Campus ministers gather in Kentucky

July 5, 2004

Approximately 60 campus ministers met at Berea College in Kentucky June 23-26 for the Episcopal Ministries in Higher Education gathering under the theme "Forgiven, loving and free: spreading the joyful news on campus," the first such conference since the dissolution of the Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education (ESMHE) in 2003.

A pre-conference gathering was held for the benefit of those new to campus ministry and offered some additional time for learning and discussion with fellow newcomers, as well as experienced campus ministers. Structured as a retreat, the conference centered around meditations and regular times of worship. Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold and author Amanda Millay Hughes offered meditations to the group over the three days. Karin MacPhail, a recent graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and the new Episcopal chaplain to the University of Virginia, said the conference "was almost like a pre-ordination retreat. It helped me get in touch with why I'm really doing this."

The Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education was founded in 1968 in response to the national church's shift in budget priorities away from campus ministry. The society advocated and lobbied for Episcopal campus ministries, published a journal for a number of years and held an annual higher education ministries conference.

Since the 1980s, ESMHE has worked in increasing partnership with the national church's Young Adult and Higher Education Ministries department, as well as the Episcopal Church Foundation. With these evolving roles, the society determined to dissolve as a corporation. In an address to the conference, the Rev. Sam Portaro, the last elected president of ESMHE and Episcopal chaplain at the University of Chicago, said, "Today the work of ministry on campus is carried out by a diverse and loosely connected society of lay and ordained; male and female; young, middle and senior adult servants, some paid and some volunteer, of diverse races on diverse campuses in diverse communities each of whom is as stretched and stressed as the next...the leadership of ESMHE determined to see these realities not as a threat but as an opportunity...We chose to die in order that we might live."