Under Thad Holcombe’s leadership, programs at Ecumenical Campus Ministries at Kansas University continue to evolve. Veggie Lunch, University-Community Forum, Sexuality Education Committee, Faith Forum, Fair Trade Committee — these and other programs draw about 1,000 people a month through the doors of the ECM building.
Students, faculty, and community members all participate in building the ethos of being “open and affirming to all people who come, regardless of where they are on their life’s journey.”
Holcombe also recently directed a capital campaign to raise $832,000 to upgrade and improve the ECM building. As a part of the campaign, ECM applied for and received local, state and national historical designation for the ECM building at 1204 Oread Ave.
Holcombe, whose title is EMC director, says the campus ministry must welcome and engage with all people, by listening to and accepting them regardless of how their thoughts and beliefs align with his. Part of his creed also includes taking responsibility for the earth and nature and taking part in issues of social justice.
“I’m always stretched as I meet with students and faculty,” says Holcombe, “I see the presence of the Holy that happens in community, when people are trusting each other and vulnerable, caring for the earth and practicing compassion.”
A Presbyterian minister by training, Holcombe has spent his career in ecumenical ministries in the higher education setting.
How he became a campus minister is a story that winds back to his undergraduate days at Oklahoma State University. He was involved in a weekly ministry program that introduced him to intellectuality within the church. Through that program, he had the opportunity to go to the University of Allahabad, in India, for a year.
“That was a traumatic year,” says Holcombe, “in that everything I knew was challenged. I was from rural Oklahoma, thrown into another world. My adviser was a part of the Communist Party in India, and this was when communism was seen as terrible in the U.S. The experience changed how I looked at things.”
Holcombe returned to the United States and received a degree in Biblical Studies in Social Ethics. After years of working at the University of Oklahoma, an opening at KU’s ECM beckoned him and his family to Lawrence in 1991.