Lutherans celebrate 100 years of campus ministry

Shawn Norris figures not much has changed through 100 years of Lutherans providing ministry on college campuses.”Worship is still at the heart of what we do, with students learning and growing and serving as disciples,” says Norris, director of Lutheran Campus Ministry at Kansas University. “We worship, eat, study and serve together. Obviously, the world has changed, but in looking back through the archives, there were prayer vigils for peace in the 1950s, vigorous discussions about faith and doubt in the 1940s and caroling and hot chocolate in the 1930s. Some things haven’t changed.”This weekend, more than 50 former KU students are expected back on campus to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the national ministry.The Lutheran ministry started in 1907 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. KU’s ministry began in the early 1920s.Currently, the local ministry holds two worship services weekly (at 5 p.m. Sunday and 6 p.m. Wednesday), has a weekly study on Wednesday evenings, hosts graduate student lunches and does service projects. It also has an alternative spring break trip to New York City.Norris says about 25 students attend Sunday worship, held at Bethany House, 18 E. 13th St. About 100 students are involved throughout a semester, and Norris says many come from non-Lutheran backgrounds – or no faith background at all.”We look at topics – baptism, the Bible, the church, worship, service, vocation – from the perspective that everyone has something to offer in the discussion, whether they’ve been in the church their whole lives, or atheists with questions who are there for the first time,” Norris says. “I believe strongly that God has given all of us gifts and that we can learn from each others’ thoughts, doubts and questions.”The weekend’s events include a reception at 4 p.m. Friday at Bethany House, followed by a 6 p.m. worship service at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1245 N.H. Preaching will be Sue Rothmeyer, ELCA director for campus ministry. That’s followed by a 7 p.m. dinner at Trinity.There also will be a football game-watching party on Saturday, and worship on Sunday.Norris says he’s anticipating hearing stories from previous students in the ministry.”I’m looking forward to learning about the history of this ministry from talking to alums and previous pastors,” Norris says. “I have a number of questions of my own. I think learning about our history will help us to be a stronger ministry today.”_ – Faith Files, which examines issues of faith, spirituality, morals and ethics, is updated by features/faith reporter Terry Rombeck. Have an idea for the blog? Contact Terry at, or 832-7145._