By Sally Price
Episcopal Campus Ministry (ECM) is a joint ministry with St. Thomas’s Parish and the Episcopal Church in Delaware for students at the University of Delaware (UD). The relationship between St. Thomas’s and UD dates back to St. Thomas’s founding in 1842. Since then, leadership has crossed the street several times. A Canterbury Club serving UD students was formed in 1947. In 1959 the diocese funded a full-time university chaplain based at St. Thomas’s. This program continued until 1970, when the campus ministry became independent of St. Thomas’s for a number of years. In the 1980s ECM came back to St. Thomas’s, restoring the long-time connection between the parish and the university. Supported by the diocese, ECM remains an integral part of the fabric of our parish, taking various forms from UD students serving as mentors for high school students to the more college-level focus it takes today. With our new rector and bishop, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for ECM.
A registered campus organization, ECM is composed of a mixed group of undergraduate and graduate students. We are diverse on every level, reflecting a broad cross-section of majors, minors, and interests among our members. ECM meets regularly for food, fun, and fellowship. Every Wednesday we gather at St. Thomas’s for Evening Prayer followed by a home-cooked meal prepared by different parishioners. After supper we talk about the challenges we are facing, our triumphs, and everything in between. In the space we create, everyone is supported to be who they are without judgement. Denise Burgher, a graduate student, advises the group and leads when we engage in both community service and fun projects.
Our main community service initiative is our food bank, Blue Hen Bounty (BHB). BHB is the only food bank on UD’s campus. Originally intended to meet the needs of food-insecure students at UD, we have expanded our services to include any and all members of the UD community. This effort began under the leadership of our former advisor, the Rev. Deacon Cecily Sawyer-Harmon, and has continued to grow as a result of the hard work of our members.
Members pack, sort, and organize the food, make and keep the lists of what is needed, and staff the pantry. Initially, BHB was completely supported by donations from the parish. However, this semester we received a large donation of food and storage materials from Food Lion Supermarkets. We are very excited about this relationship and intend to develop it as we expand and improve BHB.
ECM works with the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, and Methodist Campus Ministries. Together we work on campus-wide projects such as educating the campus
about hunger as a global issue. We also gather for fun activities like hayrides at Millburn Orchards and holiday parties. We have participated in interfaith and non-religious projects as well. For example, Better Together is supported by the University of Delaware and is dedicated to promoting understanding among diverse groups of people.
Some years we take spring break work trips together. We have been to Mexico, New Orleans, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, and Camp Arrowhead in Delaware. On these trips we work on community projects ranging from painting school rooms to building houses and demolishing condemned structures. Though we do a lot of work, we have a great time with each other, experience the different cultures, and make unforgettable memories.
Being an Episcopalian and/or attending St. Thomas’s is not a requirement. St. Thomas’s is a welcoming and encouraging church. All students are invited to come
worship on Sundays, and most attend the 10:30 service. But ECM is not St Thomas’s. So even if students do not want to join the parish in worship on Sunday, we want them to feel welcome to come spend time with us during the school year. We hope you will come have dinner with us on Wednesdays, work with us on BHB, go on field trips off-site in and around Delaware and Philadelphia, work with the other campus ministries, and just have fun!
Sally Price has been involved with ECM for about 25 years, starting in her youth as a camp counselor in her home diocese of southern Ohio. Currently, she is the leader of ECM at the University of Delaware. firstname.lastname@example.org