The pews are still there, but something’s different

In recent years, many University students seem to be moving away from traditional means of religious practices. Faith-based organizations on campus are noticing increased attendance at meetings but with more resistance to the way they worshiped growing up.

The message doesn’t change but the methodologies must, according to Michael Brown, adviser for Cru, a Christian organization on campus. Brown said Cru has been able to connect with many more students after switching from a Christian youth group in 1998 to a social, spiritual, service organization that embodies “at your own pace spirituality,” rather than simply a “holy huddle.”

Brown stresses Cru is not about religion, but rather about establishing relationships and connections.

Along with people who feel they live a devout life, campus groups are also noticing an increase of students that just want to ask questions and may not have a spiritual background at all. Cru, for example, is now attracting both the “religiously restless” – students who may feel burned out on their faith but are giving it a second chance – and the “spiritually curious,” Brown said.

The University’s Gospel Choir has also been breaking away from traditional religious services and beginning to focus more on “free-worship,” according to Eugene Partridge, the group’s president.

“This year our theme is love and family, I think that’s why we’ve started to draw from many ethnic backgrounds rather than primarily African Americans,” Partridge said. “We are not the traditional Gospel Choir; we are much more open to everyone.”

The Gospel Choir’s mission is to promote Christian development, focusing on the social, intellectual and moral welfare of its members and community. These goals will be achieved, the group’s Web site reports, by proclaiming the ministry of Christ through gospel music and other Christian activities.

Another religious organization on campus that has seen more members in the recent years is Creed on Campus. Creed, a student organization that focuses on the teachings of the Catholic Church, has been able to sustain members and grow exponentially. At the group’s onset in 2001, 10 individuals were involved. Now, more than 60 students are members.

Students find support, camaraderie and friendship within Creed, said Mary Alice Newnam, their adviser.

“Our members want to connect to their heritage of faith and find their Catholic identity,” she said.

Although Newnam has also noticed an increased resistance to conventional worship from her members, she also believes participation in Sunday morning mass is an essential part of the Catholic faith.

“I can see the pulling away from weekly services in non-Catholic groups,” she said. “We encourage and educate our members as to why the traditional way of worship is an important discipline of a faithful Christian.”

Religious organizations’ advisers also say they are experiencing an increase of international students who regularly attend meetings. However, Cru and Creed say ethnic diversity within their groups is still minimal.

“It breaks my heart when I walk through the Union and I can see how segregated BGSU’s campus is,” Brown said. “We are attempting to tackle this issue; it is one of our biggest priorities, to figure out why.”

Newnam says she is always looking for new members to join Creed but is very happy with the number of people that are currently involved.

Young people are seeking and searching and the University needs to offer activities for students, she said.