Pacific Lutheran University announcement.
Campus Ministry and the Wild Hope Center for Vocation have recently joined forces to develop new opportunities for Pacific Lutheran University students and staff. After noticing a disconnect among PLU staff members during the pandemic, these two departments came together in January to host a retreat for staff to focus on renewal and reconnection. Since then, the Wild Hope Center and Campus Ministry have been working together to develop initiatives that will help students in their spiritual and vocational discernment.
We talked to Laree Winer, associate director for the center for vocation, and Reverend Jen Rude, the university pastor, about their work together.
What inspired your collaboration?
Winer: One of the things we saw right away is how aligned our work is. I would often meet with students who would have questions about spirituality and faith, which tend to come up in times of vocational reflection. Jen would see vocation come up in conversations with students. We also wanted to be good stewards of our very limited resources. We don’t have big budgets, and once we saw where there was alignment in our work, we realized we can do a lot more together than we can separately. This collaboration lets us provide deeper, richer experiences for our students.
Rude: There is a synergy between the two of us and our departments. The students we are working with tend to be asking the big questions of life about vocation and purpose, which tend to be spiritual questions as well.
How has working together been beneficial for you and your departments?
Winer: We need each other. The partnership between the two of us has been energizing and fulfilling. You don’t want to become an echo chamber, you need someone else to work with. We both were craving collegiality. You need someone to bounce ideas off of.
Rude: A lot of students don’t know that we are actually in two different divisions. I am in student life and Laree is on the academic side. By working together, we increase our perspective about what is going on in other parts of the university, which impacts our ability to support our staff.
Chapel break has officially returned to PLU’s academic schedule. What does this mean for your departments and the PLU campus at large?
Winer: One of the things we have partnered on is a Monday chapel. This chapel focuses on introducing different spiritual practices from different faith traditions to students. Chapel is for anyone, but we are also very mindful of what different chapel experiences can look like. The different practices we introduce students to can help nourish faith and spirituality, and also help with vocational discernment. This is one place where our aims are really connected.
Rude: The return to a scheduled chapel break does feel a bit like starting over. We’ve got several years of students who don’t know that we have a chapel break. It feels like a reintroduction to campus, and hopefully a recommitment to including that time for reflection in our academic schedule. We will continue to try new things. All three of our chapel experiences are different with the hopes that they might draw in different people. Chapel gives students and staff a time to pause and reflect. We talk about the importance of pausing, but actually pausing? We don’t really do that. Most people don’t actually have ten minutes of their day set aside to pause, and students find that chapel is a helpful tool for that. People are stretched so thin that it is hard to get them to leave their work for half an hour. It feels like the culture right now is one where it is normal for people to feel maxed out, so it might be harder for us to convince people to leave their desk for a minute and pause.
Why do you think it is important to pause for reflection?
Winer: Jen and I both feel really strongly that part of our vocation is to hold the space for people to pause and reflect. Pausing to reflect on your vocation or spirituality is so countercultural. Holding this space is how we start to dismantle and push against this busy culture. Our culture suggests that if you aren’t being productive and keeping busy all the time, there is something wrong with you. We both have talked about how we are committed to combating that type of culture for each other, for our colleges and for our students.
Rude: We also want to make space for grief, and for the hard emotions. We had a sense working with the staff this summer that many of us are deeply grieving. We try to find ways to hold space for people to feel those emotions instead of trying to skirt around them.
What upcoming opportunities are you providing for students to pause and reflect?
Winer: I think our biggest upcoming collaboration is our January term course that we are going to be leading together at Holden Village in 2023. The course is going to be about leading lives that matter. Holden Village is a great place for students to experience a different way of life.
Rude: Holden Village is a retreat center in the North Cascades. It has Lutheran roots, but is open to people of all faith traditions. It is super remote. You can’t drive there, you have to take a boat and are then picked up by a school bus. There is no cellphone reception, and students do not have access to wifi. In this remote setting, people have space to reflect on their lives. We give students some tools for discernment, vocational reflection and spiritual practices. This is an opportunity to step away into a new way of being.
More information about the J-term course at Holden Village and how to apply can be found here.
Information about spring 2022 chapel opportunities can be found here. https://www.plu.edu/campus-ministry/chapel/