Centers offer more than religion

Religious organizations and prayer groups welcome college students back to Columbia.
Sunday, September 7, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:01 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 26, 2008

Many places of worship in Columbia dedicate time and effort to welcoming back students. From social activities to everyday worship, students can participate in various welcome-back events and continuing events throughout the year.

A home-away-from-home is the atmosphere some places of worship create to make all new and returning students feel comfortable. In addition, they strive to help students develop leadership skills through various activities they hope will make a difference in the future.

Students can participate in as many or as few activities as they want. Places of worship are a shelter during the week for some; for others, such as MU junior Mike Kammerman, worship helps to relieve some pressure from college life.“I go to church because I can escape the stresses of everyday life,” Kammerman said.

The First Presbyterian Church, where Kammerman worships, kicks off events at 6 p.m. today. The church offers college students free supper followed by activities including Bible study and discussion groups. “They (the staff) want to make a connection with college kids and make them feel welcome in Columbia,” said Ruth Thompson, financial secretary for the church.

The Missouri United Methodist Church also offers welcome-back activities for students.

The Wesley Student Center, an organization sponsored by the Missouri United Methodist Conference, offers three mid-week worship services for higher-education students. Fellowship begins at 7 p.m. every Wednesday for all MU students, followed by the mid-week service at 8 p.m. The mid-week service for Stephens College is noon every Tuesday at the Firestone-Barrs Chapel. For students attending Columbia College, the service is 11 a.m. every Thursday at Dorsey Chapel.

The center provides dinner for students at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of every month, followed by games and movies. A student-led Bible study is at 9 p.m. Monday. The rest of the week offers many other activities for students.

The Wesley Student Center also has activities during the year for all students to continue their participation in the Methodist Church, said Mike Will, the campus minister for the center.

“We do other activities, like go to food banks or help elderly people with yard work. We call it ‘MUMC Cleanup,’” Will said.

The Wesley Student Center provides various activities for students because they want to help develop lasting leadership qualities. The Hillel Foundation, the Jewish student center in Columbia, has already welcomed many new students.

“We had a wonderful turnout and we hosted more (students) than we expected,” said Kerry Hollander, director of the Hillel Foundation. “We had twice as many as last year.”

The weekly celebration, the Shabbat, begins at sundown every Friday and ends at sundown on Saturday.

Jennifer Burkholz, a staff member at the Hillel Foundation, said the Jewish student center is there “to help students continue their Jewish learning and involvement or to develop a sense of being Jewish.”

Religious holidays are big events that bring many students to the center.

“I go because it’s an active part of my faith, and I also go to observe the holidays,” said Andrew Kaufman, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi, the Jewish fraternity on the MU campus.

To start off the semester, the First Baptist Church of Columbia will provide all undergraduate students with dinner followed by a Bible study at 6 p.m. Tuesday. There will be a Bible study at 7 p.m. Thursday for all graduate students.

The First Baptist Church of Columbia started an 8:50 a.m. contemporary service two weeks ago, accompanied by responsive readings in hopes of reaching out to a larger community. Regular service begins at 11 a.m., and Sunday school classes are offered between the two services.

The Newman Center’s welcome-back barbecue and Mass for Catholics brought about 700 students to campus just before school started.

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