The Reverends John Moore, Kristin Stoneking, Maggie McNaught’ and Clay Ballard are some of the names that come to mind when one reminisces about previous campus ministers at the University of California at Davis. This fall and next spring, the current director and campus minister at Cal Aggie (CA) Christian Association, Sara Tillema; her spouse and PhD candidate Aron Tillema; John Knight; and Davis United Methodist Church pastor, Rev. Brandon Austin are facilitating a Bible study at Davis UMC. This is just one of the many ways that Davis UMC and CA House collaborate on creative programming to support the needs of college students in the Davis community.
Tillema (at right) was hired to the post in July 2017. The position is funded in part by both Davis UMC and the Davis Community Church, their congregations forming most of the Cal Aggie Christian Association Board of Directors. CA House is also home to the Multifaith Living Community, an interfaith intentional living community where students of any and all spiritual or religious backgrounds are invited to form a meaningful, mutually supportive community.
“We are honored to support and be supported by an ecumenical community of congregations, as well as local interfaith partners,” says Tillema, who attends each partner church once a month and preaches at least twice a year in each congregation. She also takes time to visit other churches to build connections that will support students attending Davis.
“Any church that has students attending UC Davis, we are their campus ministry and want to partner with them to support their students in their journey at Davis,” Tillema says. “I love to hear from United Methodist pastors because I want to work with their students to make sure they know there is a campus ministry here for them during their time at UC Davis.”
She is constantly on the lookout for incoming United Methodist students, who comprise most students coming from a denominational background. “We are an ecumenical ministry, but out of our partner denominations, we get the most United Methodists.”
Last week was the first week of school and Tillema hosted the first fall semester Christian gathering this week. On Sunday, Oct. 6, in observance of World Communion Sunday, Davis UMC had UC Davis students serving communion and reading Scripture.
At the end of every quarter, Tillema noted, Davis UMC gathers to create “Almost Like Mom’s” care packages filled with goodies and inspirational sayings meant to encourage students as they enter finals week. The bags are given to students at church and delivered to CA House.
“We have a bunch of students who come from campus to claim these bags,” Tillema reports. “That is a really cool way [to] minister to students on campus as they navigate the stressful time that is finals season.”
A Sunday morning Bible study at Davis UMC was recently advertised in a newsletter from the CA House and is part of Davis UMC’s weekly Sunday class offerings.
“I really wanted people to ground their biblical understanding, to help them to move from biblical literacy to biblical fluency … so between services (when we have childcare) from 9:45 to 11 a.m. each Sunday, we offer this class,” Austin explains. “The CA House provided, in their digital newsletter, a segment from our church – and we wanted to promote the Disciple Bible Study – Fast Track. Whoever is interested may attend.”
The Bible study is from an adaptation of the original bestselling Disciple Bible Study and will meet for two 12-week sessions for a total of 24 weeks: Sept. 8-Nov. 24 to study the Old Testament and Jan. 12-March 29 to cover the New Testament.
Inviting the students to Bible study, including them in worship leadership, and providing care packages is part of the church’s hospitality endeavor, one component of an overall larger mission strategy that Austin is aligning with his trainings in Holy Currencies: Six Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries, by Rev. Dr. Eric H.F. Law. Recently back from a continuing education training in Los Angeles with Law, the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute, Austin says that working with CA House is just one facet of keeping the church’s ministry flowing.
The connection between the school and church is not a new one. It has been in place for decades.
“There has been a strong connection over the years [between the UMC and UC Davis],” relates Austin, recounting the Vietnam War years during which Rev. John Moore provided counseling to students at the university, the more than 16 years when Rev. Kristin Stoneking served as campus minister (she now is pastor at Epworth UMC, Berkeley), and the ministry of Rev. Maggie McNaught, currently serving Carson City UMC in Nevada.
Questions/Comments? Contact Pastor Brandon at www.DavisUMC.org or call 530-756-2170.
Pastors with students at UC Davis or students interested in CA House or Christian fellowship opportunities should contact Sara Tillema at www.cahouse.org/staff.