It’s time to wrap up my survey of Vinoth Ramachandra’s lecture, ‘Engaging the university’. Ramachandra concludes by presenting a vision for university ministry. It’s a different angle to what we’re familiar with as Australians, and he dubs it a paradigm shift. Below is the vision as I perceive it, but be sure to listen to how he puts it. I’ll return to my questions about university ministry later on, but right now let me point you to the vision itself. I’m excited by it!
University ministry is about the people of the university ministering to the world of the university.
University ministry is prophetic. It addresses the university as the university. It does what the local church cannot: it knows the university, listens to the university, and is able to speak to the university, because it participates in the university.
University ministry promotes a learning community. Even if they are young adults, university students are citizens engaged in particular fields of learning within the university, which is itself a particular culture of learning. And in this they are accompanied by researchers, scholars, and administrators. A Christian campus group is made up of people who recognise themselves as a subset of the university learning community, and who commit themselves to that wider community.
University ministry promotes a witnessing community. While these people will be palpably pro-university, they are ambassadors with an allegiance reaching beyond the world of the university. The character, testimony, and activities of these people is an expression of Christ’s presence and oversight. Their communities will not merely be a Christian collective but a place for thinking Christianly.
University ministry promotes flourishing in the university world. Christians more than anyone know that intellectual inquiry flows out of ‘faith seeking understanding’. When universities change under the influence of the powers that be, Christians will stand as a reminder for the university to remain true to itself, as a humane, just, creative, integrative, and truly open place of learning. This ‘Christianising’ influence will affirm a truly secular, world-oriented learning environment. The people of the ascended Christ are participants in and beacons of a ‘true humanism’, which is the unacknowledged fulfilment of the ‘university’ (the embodiment of the quest for wholeness in learning). They will extend the same sort of concern to public life and the society around them.
How might we expect this to take shape? Watch this space, but first, listen for yourself:
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.