United Methodist students who attend Coastal Carolina University now have a new faith-home-away-from-home – a place where God’s grace and love are shared through intentional community.
“We are creating a space where all who enter understand that they are loved by God and our team, that they are wanted, and that they belong,” said the Rev. Emily Kirby, campus minister for the CCU Wesley Foundation. “Through Romans 12:5, we know that through Jesus Christ we belong to one another.
“This belonging means that we are a community who are together to celebrate, to lament, to struggle, and to experience total joy together.”
Coastal Wesley welcomed 11 students to its first gathering Jan. 27 at Centenary UMC, just south of the CCU campus. Students shared a meal, discussed scripture and who God is calling them to be, and talked about what is taking place in their lives.
During the Spring 2020 semester, Coastal Wesley is meeting on the fourth Monday of each month at Centenary UMC. In between those gatherings, small groups – including a Bible study opportunity – will meet on campus in the Lib Jackson Student Union.
Once the new school year cranks up again in Fall 2020, the group will meet weekly on Mondays for dinner and fellowship.
“Modeling the full inclusivity seen in the life of Jesus Christ,” Rev. Kirby said, “we aim to be a continuation of the grace that has been given to us. Whether someone has grown up in church, never heard of the church, or has been a part of various theological experiences – we want to welcome them and invite them to join in with us.”
LifeWay Research recently polled more than 2,000 students who, before turning 18, had attended church weekly for at least a year. The poll found that 66 percent of the students had left their faith within six years.
“It is no secret that the traditional church often does not have a clear place for young adults,” Rev. Kirby said. “The Wesley Foundation and other campus ministries provide a connection for those who are in the process of becoming independent adults to remain rooted in their relationship with Jesus Christ, their relationship with Christ’s church, and a place to continue to grow and become the disciples Christ is calling them to be.
“The Wesley Foundation provides a layer of support for students in addition to their friends and family, for seasons where they will question and take full ownership of their faith beliefs. We are an organization where students can safely be their true, authentic selves and know they are loved.”
Coastal Wesley – like each of the eight other campus ministries of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church – relies heavily on support from local churches and individuals through prayer, direct financial donations, volunteers and other resources.
“We are asking all South Carolina United Methodists to be in prayer for this new, important ministry and to share our story so students, parents and others know that we are here for them,” Rev. Kirby said. “As our organization continues to faithfully follow where the Holy Spirit is leading, we anticipate growth in numbers and will need additional volunteers to support that growth.”
Volunteer and other assistance could include being a supportive adult leader during Coastal Wesley gatherings, identifying an opportunity for students to serve others in the community, or sharing your talents by helping prepare meals, offering tutoring, music lessons or some other personal gift of time.
“As with all new ministries,” Rev. Kirby said, “we are in need of monetary gifts to help pay for programming, outreach opportunities and leadership support.
“As we empower our student leaders to help cultivate what it is they feel the Holy Spirit is leading our organization to become, adults who support us with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness will provide the supportive root system from which the Wesley Foundation will continue to grow.”
How you can help
• Give money – ccuwesley.org/donate
• Volunteer – firstname.lastname@example.org
• Make connections – email@example.com
Connect with Coastal Wesley
• Instagram: ccuwesley
• Facebook: @ccuwesley