A Celebration of the Variable Schedule

2 Feb

In the iconic 1993 movie “Groundhog Day” starring Bill Murray as Phil, a disaffected weatherman sent once again to Punxsutawney to cover their beloved groundhog, who relives February 2 over and over again. Before he realizes he has power to make changes, each day is exactly the same as the day before. It is always 6:00 a.m. when his alarm goes off and the radio station always plays “I Got You Babe.” He meets the same people, goes through the same motions as if scripted by Hollywood. This is the exact opposite of every day of my life as a campus minister. No two days are alike. The rhythm of each day follows its own ebb and flow. It is nearly predictable in its unpredictability.

I began working in United Methodist campus ministry a year ago, first with an interim stint at Michigan State and then taking the reins at Grand Valley State University in July. Perhaps I’m simply too new to have a set rhythm, but even this new semester has radically altered what events happen when and who is able to share leadership. Newness and possibility seem to surround me. Stability and tradition are not the standbys they were when I led youth ministry in a local church. There exists a freedom and flexibility that makes me a little giddy on one hand and terrified on the other.

In the movie, after suicide attempts prove ineffective, Phil decides to embrace the time given him. Although relationships last no longer than a day, he can keep the skills he gains. He learns to play piano, speak French, and form ice sculptures. He does this to win the heart of Andie MacDowell, but it changes him, too. He becomes a better human being. He starts to love. We each have been given time to develop our skills in interpersonal ministry and we’ve been given ample opportunities to put those skills to action, regardless of our personality type. Whether we are new at campus ministry or seasoned veterans, every new student, each new program or idea, presents a unique challenge and a chance to begin again once more. “New every morning” is how the author of Lamentations puts it. “Great is Thy faithfulness” the refrain continues. Happy Groundhog Day. May it not be the same old thing.

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Greg Lawton was hired as Director of the Wesley Fellowship at Grand Valley State University in July 2011 after serving as the interim campus minister at the Michigan State University Wesley Foundation for a semester. He has served churches in the West Michigan Conference in youth and adult discipleship since 1997 and has degrees in Applied Science (A.A.S., Ferris State University), Hydrogeology (B.S., Western Michigan University) and Christian Education (M.A., Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary). He is also trained in Restorative Justice, Mediation, and other peacemaking techniques. He lives in nearby Wyoming, MI with his cat, Bob. Greg is an ordained Deacon in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church, loves to travel either on mission or for fun, and enjoys church camp and folk music.

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