August 7, 2022
“What is UKirk?”
This is the No. 1 question I receive from congregants, pastors, parents, high school youth and college students across the country. Often, the person means, “What does UKirk stand for?” UKirk stands for University-Kirk (the Scottish word for Church) and is the name for the network of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and Presbyterian-connected ministries (like United Campus Ministry or other Christian college groups that are supported by two or more denominations). The UKirk Network includes over 200 ministries at state, private and Presbyterian-related colleges and universities across the country.
There is no specific model for our network ministries – they are congregation-based and independent 501(c)(3) nonprofits, at small, large, public and private schools. They are all supported and led by Presbyterians for all students to find authentic Christian community where each person is a beloved child of God and invited to follow Christ on a journey of transformation for themselves and into the world God loves.
At our recent first UKirk National Gathering held June 13–16, the question “Who is UKirk?” was asked, which offers a glimpse into the diversity and beauty of our UKirk communities. Answers describing the students who attend were joined by stories of faithful volunteers who help support our ministries.
Here are a few examples to help you glimpse the beautiful diversity of what “by Presbyterians for all” looks like across the country:
“We have a mix of students who are Presbyterian and come as well as students looking for a progressive, inclusive, and welcoming faith community. Many are recovering from painful experiences with other denominations/ministries, and we are often their “last stop” before leaving the church/Christianity completely.”
“Our students tend either to have a very positive background with the PC(USA) or they are Christian seekers wading carefully back into spiritual community after some religious trauma. They are diverse in gender, sexuality, and, to a degree, perspective. Most have been white.”
“We are a safe space/safe zone for folks who identify as varying faiths, no faith, conservative, liberal, LGBTQ+, those that identify with some of these labels and those for whom none of these labels quite fit. Most of the students who come through our doors are there for our food ministry. They may or may not have an association with the church; almost none are Presbyterian. Many are first generation college students, and some identify as food insecure. The university did a survey about five years ago and 47% of their students reported they either were food insecure or had been while a college student. We define that as not knowing where your next meal is coming from.”
But UKirk Network Ministries are not just made up of students. To thrive, they must also have adult volunteers and congregational support:
“Church volunteers who help often were part of campus ministries during their college years — sometimes here. They are invested in ensuring students receive hospitality, hopeful that they will continue to practice our particular tradition, and varying degrees of aware about how different the religious landscape is among college students now. They’re dedicated and kind.”
“Our volunteers mostly come from our local Presbyterian churches, usually as a part of a PW group. Some are former students who have stayed in the area and are looking for ways to give back to the ministry that helped support them and sustain them in college.”
“We have a connection with the local Presbyterian churches and so there are a number of volunteers who come and provide meals or snacks. They come back again and again because they want the ministry to help students, or they or their child was involved and it positively impacted them.”
Each year, every UKirk ministry welcomes a new generation of college students into their ranks. If you know a student, please use the Referral Form to connect them with the ministry on their campus! Your congregation can also use the liturgy for College and Young Adult Sunday to acknowledge and pray for those from your community who are attending college, or who work with a network ministry.
I hope you will consider connecting with a local UKirk Network Ministry and joining your story with the ones above!
Gini Norris-Lane, Executive Director, UKirk Collegiate Ministries
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, August 7, 2022, the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Today’s Focus: College & Young Adult Sunday
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
James Carey, Director of Investments & Portfolio Management Services, Presbyterian Foundation
Tim Cargal, Manager, for Ministry Preparation & Support, Office of the General Assembly
Let us pray
UKirk Beatitudes – by the Revs. Allison Wehrung and Rachel Penmore
Blessed are the college students
in brick buildings and behind computer screens,
those with a trust fund and those on financial aid,
those in their first year, those finishing a fifth, and all the spaces in between,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the sports superfans and those who don’t know the difference between a football and a baseball,
for they will both find a place here.
Blessed are the procrastinators and the planners,
for God willing the work will get done.
Blessed are the loud and boisterous and the calm and contemplative,
for they will all be heard.
Blessed are those who feel pressure to define a major before they’re ready,
and those who see their calling clearly,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who are overworked, overscheduled, and overwhelmed,
for they will find rest.
Blessed are those who feel lonely and isolated,
for they will be comforted by the living body of Christ.
Blessed are the survivors,
for their stories will be heard and believed.
Blessed are those who find affirmation in the Church
and those who have been harmed by it,
for they will find peace.
Blessed are those whose truest identity is unwelcome in their family of origin,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those living with mental illness or instability,
for they will see God, and a plan for moving forward.
Blessed are those in the age of imposter syndrome, feeling crushed by filters, feedback and followers,
for they are created in the image of God.
Blessed are those who invite one another into this family of faith
and those who are brave enough to show up.
Blessed are the hopeful,
and the coping.
Blessed are those working to make the world a better place, and those who aren’t sure where to start.
Blessed are you in all times, in all places, exactly as you are,
for yours is the kingdom of heaven.