Campus and community fellowship as one
The university’s Baptist Student Ministries has teamed up with four local churches to present ONE, a series of on-campus worship events designed to create unity between the student body and the community.
ONE replaces FOCUS, a similar event that the university hosted for several years.
“With the growth of local church ministries, changes in campus culture, multiple options competing for evenings, and the life cycle of events, FOCUS was fading for a couple of years,” said BSM Director Dr. Shawn Shannon. “It had served its purpose. We were officially saying farewell to it by the spring of last year.”
The BSM connected with Vista Community Church, Temple Bible Church and First Baptist Church to create the worship experience.
“Graciously, Austin Fischer of Vista Community church sparked a dialogue about coming together as multiple ministries as a testimony to the unity we have in Christ,” Shannon said. “The four of us met throughout the past summer, talking, listening, discerning, praying, planning, and learning to trust and delight in one another.”
After laying out the groundwork for what ONE was to be, Shannon assembled a student leadership team of students including senior public relations major Katie Valenzuela and sophomore music education major Jacob Burlingame.
“We were having coffee one day and Dr. Shannon asked, ‘Do you want to be a part of ONE?’ and I thought, ‘What’s ONE?’” Burlingame said. “She described it, and it was a new concept. At the time, I wasn’t really sure about it. But I prayed about it and as time went on, I eventually said yes and I haven’t doubted it yet.”
The principle of ONE is that on a college campus, everyone comes from a different spiritual setting, so the goal of the event is to give students a place where they can step out of their comfort zones and interact with new people.
“We each have our own church backgrounds, and some of us don’t have church backgrounds at all. So ONE is UMHB coming together to worship,” Valenzuela said. “A lot of us go to different churches, so to be able to come together to worship the same God and learn the same things in the same place is really neat.”
Burlingame said it’s easy for people of faith to fall into a rut when they engage in the same worship patterns each week, but ONE is a way to break through the monotony.
“You get in the habit of meeting with the same seven or eight people every Wednesday at church. ONE is a way for us to connect with the full body of Christ, not just my body of Christ,” he said. “It’s broadened my horizon to realize that God is working through more than just the few people I see around me every day. It’s unity within the body of Christ.”
Even though the university is a Baptist-affiliated campus, Valenzuela said that doesn’t mean everyone is in the same place spiritually.
“I think it’s easy to assume that— since we go to UMHB—everyone here knows God and everyone here is in the same place in life. But there are people on this campus who do not know the gospel,” she said.
ONE takes place one Wednesday per month at 8:30 p.m. in Walton Chapel. The services include worship through song, scripture readings, a sermon, and an action step, which is a recommendation of how to act on what was shared through the message. Each service throughout the semester has a different theme.
“The theme for the semester is about the different prayers or heart-cries that bring us to the Lord: Help, Thanks, Sorry and Wow,” Shannon said.
The BSM director said her desire is for ONE to unite those who attend, regardless of their background.
“I hope they experience the oneness of the Body of Christ,” she said. “And that they see and hear something that cannot be explained except as a work of the Holy Spirit and that they are drawn to Christ from whatever starting point.”