Awnings, Discontinuity, & Institutions: Called to SRU
During my first year as a campus minister at Slippery Rock University, my friend Ondeck came to visit and I took him on a campus tour. We exchanged observations about the similarities and differences between SRU and Shippensburg University, our shared alma mater. As we passed by Old Main, Ondeck remarked that the building had “the awning of an old Italian restaurant.” He wasn’t wrong. Seriously, the entrance to nearby Rachel’s Roadhouse is pretty similar.
Someone from the administration must have overhead Ondeck’s comment, and a couple of years ago, they ripped out the shabby, old green thing and built a beautiful new entrance. Just look at it!
But there is something I notice every time I walk past Old Main: there’s a stark difference between the brand new entrance and the weathered old building. It doesn’t look bad, but the discontinuity is hard to miss.
This is an apt metaphor, I think, to what it means to be part of institution like a university. SRU has been around since 1889. A lot has changed in 128 years—the name of the school, the size of campus, the things it is known for, and countless other parts of what makes SRU what it is. The new entrance to Old Main is only one of the more recent changes on a campus that is constantly evolving.
As a campus minister, my job is to help students learn what it means to follow Jesus in every part of their lives. While you are enrolled as a students here, this means you are called to be a part of this institution. You’re called to engage in campus life, to study hard, to get involved, to meet people. This will leave an impact on your life. In the years to come, well after your time here, your life will be different because of the years you spent at SRU.
At the same time, Christians aren’t simply called to a static part of our culture, simply walking through life allowing the forces and influences of our environment to shape us as they will. We are called to be shaped by God through his Word—the Bible, the written Word, and Jesus Christ, the living Word. And as we are formed more and more into people who love God and love what he loves, we make an impact on the world around us that we are part of. Through the great mystery of God’s plan, we are invited into the work he is doing in his world.
We wait until That Great Day when Jesus returns to establish his Kingdom in its fullness to see God’s plan brought to fruition. Still, even now, we get to see and be a part of the ways he is making all things new and healing the brokenness of sin, right within our midst. We get to be the hands and feet of our Lord as we love our neighbor, tear down idols, invite others to hear the Good News, and seek restoration through our studies, relationships and involvements. As Jeremiah wrote in his letter to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, we too have been given the charge to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you” (Jer. 29:7).
And just like there is a sharp distinction in the bricks between the new entrance to Old Main and the original building, we see clear lines between the parts of our campus that are broken, decaying, and ungodly, and the parts that are being redeemed, restored, and made new.
We are God’s people. We’re called to carry on God’s work right where we are. We’re a servant community, united with Christ, pursuing redemption in His world. Let’s get to it!
—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.