Posters and sandwich boards describing religion-affiliated events are publicly displayed side by side with completely secular events all over campus. Mass is held on Sundays in the Viking Union Multipurpose room. Though we supposedly reign from the Godless West Coast , thousands of Western students are affiliated with at least one of over 20 Associated Student religion- based clubs. At least 15 of these clubs are Christian student run organizations, such as Campus Christian Fellowship, The Inn Ministries, Campus Crusade for Christ and Newman Catholic Campus Ministry.
Though each Christian organization represented on campus vary vary greatly from the very conservative to the very liberal, manyost seem to focus on creating a welcoming community for students and a place of support as students transition from adolescence into adulthood, particularly Campus Christian Fellowship and The Inn Ministires.
“There comes a point in everyone's life if you're a smart thinking person—or even if you're not—where you start wrestling through these questions of, ‘What do I believe?' ‘Is what my parents believe in legit?'” said Jeff Widman, an intern for CCF . “ECampus Christian Fellowship, more commonly known as CCF. “Especially when you come to Western, everything . . . is like ‘Where am I going to fall?'”
As students begin to grapple with the “big” questions of life, meaning, being and identity, both CCF, and The Inn strive to provide some answers and guidance, though both organizations' methods vary. CCF and the Inn are the largest Christian organizations on campus. Loosely affiliated with Hillcrest Chapel, CCF holds large worship gatherings every Friday at 7 p.m. in Arntzen 100 where more than 300 students usually attend. The purpose of these gatherings, which include a wWorship band and announcements of community going-ons, are to connect with the larger campus community, according to Bethany Stead, an active member of CCF. Similarly, The Inn is located at 1031 N. Garden at First Presbyterian Church and hosts anywhere from 250 to 500 students at their large, open-invitation gathering on Tuesday nights at 9 p.m., according to Jim Schmotzer, Director of the Inn.
However, there are differences in the types of communities both the Inn and CCF foster. The Inn, according to Jim Schmotzer, is very moderate in ideology and very de-politicized.
“We don't want to be known for pocket issues,” Schmotzer said in regard to the Inn's reluctance to become involved in controversial issues, such as abortion and creationism, which some Christian communities often become associated with.
Instead of sparking controversy or even embracing evangelical tactics, The Inn's primary objectives, to paraphrase Schmotzer, are to create community and a sense of belonging, to help students and young adults transition into an independent “adult faith,” and to provide students leadership opportunities in the form of service projects, retreats, bible study groups, etc. Though the Inn offers many small group bible study sessions throughout the week, student retreats and service projects, Shmotzer highly emphasized the sense of general community and support the Inn wants to provide for students in a time of transition.
“We're committed enough to the Christian faith that we believe it's a real valuable thing to have as a part of their [students'] transitional time,” Schmotzer said.
However, while CCF takes a very similar approach as the Inn, also providing smaller bible study meetings to supplement the large weekly gathering, CCF is more conservative and regimented. For example, CCF has designated trained leaders who facilitate small bible study groups, called “cores,” which are gender separated and always held in the dormitories on campus. In addition to the weekly groups, the leader then meets with each member of the group individually at least once a week.
CCF also employs eight full-time, un-paid interns, who must devote at least 60 hours a week to bible studies and organizational and administrative duties for CCF. All CCF interns must live in one of the two CCF supported off campus homes, known as “The Home,” which houses 12 men, and “The Mansion,” which houses 15 women. These two houses, located on the 1200 block of High Street, act like almost as Christian sponsored communes. Interns cohabitate with other students who are either practicing Christians or have an interest in the Christian faith. All housematesmembers of the household share household chores and cooking duties. All roommates must also adhere to a set of rules stating that they respect designated quiet hours, attend two-hour weekly house meetings, abide by a system for inviting over guests, abstain from alcohol and tobacco on the premises, and withhold from being in a bedroom alone with a member of the opposite sex. Money is gathered collectively to pay for food for meals and a quarterly retreat. Admittance into both The Home and The Mansion is by application, however numerous other Christian related households exist, such as The Barn, The Igloo, The fishbowl, and so on, though these homes are not directly affiliated with CCF.
Evangelicalism is more integrated into CCF than at the Inn, as CCF, for instance, participates in a program called “Reach”, which, according to CCF member BethaStny Stead, is an attempt to literally “reach” out to students and discuss God and religion with non-CCF members in the campus community.
“For me, Christ is so central . . . it means a lot to me that God cares so much about this campus,” said Stead, a junior.
CCF also creates events in an attempt to engage the community in discussions about God and Jesus Christ. For instance, in Red Square on May 24, CCF staged an open forum discussion on Christian author C.S. Lewis's book The Great Divorce, enticing students to join the discussion of the book and Christianity in general.
Both the Inn and CCF offer welcoming and accessible communities for Western students to join, if one so chooses finding a “home away from home” or simply a broader community grounded in Christian values .
“God created humans to love him and to be in a relationship with him,” Widman said.
And if you believe this perhaps there is a community of people apart from all the secular communities affiliated with campus that will also welcome a relationship with you too.