This is a reflection from KU student, Kailie Hamilton. Kailie grew up in Hesston (KS) UMC and was a part of CCYM. You can learn more about Wesley KU and all of their incredible ministries like Queer Faith, Noodle Night, the Food Pantry, and worship by visiting their website or contact campus minister, Susan Mercer.
Attending a university is generally going to be difficult for students, no matter the level or topic of study. There is an endless amount of time-fillers; managing the price of higher education, writing papers and studying for exams, and attending to friendships that are just beginning to bloom leaves little unoccupied mental space.
For many students, faith is an important part of their lives that they don’t want to drop to make room for everything else. But when they try to attend a worship service, they hear messages that go against essential parts of their being or belief system. With all of the other weight students carry on their day-to-day, it is crucial that our place of worship accepts who we are as we struggle with our identities on top of being a student.
At the University of Kansas, there are four fully inclusive campus ministries. Wesley KU, the United Methodist ministry, is one of the inclusive ministries on campus. We operate with the Lutheran ministry under the name “Westwood House.” Our ministry is focused around the core message of “God loves you, no exceptions.”
Physically, Westwood house is decked in rainbows, equality signs, and is promoted with language that is inclusive in terms of sexuality, gender, and race. But inclusivity goes beyond that, it is found within the way students are fed before they are preached at. Our leaders encourage personal faith exploration by generating difficult questions, and our worship services are centered around group discussions that give room for students to tangle with these mysteries of faith. The goal of our church is to foster community that is available for everyone, and in doing so countless students have found a home where they feel completely valued and loved.
Romy is a student who got involved in Westwood House last spring and has been an active leader in the ministry since. I asked Romy “Why Westwood?” and this was his response:
“Having someone to spiritually connect with was something I had given up on based off of the rejection from my first experience with campus ministry at KU. Attending Westwood House gave me faith in the possibility of there being a place for me within the church as a queer person. After I met Susan [Wesley KU’s campus minister] I knew I had found a home for my spiritual journey to continue.”
The call we see as students of faith is to love beyond scripture, beyond the walls of conventional Christianity. Young people don’t want flashy stage lights and hip music; we want to feel welcomed and cared for. Westwood House continues to pursue a church that sets the standards for pursuing justice; one that is constantly re-defining what it means to uphold the dignity of all people and things.
We call the Great Plains to join us as we redefine what it means to be a church for all.