart of our campus and are the leaders in faith life here with the organizations/clubs like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Gustavus Youth Outreach, Proclaim, and Apprentices of Christ Chapel. Activity in many of these organizations and community service in the local residential area are prominent in the lives of many students, including bible studies with friends and attendance and involvement in the local churches.
There is a story that is used frequently by administration, the chaplains, and the president to describe the heart of Gustavus that I believe aptly describes faith life here: In 1998 the big tornado visited St. Peter and devastated the town including Christ Chapel. The Chapel steeple and stained glass panels were destroyed and the chapel was wrecked yet still burning and swaying in the wind was the eternal flame of God. The light within our student body continues to burn and whatever afflicts us will not destroy that which we already have: faith, and little by little perhaps the light will spread and become brighter so that we truly are a shining light upon the hill for others to notice.
There are many students here who are aware of their faith and their vocation in life while many are unsure or doubtful or lost. I will say that Gustavus can offer encouragement and education to all regardless of religion affiliation and more importantly nourishment as one grows within their personal faith and values.
Faith perspective 2:
Gustavus Adolphus College is a wonderful place in which to foster one’s personal faith in God. Growing up, church was an integral part of my life. From Sunday school, to summer camp, I cannot remember ever being without the support of my congregation. Coming to Gustavus, I was unsure as to the level of activities available to the students, or the level of participation; I was not disappointed.
Gustavus is an ELCA affiliated Lutheran school. By no means does the entire student body subscribe to these ideals, but I would say a majority of students consider themselves spiritual at the very least. Church attendance is not mandated, but many students find the daily chapel break a refreshing pause from the rigors of a normal school day. Chapel is a non-denominational service and often features faculty and student participation, whether for the homily or special music. A favorite service for students is the Wednesday, “Morning Praise” singspiration in which song replaces the daily sermon.
While the structured services in the beautiful Christ Chapel may not appeal to all, there are many Christian student groups on campus. One of the most popular is Proclaim, a contemporary, student-led worship experience meeting on Tuesday evenings in Alumni Hall. A full band, skits, a dynamic speaker, and many songs call over one hundred students each week to worship. Another popular activity is the Gustavus Youth Outreach, which ministers to children’s groups visiting Gustavus or in surrounding communities. Both the men and the women of Gustavus may choose to participate in bible studies. A campus ministry called Prepare led a group of roughly twenty students on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic over Spring Break this last year.
Besides outside clubs, the classroom is a place where students will be confronted with issues of faith and values. There is a one-semester religion requirement for all Gustavus men and women, but other seemingly unrelated classes will also have interwoven religious undertones. Professors are willing to tackle difficult issues in the coursework, and it is refreshing, especially for students coming from a public school environment, to be able to discuss God freely.
Religion is not an overbearing force at Gustavus, but students who desire to enrich their spiritual life will find Gustavus is a vibrant and active religious community of scholars.
Faith perspective 3:
I knew the transition from high school to college would be filled with challenges, so I was prepared to deal with noisy roommates, mass produced food, and community showers. But my faith was a problem I never saw coming. Growing up in a strong Christian household, I prayed every night, attended church every Sunday, and went to religious camps during the summer. I couldn’t remember a time when religion hadn’t been a central part of my life, and I couldn’t foresee a time when it would cease to be. I assumed that coming to college meant that I’d continue worshiping, just in a different location.
But it wasn’t that simple. When religion stopped being a habit and started being a choice, I began to question my motives. I actually questioned much more than that. I questioned the entire system, and for quite a while nothing made sense. I wasn’t sure what I’d spent my life believing, and I had no idea where to go from this point.
I was lost, but most of my friends are religious, so even in the midst of my struggle I’d occasionally attend worship or talk about religion. This typically left me feeling uneasy, frustrated, or confused. As time went on, however, I began to learn that I could usually find some truth or insight in religion, even though I wasn’t ready to accept everything.
Luckily for me, this was completely fine. Gustavus doesn’t require Chapel attendance, nor does it require students to sign a covenant swearing their dedication to the Lord. Religion is an entirely personal matter, and for this I’m incredibly grateful. Had it been mandatory, I would have happily abided by the rules and continued in my blind pursuit of Christianity. But though my life would have been more consistently religious, it would have remained habitual and meaningless. Here at Gustavus I am allowed to believe what I choose and move at my own pace, so I am truly making my faith my own.
Religion is complex and difficult, and Gustavus doesn’t expect students to have it all figured out. It does, however, provide outlets and opportunities for people at any level of understanding to grow, not to mention a general atmosphere that allows for both questions and mistakes.
Despite my upbringing, faith hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve questioned everything, and only recently have I begun to accept parts back into my life. Religion has been a big struggle, and I still don’t have all the answers. But I’m trying. And I’m getting there.