Campus Ministry offers food, fellowship to all students

Andrew Shermoen

“Radical hospitality” is one of the many mottos of Washburn University’s United Methodist Campus Ministries. With their numerous events and programs to assist and mentor the students of Washburn, they abide by those words on a regular basis.

The UMCM was initially established at Washburn in the 1950s, just a few years prior to  the infamous 1966 tornado. The storm having destroyed their place of operations, the UMCM spent the next several years based in various location before finally acquiring their current house and offices on the corner of 17th and Boswell.

Cherie Baker, the current director of UMCM, is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church and the current pastor of Grace United Methodist Church.

“We have a joke around here that I don’t work two part-time jobs, but two full-time jobs at part-time pay,” Baker said.

According to Baker, the UMCM has a broad scope and is not structured exclusively around bringing in students of one single faith. Instead, the organization encourages students of varying faiths to attend and “ask the hard questions,” another one of the institution’s mottos.

The Order of Saint Thomas, named after the Christian disciple famous for his doubt, is held at 5:45 p.m. every Thursday evening at the Campus Ministries house. UMCM provides dinner to all students in attendance and then encourages them to sit and discuss difficult subjects that often don’t relate to religion but can be connected to it. Topics of discussion planned for this semester include the existence of the paranormal and how to impact the lives of people around you. The inclusive attitude of events such as these is something UMCM strives for.

“We’ve had atheist, Buddhist, Hindu and even Norse-Pagan students attend our discussions,” Baker said.

The event also serves to provide students with a free lunch every Monday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“College students are one of the most at risk groups of people [in terms of food security,]” Baker said. “We’ve had students come who are living in their cars, even though they’re working two jobs. We want those meals to help students save a little extra money and get some food when they can’t.”

UMCM also offers weekly group discussions for men and women.

The men’s group is from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. Leo Hope, sophomore communications major, joined UMCM in the summer and leads the group.

“At the men’s group, we really just come together and we create a safe space for the men in our community to talk about life,” Hope said. “If you’re a man in the Topeka area and you have a lot on your mind, we want you to know that this is great place to come and get all that stuff off your chest.”

The women’s group is led by Megan Hasslinger, senior psychology and communications major, and meets from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. The group is a new addition to the UMCM’s services, and it provides an opportunity for any student who identifies as female to seek support and talk in a safe space. 

“We want to deal with the question of ‘how are you feeling spiritually’ while not being overtly Christian,” Hasslinger said.

The group also holds a worship service from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday. UMCM also holds special events. such as service projects assembling and sending relief buckets to the victims of natural distasters, as well as more lighthearted events such as the Terrible, Awful Movie Night where the attendants take on a Mystery Science Theater 3000 vibe to heckle bad movies as a group.

For more information on any of these events, feel free to visit their house and offices located at 1621 SW Boswell Ave.