Guest Blog by
Rev. Max Hill
UKirk – StL
Several months ago, I was sitting in a Zoom meeting of campus ministers from around the country. The meeting was focused on helping us to connect and share ideas about how we could help one another as pastors whose ministries are akin to one another.
Throughout the call, I began a group text with several friends (also in the meeting) about our frustrations with things that were being said in the call. One of the main points of contention was centered around the idea of hope. Many people on the call were wrestling with the question of “how we can bring hope to our students as they return to college campuses this year.”
Now we are all pastors and recognize the need for hope in the lives of our congregants. However, we worried that by jumping directly to “finding hope”, we’d create a version of it that wasn’t real. That it would be a “hope” divorced from lived experience, filled with platitudes about how to “make the most of a pandemic” (and I’m not in the business of “making the most” of people’s very real suffering, death, and loss).
We worried that jumping to hope leapt right past people’s anxiety, past their fear, not recognizing it as something that is substantial which affects everyday life.
What we wanted to recognize in the conversation is that ministry is enough when it offers connection, listening, and recognition of suffering.
This semester, UKirk St. Louis, has been utilizing every avenue that we can to address the needs of students. Our twice weekly community Zoom meetings offer a brief moment of connection, one-on-one pastoral conversations allow us to listen to what student experiences, and our podcast Bible study allows us to engage with topics like faith and politics, anti-racism, LGBTQ+ identity and scripture, and topics of mental health and caring for one’s wellbeing. When schools changed their housing policies for the year, we are working to provide meal delivery gift cards and fresh produce and recipes to students who are unexpectedly without the guarantee afforded to them by a meal plan.
There are certainly moments throughout this year that have provided me with hope. But it’s not a hope that “we’ll make it through” or a hope that “things will all return to normal” – because I have no way of knowing what the future holds.
The hope that I find is in moments where students continue to connect with one another. When they bring me ideas about topics of faith that they want to explore. I find hope when I hear from students who found creative ways to cope with an eating disorder by scheduling meals with friends so that they would eat that day. Or when they tell me about how they’ve been working to get other students on their campus registered to vote.
These moments give me hope because they are real ways of recognizing that God is at work in the lives of the congregants of UKirk St. Louis.
I’m often asked how people can support UKirk this year. Many of our presbytery churches, communities, and individuals love to provide meals and meet students each year. But this year in order to keep everyone safe our meetings are all virtual. However, we are still living into our mission to feed students spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
In order to do this, we need the financial support of your churches and you as individuals. Checks can be mailed to the presbytery. And you can give securely online through our website ukirkstl.org/support.
Max Hill (they/them/theirs)
*Folx is not a misspelling this is an intentional spelling used to indicate the inclusion of marginalized groups