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UKirk, the PC(USA)’s campus ministry network, will hold its second official national gathering June 13-16

For a lower rate, register by April 1

by Beth Waltemath | Presbyterian News Service

Dr. Lakisha Lockhart of Union Presbyterian Seminary will keynote UKirk’s national gathering.

April 1 is the early bird deadline to register for the 2023 UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association National Gathering.

The event, which will take place at Massanetta Springs Camp and Conference Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia, from June 13–16, will be UKirk’s second official national gathering, according to the Rev. Rachel Hébert, who chaired the five-person planning team for the 2022 event held at Zephyr Point Presbyterian Conference Center in Zephyr Cove, Nevada.

Last year’s first “official” national gathering “was an incredible experience,” said Hébert, associate pastor of Community Care at Williamsburg Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, Virginia. To balance the travel demands, the annual conference will be held in different locations each year. “We knew we wanted to be on the East Coast this year and support a PC(USA) Camp and Conference Center,” Hébert said, “so Massanetta Springs became a natural choice.”

The Rev. Rachel Penmore

“Campus ministry is a unique calling,” said the Rev. Rachel Penmore, UKirk campus minister at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a member of the UKirk national gathering organizing team. “It is often isolating and challenging, while at the same time abundantly joyful and hopeful for the future of the church. Through gatherings such as this one, we are able to come together as community to support one another, explore new ideas, and find new life in the specific ministries of our colleges, universities and schools.”

With organizers concerned about isolation and burnout among those engaged in campus ministry, this year’s theme of “More Than Enough” addresses aspects of a scarcity mentality and focuses on the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 men in addition to women and children. Each day’s programming revolves around understanding how and whom we are nourishing by offering gathering spaces, in deepening community and through entrusting a greater global impact for the gospel we share. “Our workshop offerings are seeking to look holistically at campus ministry and how to care for our ministers, through spiritual direction and emotional and mental health of clergy and students, as well as how we can engage in justice and care for our communities and the world,” Penmore said.

Dr. Lakisha Lockhart, assistant professor of Christian Education at Union Presbyterian Seminary, will deliver the keynote addresses. Lockhart, who was named a “Millennial Womanist to Watch” from the Millennial Womanist Project, incorporates research on embodied faith and multiple intelligences into her work as a practical theologian. On Union Presbyterian Seminary’s faculty page, Lockhart’s teaching is praised because it “takes seriously the benefits and necessity of play, movement, aesthetics, creative arts and embodiment.” According to Hébert, this year’s event will not overlook such benefits and will hold a “very fun ‘triathlon’ that includes a slip-n-slide.”

The Rev. Rachel Hébert

“It’s a time to be silly and let go, a time to think reflectively about our ministries,” Hébert said. “It’s also a time to build up our connections across the network, and to simply be in God’s presence at a ‘thin place.’” Hébert described how campus ministers who consistently show up for a transient group of students to demonstrate God’s love for them could use reminding of their own beloved-ness. “Holding a national gathering for campus ministers is one way that we support each other and remind each other that yes, you too are more than enough, that you too are a beloved child of God.”

Supporting UKirk ministers and those they nurture is important to the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Office of Christian Formation, whose financial sponsorship enables the reduced cost for attendees of the national gathering. The cost is $250 for those who register before April 1 and $300 for those who register before May 15. Scholarships are also available.

“We partner with UKirk Collegiate Ministries Association to help fund this gathering so that our campus ministers can attend at a subsidized cost,” said Stephanie Fritz, coordinator for the Office of Christian Formation. “We hope that they are able to find community, a time for sabbath and rejuvenation. They return to their ministries better equipped to accompany students.”

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