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PC(USA) campus ministry in New Orleans benefits from ecumenical partnerships


UKirk and 1001 New Worshiping Communities support sustainable ministries through innovation and ecumenism

July 24, 2024

The Rev. Zoë Garry directs the Labyrinth Café in New Orleans. (Screenshot)

The Labyrinth Café and Gathering Place, a campus ministry for Tulane University and the University of New Orleans in uptown New Orleans, is “a community center where people can gather and ask deep questions about life and faith,” said the Rev. Zoë Garry, campus minister and director of the Labyrinth.

The 1001 New Worshiping Communities movement “has been a blessing to me,” said Garry, who credited the movement with allowing for space to be creative and for offering resources and support to help her grow her leadership and the ministry of Labyrinth Café.

The movement connected in 2020 to the Labyrinth, one of 40 emerging ministries to students that the movement has supported so far.

“The Labyrinth Café is an excellent example of the partnership between 1001 and UKirk,” said the Rev. Nikki Collins, who directs the 1001 movement. “When 1001 was launched, we knew that new worshiping communities would be born in a wide variety of contexts, and so there was a hope and expectation that those would include college campuses among students.”

New campus ministries are eligible for grant funding through 1001. Collins said many campus ministers take part in 1001 training opportunities, but that as both UKirk Collegiate Ministries and 1001 mature as organizations and movements in the PC(USA), they are “working together to create complementary training events for leaders.”

The Rev. Gini Norris-Lane

“It is a true gift to have 1001 NWC as a UKirk partner,” said the Rev. Gini Norris-Lane, UKirk Collegiate Ministries director, who noted that there are approximately 200 collegiate ministries in the UKirk Network. UKirk ministries that got their start in 2012 or after have been able to work with 1001 NWC to receive grant funding, coaching, and support from both organizations. “Many of the programs and trainings UKirk offers have been inspired by the work Nikki and others do in 1001 NWC, and I’m thrilled UKirk is able to work with 1001 to develop opportunities to more fully equip new campus ministers to serve their campus contexts more faithfully,” Norris-Lane said.

Ecumenical partnerships are also a way that campus ministries are creating sustainability. The Labyrinth Café has benefited from a partnership with the United Methodist Church, finding shelter in one of its buildings.

“In the last 25 years, financial resources have dwindled significantly,” said Norris-Lane, who said that at its peak in the 1950s, there were 500 Presbyterian campus ministries around the country. Even though the official number of collegiate ministries is smaller, “the call to support the spiritual, intellectual and emotional formation of young adults has only increased, with more than 20 million undergraduate students in college today,” said Norris-Lane, adding that ecumenical partnerships, “which are sometimes born out of financial necessity, can actually provide a deeper and wider Christian witness to students to join a faith community that is open to all participates and invites them to join in Christ’s mission of justice, love and peace.”

The Rev. Michelle Scott-Huffman

“On many college campuses, out of 15 or 20 Christian ministry organizations, UKirk ministries are often the only one, or one of a few, that welcome and include all students,” Norris-Lane said.

“I believe that ecumenical partnerships are a benefit to our students,” said the Rev. Michelle Scott-Huffman, a UKirk National Board member who leads the Ekklesia Campus Ministry at Missouri State University. “Many of the students who come to the only inclusive ministry on campus are not PC(USA),” Scott-Huffman said, “and in my experience, many are not even willing to identify as Christian (yet, for some).”

Scott-Huffman explained how presenting students with “a message of unconditional love and inclusion that is bigger than one denomination allows them to believe that it’s real, that it’s a valid theological viewpoint, and that when they leave our ministries and go out into the world, they can find their spiritual home in a variety of places.”

“We have discovered that in many places across the American church, it just makes sense to join hands with other denominations and share ministry together,” said Collins, who noted that new worshiping communities that minister to all ages also benefit from ecumenical partners. “These partnerships often provide more robust financial support as well as a broader network of colleagues and friends in ministry.”

Beth Waltemath, Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Today’s Focus: The Labyrinth Café and Gathering Place

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
John McFayden, Executive Vice President, Board of Pensions 
James, and Jodi McGill, Mission co-workers serving in Niger/South Sudan, Presbyterian Mission Agency  

Let us pray

Dear God, you hear the cries of your people. We thank you for answering prayers and for providing new hope and opportunities as an extension of your reign on earth. Amen.

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